Call for ban on Israeli settlement goods

Europe is a prime export market for goods from Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory despite the EU recognising that the settlements are illegal under international law, says a new report from a coalition of 22 non-governmental organisations including Christian Aid, the Methodist Church and Quaker Peace and Social Witness (UK).

Entitled ' Trading Away Peace: How Europe helps sustain illegal Israeli settlements', the report calls for EU governments to ban the import of settlement products, which include fruit and vegetables, textiles, plastic furniture, cosmetics and some wines.

At the very least, the report says, EU governments should issue guidelines - which already exist in the UK and Denmark - to ensure that all settlement products are accurately labelled as such, allowing consumers to make an informed choice.  At present, the place of origin is often disguised by the description 'Made in Israel'.

Christian Aid Policy and Advocacy Officer William Bell says the coalition is not calling for a ban or boycott of Israeli goods, but wants an inconsistency in the EU's approach to be addressed quickly and effectively. 

'The EU says settlements are illegal under international law and yet member states continue to trade with them,' he said. 'Consumers are unwittingly contributing to the injustice by buying products that are inaccurately labelled as coming from Israel when in fact they are from settlements in the West Bank.

'Most EU Member States have failed to ensure products are correctly labelled, leaving consumers unaware of the products' true origin, contrary to the EU's own directives.

'At present, the EU imports 15 times more from the settlements than from Palestinians themselves. With more than four million Palestinians and over 500,000 Israeli settlers living in the Occupied Territory this means the EU imports over 100 times more per settler than per Palestinian.'

Trade with settlements has been on the EU agenda since May, when EU Foreign Ministers strongly criticised 'the marked acceleration of settlement construction' and for the first time called for full application of existing EU legislation regarding products from settlements. The EU's formal position is that 'settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace, and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible.'

The report, with a foreword by the former EU Commissioner for External Relations, Hans van den Broek, is the first to compare available export data from Israeli settlements and Palestinians.

The Israeli government estimates the value of EU imports from settlements at around €230m a year, compared to €15m a year from Palestinians.  The discrepancy is partly driven by Israel's policy of providing large subsidies to settlers, including for infrastructure, business development, and agriculture while imposing stringent restrictions on the Palestinian access to markets and resources.

Settlers enjoy easy access to international markets, and have established modern agribusinesses and industrial zones. In contrast, the Palestinian economy is 'severely constrained by a multi-layered system of restrictions' imposed by Israel, including roadblocks, checkpoints and limited access to land, water, and fertilisers. As a result, Palestinian exports have fallen from over half of GDP in the 1980s to less than 15 per cent of GDP in recent years, effectively invalidating the EU's preferential trade agreement with the Palestinians.

Dr Phyllis Starkey, former British MP and Trustee of Medical Aid for Palestinians, said:  'The EU spends hundreds of millions of euros in aid each year to support Palestinian state building but then undermines this assistance by trading with illegal settlements, thus contributing to their viability and expansion.'

Souhayr Belhassen, President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) said: 'Goods from West Bank settlements are produced on the back of house demolitions, land confiscations, and military occupation. Governments need to move beyond rhetorical condemnations of settlements and at the very minimum ensure consumers can make informed decisions about these products in shops. This is nothing but abiding by European and international law.'

ends

For more information, to arrange interviews or to receive a copy of the report contact: Johanna Rogers on 0207 523 2460 or 07590 710942

The more information of Christian Aid's work on settlement produce and the report please follow this link:

http://www.christianaid.org.uk/whatwedo/middle-east/take-action-to-ban-israeli-settlement-produce.aspx

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