22 groups call for EU ban on Israeli settler products
October 30, 2012
Twenty-two religious groups and charities have called on the European Union to ban products made by Israeli settlers in the occupied territories, saying a boycott would undercut their economic reason for staying there.
The EU is Israel’s biggest trading partner but imports 15 times more from West Bank-based Israeli settlers than from Palestinians, a group of 22 non-governmental organizations said Tuesday.
“European consumers are unwittingly supporting the settlements and the attendant violations of human rights,” the groups said in a report that called for a ban or, at the very least, strict labeling rules.
The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem and say settlements deny them a joined-up viable territory. About 311,000 Israeli settlers and 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank.
The EU says settlements Israel has built on land it captured in the 1967 Middle East war are illegal under international law.
But the NGOs say EU consumption of Israeli cosmetics, dates, herbs and other products made in settler areas undermines the integrity of the EU position.
The 22 NGOs included Christian Aid, Ireland’s Trocaire, the Methodist Church in Britain, the Church of Sweden, France’s Terre Solidaire and Germany’s medico international.
Other religious NGOs in Finland, Norway, the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium and Switzerland also took part.
The report urged clearer labeling rules to help consumers identify the origin of produce. Such rules already exist in Denmark and Britain.
But the NGOs said a more effective solution would be to impose a ban on all settler products, a move that only one EU member state, Ireland, has so far asked for.
An official from Israel’s foreign ministry said the report’s figures were “cherry picked” to serve a political agenda.
“There are no official statistics on exports from the settlements,” said Yigal Palmor, a foreign ministry spokesman. “They are only approximations.”
The Israeli trade ministry said West Bank-produced exports accounted for only 1 percent of total EU-bound exports, which are around $70 million per year.
Boycott! Divest! Sanction! Free Palestine!