by Stephen Lendman
(RINF) – Since June 1967, Israel established 125 illegal settlements on stolen Palestinian land, home for about 600,000 settlers, many Zionist zealots, freely terrorizing Palestinians, committing violence and vandalism unaccountably.
They’re considered closed military zones, off-limits to Palestinians, Jews alone allowed to live in what Israel calls “communities,” developed for them exclusively, reflecting apartheid lawlessness.
Settlers live freely as Israeli citizens, enjoying rights solely afforded Jews. Palestinians are terrorized under martial law, systematically deprived of fundamental human and civil rights – including free expression, movement and assembly, virtually all aspect of their lives controlled by military orders.
Settlements flagrantly contravene international law, prohibiting occupying powers from relocating their citizens to territories they control. Israel has been doing it unaccountably for nearly half a century, systematically stealing Palestine’s most valued land for exclusive Jewish development – appropriating all West Bank, East Jerusalem, and offshore Gaza resources, including valued water, as well as lucrative oil and gas reserves.
On Wednesday, the EU approved mandatory guidelines for member states to label West Bank settlement products – the move first considered three years ago, finally instituted.
European Commission (EC) guidelines on the one hand permit some member state leeway. On the other, European importers must now label settlement fruits, vegetables, poultry, eggs, wine, honey, organic products and cosmetics, as well as some industrial products throughout the 28-nation bloc.
Labeling remains voluntary for prepackaged foods and most industrial products. Goods produced within recognized June 1967 Israeli borders aren’t affected, an EC statement saying:
“This in no way affects the agreement we have with Israel with respect to preferential treatment for their products sold in the European Union.”
“All ‘Made in Israel’ products will continue to come into the European Union with very low, or no, tariffs. What will also not change is that products coming from the settlements cannot benefit from those preferences.”
Britain, Denmark and Belgium established their own guidelines earlier – in 2009, 2013 and 2014 respectively. Israel reacted to the current ruling as expected.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon condemned what he called “an exceptional and discriminatory step, (especially) when Israel is confronting a wave of terrorism targeting any and all of its citizens” – duplicity perhaps not likely to go down well in some EU countries.
Honest observers understand Israel’s longstanding reign of terror on millions of Palestinians, subjecting them to horrific abuses – notably during summer 2014 aggression on Gaza and now with soldiers and police murdering, injuring and mass imprisoning Palestinians daily.
Former defrocked, then reinstated, now replaced Israeli ultranationalist foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman outrageously compared required labeling to Nazis ordering Jews to wear yellow Star of David IDs on their clothing.
Settler council chairman Avi Roeh ludicrously called illegal settlements “islands of peace.” They’re exclusive Jewish enclaves excluding Arabs, testimony to a rogue apartheid state.
EU guidelines require labels to include the phrase “Israeli settlement” or equivalent language, the guidelines stating:
“For products from the West Bank or the Golan Heights that originate from settlements, an indication limited to ‘product from the Golan Heights’ or ‘product from the West Bank’ would not be acceptable.”
“Even if they would designate the wider area or territory from which the product originates, the omission of the additional geographical information that the product comes from Israeli settlements would mislead the consumer as to the true origin of the product.”
“In such cases, the expression ‘Israeli settlement’ or equivalent needs to be added, in brackets, for example. Therefore, expressions such as ‘product from the Golan Heights (Israeli settlement)’ or ‘product from the West Bank (Israeli settlement)’ could be used.”
At the same time, guidelines say “(t)he EU does not support any form of boycott or sanctions against Israel. The EU does not intend to impose any boycott on Israeli exports from the settlements.”
The new ruling is far short of what’s needed, a gesture, a mere baby step in the right direction, hopefully one day to be followed by tougher measures – ideally boycotting all Israeli products, no longer supporting its killing machine.
Israel’s hardline umbrella settler organization Yesha Council spokesman Yigal Dilmoni said 800 factories in 14 industrial zones plus agricultural activities operate in 14 settlement industrial zones.
Their volume is a tiny fraction of overall Israeli products. Labeling doesn’t prevent European importers from buying them. Whether it discourages consumer purchases remains to be seen.
On Tuesday in Washington, Netanyahu met with 36 hardline Republican and Democrat senators, enlisting their support against settlement products labeling. They wrote EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, absurdly saying:
“We believe strongly that these efforts are unwarranted, dangerous, and damaging to the prospects of a negotiated solution to (the Israeli-Palestinian) conflict.”
Any initiatives affecting Israeli policies adversely are a step in the right direction, advancing the possibility of eventual justice for long-persecuted Palestinians.
Calling mandatory labeling anti-Semitic is typical Israeli hypocrisy. Energy minister Yuval Steinitz calls it “disguised anti-Semitism.” A petition signed by hundreds of prominent Israelis, including former ambassadors and MKs, welcomed the measure, calling it a way to help “reduce the current level of tension, fear and despair among both Israelis and Palestinians.”
Netanyahu’s efforts to block it failed. Israeli ambassador to the EU David Walzer warned of unspecified retaliatory “implications.”
About 1,000 Israeli and foreign companies operating illegally will be affected by the new guidelines. Their importance is largely political. They fall far short of punishing Israel responsibly for decades of high crimes, persecuting an entire population viciously.
Banning all settlement products would be a good first step, along with a military embargo, followed by halting all financial transactions with Israeli banks and other financial institutions.
Then a coup de grace – isolating Israel altogether, suspending all political, economic and military relations until occupation ends unconditionally and Palestinians are finally free at last. Nothing less is acceptable.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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