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Cabinet approves DTI notice on false Israeli labelling

Open Shuhada Street.org – 23 August 2012

In the first legal steps against illegal Israeli Settlement products, the South African Cabinet has approved notice 379 of 2012, issued by the Department of Trade and Industry requiring the proper labelling of goods or products emanating from the Occupied Palestinian and Syrian Territories.

This is a significant first legal victory for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in South Africa. Goods/products coming from illegal Israeli Settlements have previously been labelled as ‘Made in Israel’, a direct violation of South Africa’s Consumer Protection Act, 2008, as well as various international laws. Now consumers have the right to choose for themselves whether to provide economic support to Israel’s illegal military occupation.

See paragraph 2.2 of the following link for the full statement: http://www.info.gov.za/speech/DynamicAction?pageid=461&sid=30027&tid=80792

Open Shuhada Street welcomes Cabinet’s decision, particularly in refusing to acknowledge the legality of Israel’s presence in the Occupied Territories. This refusal honours the 1949 Armistice Agreement, which was a UN agreement stipulating the borders between Israel and its neighbours, including Palestine. This is a victory for consumer rights and the first significant step taken against the occupation by our Government. We have a long road to travel to fulfil our international obligations to end the crimes against humanity and war crimes of the Israeli state.

We do however note problems in the Cabinet’s press statement. The first being they reference the Territories occupied by Israel as “Israeli Occupied Territories”. Such a reference is ambiguous as to who is the occupier; usually they are referred as Occupied Palestinian Territories or if one include the Golan Heights, Territories Occupied by Israel. One could also include a hyphen; e.g. “Israeli-Occupied Territories” to amend this error. The second problem is the reference on the “1948 borders” instead of the 1949 Armistice Line.

Israel attacks South Africa on relabeling issue

Israel Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, has attacked the South African government for deciding to support a call to correctly label products emanating from the Occupied Palestinian territories.

Ayalon drew in the recent Lonmin mine tragedy to try and discredit the South African government’s decision on the Israeli labeling issue.

“At the moment South Africa’s apartheid is aimed at Israel, and against miners within South Africa itself.”

“Instead of deciding to label Israeli products, South Africa should have acted courageously towards the 34 innocent miners that were just asking for an improvement in working conditions.”

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.

“Israel and South Africa have political differences, and that is legitimate,” the ministry added. “What is totally unacceptable is the use of tools which, by essence, discriminate and single out, fostering a general boycott. Such exclusion and discrimination bring to mind ideas of racist nature which the government of South Africa, more than any other, should have wholly rejected.”

It is understood that the South African ambassador to Israel has also been called in for discussions on the decision. This is not the first time that Ismail Coovadia has had to face the wrath of the Israelis over the matter. In May this year he was summoned prompting the Department of Trade and Industry minister, Rob Davies, to say that his department was neither calling for a boycott Israeli goods nor to prevent the entry of such products into South Africa.

The official notice was “to require traders in South Africa not to incorrectly label products that originate from the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) as products of Israel.”

Davies said that Pretoria recognised the State of Israel “only within the borders demarcated by the United Nations (UN) in 1948” and that these borders do not include territories occupied by Israel after 1967.

Yesterday the South African cabinet approved the plan to ban “Made in Israel” labels on products from illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Instead, such imports are to be labeled as coming from the “Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

Government spokesperson Jimmy Manyi again emphasised that South Africa recognises the borders delineated by the United Nations and does not recognise occupied territories beyond these borders as being part of the state of Israel.

The campaign has been spearheaded in South Africa by the Open Shuhada Street organisation in 2008.

Bruce Baigerie, the group’s spokesperson said the South African cabinet decision was a welcomed one. “It’s fantastic news for us. The campaign has been going on since 2008 and for it to end like this makes us feel very happy.”

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