Warning labels are in vogue. 'Cigarettes can seriously damage your health'. 'Caution -- hot liquid' 'Don't drink and drive.' Maybe Europe wants to wean the public off a problematic nation. 'Warning -- Product of Israel!'
After you peel off the legal wrapper that fools nobody, Europe's guidebook for labels develops a healthy loathing for goods coming out of Israel. It seems to be the yellow star over again, but through the back door. Europe wants to set the Jews apart again, starting with the Jew among nations. We're heading for quarantined Israel-made goodies that will be boycotted by stores and shunned by shoppers. As with labels on tobacco products or alcohol, labels on goods contaminated by settler Jews will carry a stigma. The purpose of the new label is to wean Europeans off the deleterious side effects from eating or drinking products harmful, if not to the body then to the soul of pure anti-Zionists.
"There do not appear to be any European Commission laws which could be breached by a member state taking the decision to ban the import of settlement produce." With his ruling, Cambridge professor of International Law, James Crawford, gave Europe the nod. Go ahead -- ban settlement products. Observe the slippery slope. Notice how freely one can slide from labeling products to a blanket ban. From there to a blanket ban on everything tainted by Israel is no more than a slip.
At least one country has slid to the very bottom. "The South African Government reaffirms its policy to increase support for the Palestinian people and the boycott of Israel." The man in the driver's seat of the country's trade policy, Rob Davies, began with a legitimate motive. He wanted traders to label goods from Israel correctly, honestly. Goods from the 'Occupied Palestinian Territories' (OPT) should be labeled as such; to protect shoppers -- what else. At the start, he said nothing about a boycott.
So, hand in glove with BDS, serpent politicians spit with forked tongue. When they call for labeling of settlement products they are initiating a blanket boycott. They expect a minor detail to bring about a major end. And in all probability that is what will happen. Thin-skinned company bosses will have nightmare visions: legal headaches, subterfuge logistics, reputational harm, picket mob threats. They'll do the math and tally up to undue risk with a capital R. Better not stock goods from Israel at all.
Trade policy as a backhand way to bring a targeted nation to heel is the art of manipulating law codes. Economic sanctions lie at the polar end of trade policy. Call them 'hard diplomacy,' sanctions are clear expressions of the motives for imposing them. We are told that the object of sanctions on Iran is to prevent the mullahs going nuclear. At the other end, trade laws and regulations can be 'soft' instruments of diplomacy. Their purported purpose hides the real motive. Label regulations are meant to protect shoppers. But they could be used as a trade ban in a velvet glove.
From some 200 occupations in dispute consider THE occupation, the one that keeps Europe awake at night. Goods from the West Bank or Golan Heights or East Jerusalem or Gaza may not be labeled, 'Made in Israel.' EU apparatchiks will not reward Israel for holding onto lands that they've earmarked for another people. On the other hand, goods from other occupied territories are allowed into Europe with 'Made in China' or 'Made in Morocco' labels, etc. Here's the common or garden example of one treatment if you are not the Jew among nations, and a different treatment if you are.
Brussels is abuzz with bees-in-the-bonnet, drunk-on-power, bigoted people. They worry that Israel will trick consumers into thinking that settlements are part of Israel. They're not worried about tricking consumers into thinking (as the new labels will do) that the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem are in make-believe occupied Palestine.
"Our bible is international law," Europe's ambassador to Israel told a group of rabbis. If only the rabbis had asked him to turn up chapter and verse in that bible where it says that Jewish settlements are illegal. If only they'd pointed to Europe's violation of international law. The ambassador should have left the rabbis with his ears burning, for trade law experts, Professors Avi Bell and Eugene Kontorovich point out that treating Israel as a special case violates the codes of both GATT [General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade] and the WTO [World Trade Organization]. It's as make-believe as a sovereign Palestine, Europe's bible.
'Made in Occupied Palestinian Territories.' ''Made in the 'West Bank.' 'Made beyond the Green Line': you'll find not a lawful piece of land among that lot. Labels suggesting that green lines, west banks and OPT's define a country are propaganda gimmicks. They're Europe's way of warning the public not to buy from Jews.
The labels are akin to Nazi posters on shop windows to identify Jewish commerce.
Steve Apfel is director of the School of Management Accounting, Johannesburg. He is the author of the book,'Hadrian's Echo: The whys and wherefores of Israel's critics' (2012) and a contributor to, "War by other means." (Israel Affairs, July 2012). His new work: 'Bilaam's Curse'' is due out this year. Steve blogs on the Jerusalem Post and his articles regularly appear in foreign journals. His most recent published articles are: