Israeli settlement goods should be labeled, court told

An Israeli settler prepares olive oil containers at the Achia Olive press factory in the Jewish settlement of Shilo in the occupied West Bank. (File/AFP)
Updated 13 June 2019

Israeli settlement goods should be labeled, court told

  • To explain his ruling, Gerard Hogan refers the court to Europe’s previous opposition to apartheid

AMMAN: The European Court of Justice has been told that products from Israeli-occupied territories should be “clearly labeled as such to avoid misleading consumers.”

In his legal advice to the court, Advocate General Gerard Hogan drew on Europe’s previous opposition to apartheid to explain his ruling.

“Just as many European consumers objected to the purchase of South African goods in the pre-1994 apartheid era, present-day consumers may object, on similar grounds, to the purchase of goods from a particular country because, for example, it is not a democracy or because it pursues particular political or social policies which that consumer happens to find objectionable,” he said.

The former Irish judge said that under EU rules, labels must make it clear if products originate in the occupied territories and, in particular, if they come from Israeli settlements in those areas.

Ziad Khalil Abu Zayyad, the Fatah media spokesman, told Arab News that Israeli products are made on occupied lands that are controlled and used illegally by Israel, which prevents Palestinians from developing their own economy and production.

“Consumers of these products deserve to know that buying them supports and encourages the occupation policy that brings no benefit for anyone,” he said.

A spokesman for the EU told Arab News that Hogan’s legal advice is not binding on the Court of Justice.

“It is the role of the advocates general to propose to the court, in complete independence, a legal solution to the cases for which they are responsible. Judgment will be given at a later date. The EU court is due to decide next September,” the spokesman said.

The court is considering a request from France’s top tribunal for clarification of rules on labeling goods from the West Bank, including annexed East Jerusalem, which the international community considers occupied Palestinian land, as well as the Golan Heights, which Israel took from Syria in 1967.

France published guidelines in 2016 saying products from Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Golan Heights must carry labels making their precise origin clear, but this was challenged by the Organization Juive Europeenne (European Jewish Organization) and Psagot, a company that runs vineyards in the occupied territories.

The 2016 French ruling drew an angry response from Israel, which accused Paris of aiding a boycott of the Jewish state and of double standards by ignoring other territorial disputes around the world.

A major diplomatic row erupted between the EU and Israel in 2015 when Brussels drew up rules that effectively declared that products from settlements had to be labeled as such across the bloc.

Omer Korman, vice president of the Psagot Winery, which advertises itself as a “Jerusalem Mountains winery” and is based in the settlement nearest to Ramallah, declined a request for comment.

Ibrahim Milhem, spokesman of the Palestinian government, welcomed in an interview with Arab News the advisory decision of the European advocate general.

“His denunciation of Israeli violation of international law is welcomed and we can call on the world community not to engage with products made in the settlements which are illegal according to international law.”

Erdogan says 3 million refugees could be returned to Syria safe zone

Updated 23 min 22 sec ago

Erdogan says 3 million refugees could be returned to Syria safe zone

  • Turkey is home to more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees, the highest number in the world
  • Working with the US, Turkish forces are seeking to clear a swathe of northern Syria

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip said Wednesday that up to three million Syrian refugees could be returned to a “safe zone” it is seeking to establish in northern Syria.
Turkey is home to more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees — the highest number in the world — and there have been signs of a public backlash over their presence after eight long years of war in its neighbor to the south.
Working with the United States, Turkish forces are seeking to clear a swathe of northern Syria, in part to push Kurdish rebels away from its border but also to facilitate the return of refugees.
If successful, “we will be able to house, depending on the depth of the safe zone, between two and three million Syrian refugees that are currently in Turkey and Europe,” Erdogan said in a televised speech.
Erdogan said earlier this week that he envisions the “peace corridor” as stretching right across northern Syria all the way to Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa — which he said would allow even more than three million to return.
He called for “much greater support” from Europe in realizing the plan.
For Turkey, a key priority is curbing the influence of Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which it sees as an off-shoot of the Kurdish separatists in its own territory.
On Wednesday, Erdogan repeated his threat to launch military attacks against the Kurds if they are not pushed back from the Turkish border by the end of the month.
“As we’ve said, if we don’t see results in the next two weeks, we will activate our plan,” he said.
But the YPG is firmly established in northern Syria and has been a crucial ally of the United States in fighting the Daesh group, creating a tricky balancing act for Washington.
Ankara says US promises to push the YPG back from the Turkish border have so far been “cosmetic.”
Turkey has twice launched unilateral operations into Syria against the YPG and Daesh group, in 2016 and 2018.