Boycott Divestment Sanctions South Africa has come out in support of a decision by South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to impose special labels for Israeli companies operating in Israel’s illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Companies producing goods in the OPT have been labeling their goods as “Made in Israel”.
Last year a proposal was put forward by the DTI to have the goods labeled correctly thereby enabling consumers to make informed decisions when purchasing products.
The move caused uproar in the local Jewish and pro-Zionist community.
After deliberations, it has been agreed that Israeli settlement products can no longer carry “Made in Israel” labels but instead will have to carry “West Bank: Israeli Goods”, “East Jerusalem: Israeli Goods” and “Gaza: Israeli Goods” labels.
BDS South Africa’s Muhammad Desai told Cii Radio, “The wording of these special labels needs to be made clearer and BDS South Africa will be meeting with the Department of Trade and Industry in the course of the next few months to strengthen the wording of these special labels.
“However, BDS South Africa welcomes the DTI taking action against these Israeli settlement goods and companies. BDS South Africa further calls on the DTI and the South African government to now initiate a complete ban on Israeli settlement goods and companies.”
According to the organisation the labeling requirements would come into effect after mid-April and would affect Israeli settlement companies operating in South Africa.
Mbuyiseni Ndlozi of BDS South Africa also said: “Boycotts by ordinary people make it possible for international civil society to hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law and assist – in concrete ways – to put an end to Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies. We are calling on all South Africans to join us in the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel campaign by boycotting products such as Sodastream, Ahava and all others Israeli goods sold in South Africa”.
The Jerusalem Post reported that the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) and SA Zionist Federation (SAZF) welcomed the change in the legislation to refer to the products instead as either “West Bank: Israeli Goods” or “East Jerusalem: Israeli Goods.”
“This fully complies with internationally recognised technical trade requirements pertaining to place of origin. Unlike earlier proposed versions of the legislation, it does not make use of politically charged and biased language, but rather uses terms that are essentially neutral and descriptive,” the SAJBD said in a statement.
South African government criticised for Israeli product labelling compromise
A South African human rights advocacy grouping has expressed dissatisfaction at a South African government decision to reportedly scale back on a proposal to correctly label Israeli settlement goods.
Open Shuhada Street, which had been vocal in lobbying for goods produced in Israeli settlements on Occupied Palestinian land to not be labelled as ‘Made in Israel’, said the new regulations failed to convey the full gravity of dealing with Israeli Settlement merchandise.
According to a press release from the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) and SA Zionist Federation (SAZF), in terms of the new measures, such products must henceforth be identified as either “West Bank: Israeli Goods” or “East Jerusalem: Israeli Goods”. This appears to be a compromise on an earlier wording that suggested the products be labelled as originating from the Occupied Palestinian territories(OPT).
The two Zionist organizations welcomed the apparent change, claiming that the updated text did “not make use of politically charged and biased language”, but rather used terms that were “essentially neutral and descriptive”. They further thanked the Office of the Presidency, Cabinet and Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies for hearing and taking into account Zionist concerns when finalising the new regulations.
“The welcome outcome of the many months of deliberation and consultation over this issue has been a balanced, sensible solution, one that addresses the requirement that the places of origin of imported products be accurately identified without the addition of politically-motivated aspects that can only cause division and alienation within the South African population,” they said.
A spokesperson for Open Shuhada Street, while not entirely satisfied with the new regulations, told Cii Radio he did think the new labeling would still assist the consumer to make an informed decision regarding the purchase of Israeli settlement goods. Jonathan Dockney added that calls and campaigns for the boycott of these goods, including products such as the Ahava cosmetic range, would continue.
Dockney hinted that the apparent toning down of the labelling could be attributed to Zionist lobbying efforts over the past few months that could have reached the highest levels of government.
In May 2012, Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies, issued a notice in terms of the Consumer Protection Act that required traders in South Africa not to incorrectly label products that originate from the Occupied Palestinian Territories as the products of Israel, a decision hailed by human rights activists as a victory for consumers and the Occupied Palestinians.
“Consumers in South Africa should not be misled into believing that products originating from the OPT are products originating from Israel,” wrote Davies.
That decision sparked an angry response from Israeli officials with Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon chiding South Africa for ‘targeting’ Israel instead of acting courageously towards the plight of “innocent miners that were just asking for an improvement in working conditions,” a reference to the Lonmin tragedy.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry also released a statement, saying South Africa’s decision “brings to mind ideas of a racist nature which the government of South Africa, more than any other, should have wholly rejected.”
“The measure announced today [Wednesday] by the South African cabinet to require special labeling for goods emanating from Israeli settlements is without precedent, as no such measure has ever been adopted in South Africa or in any other country: it constitutes therefore a blatant discrimination based on national and political distinction,” the Foreign Ministry said.
The Government of South Africa recognizes Israel only within the borders demarcated by the United Nations in 1948. These demarcated borders do not include Palestinian territories illegally occupied by Israel after 1967.
The Department of Trade and Industry (the dti), has however reiterated that South Africa’s labelling regulations do not equate to a call for a boycott of Israeli goods or products.
Cii News | 11 April 2013