Israeli settler produce to be labelled


by Rumbold
14th December, 2009 at 10:41 am    

The government has put pressure on British supermarkets to distinguish between West Bank goods produced by Palestinians and West Bank goods produced by Israeli settlers. The plan is designed to ensure that people can buy produce from the West Bank without money going to Israeli settlers:

Nearly 500,000 Jewish settlers live in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, which were conquered in the 1967 war. The British government and the EU have repeatedly said Israel’s settlement project is an “obstacle to peace” in the Middle East.

EU law already requires a distinction to be made between goods originating in Israel and those from the occupied territories, though pro-Palestinian campaigners say this is not always observed.

Is this a good idea? Yes and no. In isolation, I don’t have a problem with it. Israeli settlement in the West Bank is a political issue, and this is a good way to support a particular point of view. I think that the settlements need to be dismantled, and so I am happy that if I bought certain items the money would go to the people who I think ought to live there. I am exercising my choice as a consumer.

In the wider scheme of things however, it seems like, once again, Israel is being singled out for special punishment. Whilst Israel deserves to be condemned over its settlements, this is part of a disturbing pattern. From Richard Ingram’s calls for Jews to identify their religion when commenting on the Middle East, to the laughably-named UN Human Rights Council which is obsessed with Israel, these sort of schemes only end up targeting Israel. Has the UK government called for supermarkets to differentiate between Han settlers and native Uighur produce? Or Han settlers and native Tibetan produce? Or any other number of areas where aggressive settlers backed by a powerful government have displaced the previous residents? Not that I am aware of. So the question becomes, once again, why Israel?


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  1. Ravi Naik — on 14th December, 2009 at 3:14 am  

    Rumbold, as a consumer I would actually welcome this sort of initiative. Clearly products developed by Palestinians in the West Bank are not produced by Israel, and products need to come marked with the place of origin. So this is really a non-issue. In the example you gave, Tibet is a part of China and therefore China would be the place of origin for anything that Tibet produces.

    I usually avoid products that come from Israel.

  2. Boyo — on 14th December, 2009 at 3:20 am  

    “In the wider scheme of things however, it seems like, once again, Israel is being singled out for special punishment.”

    When I read it I had to check the author because i thought it was Sunny taking the piss!

    For what it's worth (and I know the likes of Sunny find it hard to deal with complexity) I'm in favour of this initiative. The settlements are illegal.

    Upon a level-playing field, although Israel is frequently singled-out for the wrong reasons – as a proxy for knee-jerk left anti-Americanism, mostly, with increasingly sinister undertones – this is a good one. The same would apply to China, yes – why not, well obviously that's obvious. Because they're bigger than we are.

  3. Rumbold — on 14th December, 2009 at 3:32 am  

    Ravi:

    I don't think most Tibetans believe themselves to be part of China. And ethnic Han settlers have moved into Tibet without their consent. So it is the same issue.

  4. MiriamBinder — on 14th December, 2009 at 3:34 am  

    I have to agree with Boyo on this one.

  5. halima — on 14th December, 2009 at 3:45 am  

    Rumbold, I think your post is mis-leading. It's not about politics – it's about illegal settlements.

    The point about labelling is that it shouldn't mis-lead people. For example, people going in supermarkets are making a deliberate choice to buy what appear to be Palestinian made goods – will not be impressed to find that they are supporting illegal settlements.

    Similarly, are Chinese rule of Tibet and western China considered illegal settlements under UN laws?

  6. halima — on 14th December, 2009 at 3:52 am  

    “I don't think most Tibetans believe themselves to be part of China. And ethnic Han settlers have moved into Tibet without their consent. So it is the same issue.”

    Ahem.. If we were to use your suggestion that this should apply every time where a majority community has production facilities in an area historically dominated by a minority, then we might have to flag up the English products from Cornwall, Scotland or Northern Ireland?

    Israeli settlement in Gaza in the West Bank are recognised under international law as illegal on occupied land. The same is not true in China.

  7. MiriamBinder — on 14th December, 2009 at 3:56 am  

    Actually it is very much about politics. Boycotting products from a given region/supplier is a political act.

  8. Rumbold — on 14th December, 2009 at 4:02 am  

    Halima:

    The UN will never condemn China because of its influence. Both Tibet and the West Bank have been occupied since the mid-20th centuries by powers which claim them as historically theirs, and have backed settlers with military force who settle in those disputed areas. There is no difference, unless you believe in the UN, a body composed partly of dozens of corrupt dictatorships (see the 'human rights' council).

  9. halima — on 14th December, 2009 at 4:18 am  

    Miriam Binder.

    Of course boycotting is a political act.

    What I meant is :

    In my view politics is about disagreement and different perspectives. There is no disagreement here as far as I am concerned- we're talking about illegal settlements.

  10. halima — on 14th December, 2009 at 4:22 am  

    Ah but Rumbold, I don't have such a disdainful view of the UN and the wider world we live in. Perhaps that's where we disagree.

    I don't think that the UN will never criticise China, it does, and China recognises the UN as a legitimately multilateral voice. In fact, if there is one country whose human rights violations are dragged out everyday and publicly aired, it's China's.

    Do we still think China isn't criticised due to it's size and influence?

  11. soru12 — on 14th December, 2009 at 7:28 am  

    Do we still think China isn't criticised due to it's size and influence?

    Criticised is one thing, but I think it is a fact that the Chinese invasion of Tibet is not counted as formally illegal pretty much solely because China has veto power on the UNSC. I don't think there's anywhere else where the argument 'we have these 400-year old documents which totally prove we own your country' would be given house-room.

    If Israel had China's power, it's settlements would be legal (or at least as legal as the invasion of Iraq, and personally I'm not really a fan of using the word _illegal_ as a synonym of _disagree with_).

    It's not particularly clear to me what that all that means in terms of consequences, though. Certainly, there is no more point in complaining about discussion of Israel being more popular than discussion of Togo than there is of complaining about X Factor being more popular than Britain's Best Butcher. People like what they like, which is usually the same thing as they liked yesterday. Repeating a well-worn opinion, or perhaps coming up with a novel twist, is a lot more fun than learning a whole new vocabulary before you can even get to the point of expressing the obvious.

  12. halima — on 14th December, 2009 at 8:08 am  

    I am no apologist for China , Israel or any state, but informed consumer choice is a positive thing. As a private individual, where violations exist, I'd be in favour of more labeling, not less. But the EU or the British government have to follow some way of distinguishing legality/or otherwise, and the UN gives some legitimacy.

  13. halima — on 14th December, 2009 at 8:13 am  

    sorry, I shouldn't say the UN gives some legitimacy, those settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law.

  14. cjcjc — on 14th December, 2009 at 8:47 am  

    I don't think that the UN will never criticise China, it does, and China recognises the UN as a legitimately multilateral voice. In fact, if there is one country whose human rights violations are dragged out everyday and publicly aired, it's China's.

    really?

    Perhaps you haven't looked at the UNHCR track record for China versus Israel.

  15. Rumbold — on 14th December, 2009 at 9:13 am  

    Halima:

    Soru and cjcjc have already said it, but because of China's UNSCA seat and its supporters in the developing world, it doesn't get criticised. Take Taiwain. A sovereign state which is a democracy. Yet how many countries recognise it or refer to it as an independent country? A handful. Tibet too has been under Chinese military occupation for 60 years. Why that is not the same as the West Bank I cannot fathom.

  16. Soso — on 14th December, 2009 at 9:30 am  

    And what of agrcultural products produced in occupied Cyprus? I think israel is singled out for no other reason than anti-semitism.

  17. douglas clark — on 14th December, 2009 at 9:36 am  

    I agree with Rumbold about the double standards. Though I also think the reaction of the UK public is as much down to familiarity with the issues over I/P as it is with any deliberate refusal to compare and contrast.

  18. halima — on 14th December, 2009 at 9:43 am  

    Rumbold, just because China, US and all the other members of the SC has a veto in it, doesn't make all agreements relating to the UN redundant. Why should I go with your bilateral assessment of the world in a world made of up many countries? I can debate with you off line on Tibet and Taiwan, but as it stands we're discussing the validity of the UN and status of international law. Not China. Or Israel. The status of international law. That's quite sacrosanct for me, and non-negotiable.

    Where we can point to international law being broken we can act accordingly.

    The question of the UN Security Council and whether it represents a representative voice is a different debate – though on the whole I am firmly a supporter of the UN's ability to represent the developing world. The developing world is the majority party in this world – not the G8.

    I look forward to the day when further settlements will stand up to similar international standards.

    If you all have problems with international law – and the standards we use to comply with it – well, that's a long story, but a different debate.

  19. marvin — on 14th December, 2009 at 9:44 am  

    What is/will be the label for produce from Gaza?

    This sort of thing can back fire of course. When Muslim countries called for boycotts on Danish goods for the motoons, Danish exports increased. People specifically bought Danish products to counter this. I wonder if the Americans were to follow suit, how it would pan out. Well actually, I don't, I reckon Israeli produce would seriously begin to outnumber West Bank produce…

  20. Soso — on 14th December, 2009 at 9:49 am  

    Will the produce be identified by a yellow star?

  21. JamestheVIII — on 14th December, 2009 at 10:36 am  

    I would prefer it if our british government would stop selling weapons and other technology the israelis which they in turn use to massacre people in Gaza.

  22. marvin — on 14th December, 2009 at 10:50 am  

    Not gonna happen sweetie.

    The British government sell arms to all sorts of egregious regimes. Why would they stop selling weapons to an ally against Islamist terrorism, a pluralistic democracy under existential threat from it's numerous hostile neighbours, which brings in millions to the British economy, not to mention the highly valued contributions to technological fields?

  23. Rumbold — on 14th December, 2009 at 11:08 am  

    Thank you Douglas.

    Halima:

    I don't regard the UN as a valid political body, as too many of the countries involved deny their citizens a voice. Therefore their own decisions are invalid as they have no mandate. Israel is in breach of international law more often than China because more countries dislike Israel.

    As I said, I like the idea of the product labelling. But let's not pretend that this is isn't a case of Israel being singled out again.

  24. halima — on 14th December, 2009 at 6:43 pm  

    Disagree Rumbold. Again you are being disparaging of most of the world, just because many of countries deny their citizens rights doesn't mean these countries don't have a voice. You've jumped from a specific discussion on labels to claiming that such and such country on the UN doesn't have a valid voice.

    What sort of an absurd position is this? China, Saudi Arabia and other countries don't have a valid voice on the UN because… Who gives you the right to say their voices on the UN isn't valid? The people of China and Saudi Arabia?

    I am not getting into a discussion about anti-Israel sentiments which your post deliberately tries to provoke. Instead you should be calling for the the UN to take to task more illegal settlements which I don't have a problem with.

  25. Ben — on 14th December, 2009 at 9:32 pm  

    Israeli settlements, and the residence of Israelis in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are justified legally, historically and morally.

    Jews have lived in these areas since time immemorial – they are the core of the historical homeland of the Jewish people. Jews were a majority in East Jerusalem until they were driven out by massacres organized and encouraged by British officials, starting in 1929. The Jews of Hebron were also massacred by extremist Arabs, encouraged and abetted by British officials, in 1929. The Jews of Gush Etzion were similarly targetted and killed, this time under the auspices of the British-officered Arab Legion, in 1948.

    To suggest that because they succeeded in cleansing the Jews from these areas the Arabs are entitled to keep these territories Jew-free ever after is to make a mockery of natural justice. Those who support them are in fact supporting the creation of an Arab apartheid state where no Jews are not allowed to reside.

  26. Ben — on 14th December, 2009 at 9:34 pm  

    Israeli settlements, and the residence of Israelis in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are justified legally, historically and morally.

    Jews have lived in these areas since time immemorial – they are the core of the historical homeland of the Jewish people. Jews were a majority in East Jerusalem until they were driven out by massacres organized and encouraged by British officials, starting in 1929. The Jews of Hebron were also massacred by extremist Arabs, encouraged and abetted by British officials, in 1929. The Jews of Gush Etzion were similarly targetted and killed, this time under the auspices of the British-officered Arab Legion, in 1948.

    To suggest that because they succeeded in cleansing the Jews from these areas the Arabs are entitled to keep these territories Jew-free ever after is to make a mockery of natural justice. Those who support them are in fact supporting the creation of an Arab apartheid state where no Jews are allowed to reside.

  27. MiriamBinder — on 14th December, 2009 at 11:04 pm  

    “Israeli settlements, and the residence of Israelis in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are justified legally, historically and morally.”

    Hmmm, well … it is a point of view. The point however is not whether it is justifiable; an equally compelling case could be made for the other side of this particular dispute. About the only supposition in your post that I could see a certain justification for is the morally unjustifiable creation of an Arab apartheid state where no Jews would be allowed to reside. However that in itself is not sufficient reason, in my view, for standing firm on the legality and moral/historical justification for allowing Israeli settlements in disputed territories. Quite aside from my seeming to recall that a very similar argument was held firm on regarding the settling in Gaza.

    Taking the moral high-ground is all very well but only when doing so does not lead to fundamental breaches of reason, common sense and basic humanitarian considerations. The fact remains that time has moved on and standing on a rather convoluted historical justification has succeeded in further complicating an already highly complex dispute. Intransigence has served no one well, neither Jew or Arab nor Israeli or Palestinian.

  28. Raja Sahib — on 15th December, 2009 at 5:30 am  

    Yep, I know what everyone's thinking ….

    … what would the Sikh gurus have done in this situation?

  29. cjcjc — on 15th December, 2009 at 5:43 am  

    Can anyone let me know where I can buy this produce?
    Thanks.

  30. Rumbold — on 15th December, 2009 at 9:52 am  

    Halima:

    My position is quite simple. I don't regard countries that imprison their own citizens for calling for democracy as legitimate ovices when it comes to morality. On security, fair enough. But not on lecturing other countries.

    Ben:

    But somebody was there before the Jews though? Didn't Abraham migrate to that area? Wasn't the Jewish state founded, in part, on conquest?

  31. MiriamBinder — on 15th December, 2009 at 10:19 am  

    I think the general view is as they were at best pantheistic – in the sense of worshipping forces and phenomena of nature as gods – they didn't really count as people.

    On the whole it has been an observing militant set of Judaism that has held firm to the settlements in the West Bank. So they would most probably depend on Numbers 34:2. Abraham actually settled in Mamre which was located near the Hebron. However he did not displace anyone during that settlement. The first time military type action was taken to settle in Canaan (the area now known as Israel, Gaza and the West Bank) would be after the exodus from Egypt and following the 40 year wander in the desert when the walls of Jericho came tumbling down (Joshua 6).

  32. Rumbold — on 15th December, 2009 at 11:29 am  

    MiriamBinder:

    Thanks for that. I was thinking more of later Jewish history as well- David always seems to be fighting someone.

  33. Shamit — on 15th December, 2009 at 3:28 pm  

    Halima –

    “What sort of an absurd position is this? China, Saudi Arabia and other countries don't have a valid voice on the UN because… Who gives you the right to say their voices on the UN isn't valid? The people of China and Saudi Arabia?”

    Well both China and Saudi Arabia done much to undermine the UN in every possible way.

    Especially the Human Rights declaration – you know we are not allowed to criticise Islam and its Prophet while we can criticise every other religion. Sure equal footing for all. A lot of it was Saudi doing — yeah very proper UN way.

    China and Saudi Arabia have some of the worst human rights record yet the UN does not criticise them or the other Middle Eastern States. I wonder what the Dalai Lama has to say about those great words of wisdom about Tibet is integral to China. What about Taiwan? So, as long as you have force on your side and can pull off something then its okay and legal – no wonder the UN is fucked up.

    Israel is picked on and whether you like it or not its a fact and its because of the whole bloody religion angle.
    *****************************************

    Another point about how stupid the UN sanctions regime is — the universal declaration of human rights says every state has to abide by it and grant its citizens certain inalienable rights. And many flout it.

    Some even went as far as attacking their own citizens with chemical weapons and what did the Security council do? Well it passed sanctions and then its members still sold arms and the sanctions regime did not hurt anyone but half a million children.

    And, when we attacked Iraq, like we dshould have done the day he gassed the Kurds all these French and German moral superiority is crap. So, UN is basically crap as it does not know how to deal with powerful countries.
    ******************************************************
    And what happened to China after Tianamen? NOTHING

    What would have happened if Israel rolled tanks over peaceful demonstrations? Well we all know the answer to that.

    So why could we not just let the bigotry out in the open. Some just don't like Israel – just like some just don't like the Iraq war. And some are stupid enough to believe the global governance UN model as the best way to collaborate.

    Saudi Arabia allowed girls to be burnt alive in a school fire because they were not properly dressed and someone dares to say that is legal and okay.

    Oh the sheer stupidity of some of the statements actually show how people think with their versions of the truth and religion and their supposed human rights cause.

  34. Shamit — on 15th December, 2009 at 3:35 pm  

    Tzipi Livni – yeah I don't see activists going and trying to get warants on Hu Zintao or Bush or anyone like that.

    Yeah Israel is treated the same – bollocks and anyone who believes that is either stupid or have a very convoluted sense of fairness.

  35. bananabrain — on 16th December, 2009 at 4:27 am  

    Israeli settlements, and the residence of Israelis in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are justified legally, historically and morally.

    moral justification can be squandered by immoral behaviour, in my opinion. i would say most of the settlers, with the exception of sensible people like rabbi froman from tekoa, are busily doing so with their fanaticism and intransigence. legally, i think it's quite a sticky wicket (even given the rather vague nature of international law) and as for historically, try explaining to someone that you're taking their house on the grounds that you used to live there before they built it. i think there has to be a reasonableness test here – settlement blocs like gush etzion, which were properly and legally purchased, are a very different matter from illegal trailer parks and land confiscated by the state. at the same time:

    To suggest that [....] the Arabs are entitled to keep these territories Jew-free ever after is to make a mockery of natural justice. Those who support them are in fact supporting the creation of an Arab apartheid state where no Jews are not allowed to reside.

    absolutely. this is one of the reasons i am in favour of the ray hanania peace plan that i blogged about here:

    http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/6633

    the success of the future state of palestine, like the present state of israel, rests on its ability to be a state of *all* its citizens, not just the arab and muslim ones.

    My position is quite simple. I don't regard countries that imprison their own citizens for calling for democracy as legitimate voices when it comes to morality. On security, fair enough. But not on lecturing other countries.

    i'm with rumbold on this – especially in regard to the UNHRC.

    But somebody was there before the Jews though? Didn't Abraham migrate to that area? Wasn't the Jewish state founded, in part, on conquest?

    yes, abraham came from haran and, before that, ur in mesopotamia. the people living in the land (according to the Torah at any rate) were the “seven nations” of canaan, the amorites, perizzites, hittites, hivites, jebusites, girgashites and just plain ol' canaanites. and over the jordan, the ammonites, moabites and edomites. the abrahamic covenant does not speak of conquest, however, but merely of G!D Giving the land.

    I think the general view is as they were at best pantheistic – in the sense of worshipping forces and phenomena of nature as gods – they didn't really count as people.

    absolutely not. biblical idolatry is not a harmless thing, it is about stuff like child sacrifice and temple prostitution as specifically practiced by the “seven nations” – if you weren't practicing these things, you were not to be oppressed. also, in halakhah, you can no longer tell if someone is, say, a girgashite or, even worse, an amalekite. to quote myself in a thread two years ago (http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/1823#co…) :

    the commandment still stands, but we can't carry it out any more because the sages decided 2000 years ago that “sennacherib mixed up all the nations” (tosefta kiddushin 5:6) so we can't spot a girgashite any more. i certainly wouldn't know what one looks like even if he danced naked on top of a harpsichord singing “girgashites are here again”. so actually, it's still literal, but it has been, if you like “disarmed” using hermeneutics.

    they would most probably depend on Numbers 34:2

    perhaps, but there are a lot of different ways in which the borders can be defined and there's no proper consensus – certainly it is unclear why the secular state of israel should have its borders defined as the religious area classed as “eretz yisrael” – this, of course, is what the national-religious far right seek, but the rest of us don't see the state as a religious entity, let alone a trojan horse for theocracy.

    Abraham actually settled in Mamre which was located near the Hebron.

    before he bought the field of machpelah in hebron from efron the hittite, the sale of which was the first purchase of land in israel and very significant for that reason.

    b'shalom

    bananabrain

  36. halima — on 16th December, 2009 at 7:55 am  

    Actually Shamit no one is saying it's OK for Saudis to burn girls or whatever. No one is saying it's OK for China to do fire at peaceful protestors. Who is saying it's OK?

    As to you list of what Saudi Arabia and China has done to undermine the UN – well, why look outside? Why not start at home? The point is that the UN is being undermined left, right and centre. But it's still the only hope against the cronism of the G8 which I am so pleased is dying. You'll be surprised at how many countries outside the G8 actually respect and prefer the UN – as opposed to seeing it as a dwindling machinery without any teeth. The rest of the world actually respects the UN far more than we do. I wonder why ? Because it's the only relevant body that gives space for voice and representation across the world – sure there isn't a UN army, and the Security Council set-up will always mean that some countries wield more power than others – but it's still better than unilateral states deciding what's right. It's not perfect – but it takes time to get right – and instead of pointing the finger of blame on other countries, I think we might be wiser to look at our own actions before claiming such and such country has dented the UN's legitimacy.

    But I repeat, a hundred times, Israeli settlers in the West Bank do upset a lot of people, and there's an awful lot of people who don't give a monkeys about the religious angle either. They see it as South Africa, Tibet or whatever. My only argument here is that Tibet hasn't got the mandate of the UN in its favour, and as you and Rumbold point out – that's not an accident, more about Chinese influence. Fine, it's an imperfect world, but I am far more comfortable going behind an action that's illegal under UN law – than not. Otherwise we're on very shaky grounds for any legitimacy behind our international action – military or humanitarian.

    I'll always stand up for a multi-lateral voice that also alleges to defend human rights for all – it might not be perfect, but it's one attempt to move away from a bilateral state's way of doing things (law of the jungle). It is hypocritical that some states like Saudi Arabia call for human rights in one breath and then undermine human rights elsewhere – but that's a dent on Saudi Arabia, not on the UN as a multilateral body.

    Just because criminals break a law or citizens behave badly doesn't mean that the criminal justice system or law and order isn't always going to work.

  37. halima — on 16th December, 2009 at 8:03 am  

    Rumbold, I respect your views that countries which repress their citizens aren't legitimate voices, but sadly the world is a bit more complicated, and politics and positions are made up with deals, compromise, and engagement. So much that even Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, despite their vehement positions on Israel, China, Saudi Arabia, are able to recognise these countries as legitimate voices in the UN – and indeed, in the international arena at large. They struggle with these countries – as I do, but it's important not to be so dismissive.

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