Israel: South Africa's desire to label West Bank goods is 'racist'
When South Africa requested imports from Israeli settlements be labeled 'made in the occupied West Bank,' Israel's Foreign Ministry said the move 'bears clear racist characteristics.'
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“It’s just to give our buying public a choice whether or not to buy,” says Eugene Grobrer, the deputy head of mission at the South African Embassy in Israel. “It’s for the consumer to decide what to do because there is a lot of sympathy for the Palestinian cause.”Skip to next paragraph
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Though suburban towns have always been the most visible footprint of Israeli settlements established in the West Bank, there are several industrial zones around the West Bank which attract dozens of Israeli companies with government subsidies and tax breaks. Some of the settlements cultivate fields for agricultural exports.
In recent years, Mul-T-lock, an Israeli company acquired by a company in Sweden, relocated its facilities back across the Green Line into Israel, but it remains an exception.
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Racist, says Foreign Ministry
Israeli officials have expressed indignation to South African counterparts, arguing that the decision singles out Israeli manufacturers while ignoring other international territorial disputes. They argue that the settlement goods carry the “Made in Israel” label to indicate the goods are manufactured under Israeli standards, and don’t point to a future annexation.
“Stigmatizing and shaming one country and its products based on national and political criteria … is tantamount to a move that bears clear racist characteristics,” says Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry.
Palestinian government officials said the move is a legitimate way to to contain Israel’s settlement build-up and denied it's aimed at all Israeli goods.
“It is significant politically, and it will be significant economically in the future, because we hope other countries will join the boycott,” says Ghassan Khatib, a Palestinian government spokesperson. “The hope is that this will contribute to holding Israel responsible for settlement expansion and hopefully stopping settlements expansion, which is necessary for the two-state solution.”
Even though Israel’s economy has barely felt any impact from the sanctions effort, one Western diplomat who has followed the boycott movement believes that it has long term potential to inflict damage. South Africa’s move could start a slow moving snow ball if other Israeli products are tainted by consumers who can’t distinguish.
“It’s sheds light on this untenable contradiction about the territories. The Israeli authorities are seeking once again to erase the Green Line,” says the diplomat, who was not authorized to comment publicly. “It opens up a can of worms if this starts being successful.”