08 November '15..
On Tuesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely spoke out against the European Union's decision to label Jewish-made products from Judea and Samaria. "Today the Foreign Minister is starting a battle against the idea of labeling," she said. "Labeling, it's very clear to say ... it's a clear boycotting [of] the State of Israel."
However, according to EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen, the decision is merely "a strictly legal technical matter which doesn't really lend itself to any kind of negotiation." He added, "I think that's the framework in which it has to be seen, rather than any political move," rejecting the notion of discussing the move with Israel.
Labeling Jewish goods in order to protect squeamish and politically correct European consumers from the hazards of accidentally buying and ingesting an orange or a fig made in Judea and Samaria is obviously only "strictly legal and technical" if you are a technocrat like Faaborg-Andersen working for a bureaucracy like the European Union. For most straight-thinking people, however, it is a heavily biased, political move.
For scholars of international law, it certainly is not a "strictly legal" matter but in fact an illegal move. According to Professors Avi Bell and Eugene Kontorovich, the EU's proposed measures restrict Israeli trade in violation of international trade law: "The EU does not have a general set of rules for dealing with occupied territories, settlements or territorial administrations whose legality is not recognized by the EU. Rather, the EU has special restrictions aimed at Israel. This violates the fundamental rules of the GATT/WTO [General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade/World Trade Organization] system, under which even otherwise valid trade restrictions are void if not applied uniformly to WTO members."
For some reason, Israel has yet to use this powerful tool against the EU, and it would not be a moment too soon for it to do so now. Over the last few years, the EU has been steadily imposing sanctions of rapidly escalating severity, and, according to Bell and Kontorovich, the EU Commission is in the process of imposing what amounts to complete exclusion on agricultural products from Judea and Samaria.
There is a perversity about the labeling/boycott issue that seems to be completely lost on most Europeans, despite the obvious associations that it raises to Nazi Germany's measures against Jewish shopkeepers. Conceivably, this is because many Europeans abhor the reminder and prefer to cast Israelis as the "new Nazis." Perhaps this is why Faaborg-Andersen found it diplomatically opportune to make it sound as if the labeling issue is no big deal. "It's a question of whether you are talking this up or talking it down, and there the issue is what context do you see it in," he said. "We see it in a predominantly technical context and therefore we think that it's really not something that ought to create a major rupture in our relationship [with Israel]."
So not only should Israel take the garbage that Europe throws its way, but it should really play nice and not get all worked up about it either. This is the man, by the way, who in February 2014 told an Israeli journalist, when asked what the EU thinks about the Palestinians being pressured to recognize the Jewish state: "I don't think we have any clear position on that because we're not 100% sure what is meant by this concept of a Jewish state." It is almost too precious -- the Europeans, having ethnically cleansed most of the Jews on the European continent, are not 100% sure what is meant by a Jewish state. Evidently, Europeans are also not 100% sure what is meant by the concept of decency.
Especially perverse is the timing of the labeling. At a time when Arabs in Israel are stabbing and shooting as many Jews as they can get their hands on, while Arab leaders incite for even more murders in the name of fighting the "occupation" and every other conceivable excuse, Europe chooses to implicitly support the attacks by giving credence to the lie that terror has a moral justification. In this way, Europeans are in fact encouraging and perpetuating the conflict, as they and the international community have been doing for decades now by consistently and one-sidedly condemning Israel, while egging the other side on in its pursuits by giving it the credible impression that it can do no wrong, no matter what.
Other than that, European governments abundantly support nongovernmental organizations involved in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movements against Israel, so that one should not be fooled into thinking that official Europe is only pursuing one track in its efforts to vilify Israel.
The Nazis told the German people, "Kauft nicht bei Juden" ("Do not buy from Jews") in 1933. Clearly, over 80 years later, the urge to boycott Jews is still very strong on the European continent.
Judith Bergman is a writer and political analyst living in Israel.