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June 12, 2022 1:18 pm
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Norwegian Foreign Minister Defends Decision to Place Warning Labels on Israeli Products from ‘Occupied Territories’

avatar by Ben Cohen

A view of the Israeli community of Ma’ale Adumim in the West Bank. Photo: Reuters/Ammar Awad

Norway’s foreign minister has defended her country’s announcement on Friday that goods imported from the West Bank, the Golan Heights and eastern Jerusalem must be labeled accordingly, sparking the ire of the Israeli government.

“Norwegian consumers have the right to know whether a product sold in Norway is produced in Israel or in an area occupied by Israel,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt stated on Friday in an email to the NTB news agency, following the government’s decision to introduce a labeling policy for goods imported from areas considered to be under Israeli occupation following the 1967 war.

The government explained that the decision was taken in accordance with a European Court of Justice ruling in 2019 requiring products from these territories to be labeled as originating from an “Israeli settlement.” According to its guidelines, “foodstuffs originating in areas occupied by Israel must be marked with the area from which the product comes, and that it comes from an Israeli settlement if that is the case, especially wine, olive oil, fruit, vegetables and potatoes.”

Huitfeldt stressed that the decision did not mean that Norway had endorsed a boycott of Israel.

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“This is by no means a boycott of Israel. We believe that boycott is the wrong policy,” she said. “Norway has a good relationship with Israel. We will continue to have that.”

Israel condemned the move, with the Israeli foreign ministry asserting that the labeling decision “will not contribute to the promotion of Israeli-Palestinian ties and will adversely affect bilateral relations between Israel and Norway, as well as Norway’s relevance in promoting relations between Israel and the Palestinians.”

While Norway is not a member of the EU, it is a participant in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which promotes economic integration with the bloc. Defending the labeling decision, Huitfeldt cited Denmark, Finland and Sweden as three EU member states which had introduced similar policies regarding the labeling of Israeli exports.

In Nov. 2021, Belgium also introduced a labeling policy to “prevent consumers from being misled as to the fact that the State of Israel is present in the territories concerned as an occupying power and not as a sovereign entity.” As a result of that decision, Israel’s deputy foreign minister canceled a round of meetings with his counterparts in Brussels in protest.

The Belgian move “harms Israelis and Palestinians alike and is inconsistent with Israeli government policy focused on improving Palestinian lives and strengthening the [Palestinian Authority] and improving Israel’s relations with other European countries,” the Israeli foreign ministry said at the time.

 

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