by Soeren Kern
The Court of Justice of the European Union, the EU's highest court, has ruled that food products made in so-called Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights must be specifically labelled as such and may not carry the generic label "Made in Israel."
The ruling, which singles out Israel, was presumably motivated not by concerns over food safety or consumer protection but by the EU's anti-Israeli foreign policy preference. It has been roundly criticized as biased, discriminatory and anti-Semitic.
The labelling case has its origins in questions regarding the interpretation of EU Regulation 1169/2011, dated October 25, 2011, concerning consumer information on food products. The regulation was ambiguous on the issue of the labelling of food products from Israel.
On November 12, 2015, the European Commission, in an effort to clarify existing EU legislation on origin information of products from Israeli-occupied territories, issued a so-called Interpretive Notice. This directive stated that food products sold in the EU may not be labelled as "Made in Israel" if they are produced outside of Israel's pre-1967 borders. The document explained:
On November 24, 2016, France's Ministry of Economy and Finance published a so-called Ministerial Notice (JORF No. 0273, Text No. 81) which outlined the French government's interpretation of EU law on labeling requirements for Israeli products. The French requirements, even more strict than those of the EU, stipulate:
"For products originating from the West Bank or the Golan Heights that originate from settlements, a reference to 'product from the Golan Heights' or 'product from the West Bank' is not acceptable. Although these terms actually refer to the wider area or territory from which the product originates, the omission of the complementary geographic information that the product is from Israeli settlements is likely to mislead the consumer as to the true origin of the product. In such cases, it is necessary to add, in parentheses, the expression 'Israeli settlement' [colonies israéliennes] or equivalent terms. For example, expressions such as 'product from the Golan Heights (Israeli settlement)' or 'product from the West Bank (Israeli settlement)' may be used."
The Court of Justice ruling, which effectively encourages the strict French labelling requirements to be applied across the European Union, has been roundly condemned as reflecting the EU's anti-Israel bias. Many commentators noted that of all the world's many territorial conflicts — from Crimea to Northern Cyprus to Tibet to Western Sahara — the EU has singled out Israel as the only country subject to special labelling requirements.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry said that the ruling is "unacceptable both morally and in principle." In a statement it added:
"Israel strongly rejects the recent ruling of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which serves as a tool in the political campaign against Israel. The ruling's entire objective is to single out and apply a double standard against Israel. There are over 200 ongoing territorial disputes across the world, yet the ECJ has not rendered a single ruling related to the labeling of products originating from these territories. Today's ruling is both political and discriminating against Israel.
"This ruling only diminishes the chances of reaching peace and contradicts the positions of the European Union on the conflict. It plays into the hands of the Palestinian Authority, which continues to refuse to engage in direct negotiations with Israel and emboldens radical anti-Israel groups that advance and call for boycotts against Israel and deny its right to exist."