Products from Israeli settlements should be labelled, Søvndal says

Denmark follows the UK in offering supermarkets opportunity to clarify whether Israeli products derive from illegal settlements in the West Bank

May 18th, 2012 11:30 am| by admin

Foreign Minister Villy Søvndal (Socialistiske Folkeparti) wants to allow supermarkets to introduce labelling on all goods produced by Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

“This is a step that clearly shows consumers that the products are produced under conditions that not only the Danish government, but also European governments, do not approve of,” Søvndal told Politiken newspaper. “It will then be up to consumers whether they choose to buy the products or not.”

The labelling initiative will be optional for supermarkets and is intended to allow consumers to better differentiate between products produced in Israel, which are subject to preferential customs agreements, and those made in settlements in the West Bank, which are not.

“I believe that the labelling will have a clear and direct impact on imports, though the precise effect is impossible to predict,” Søvndal said. “I hope that we will show Palestinians around the world that we believe the illegal settlements should not be allowed to continue.”

The construction of settlements in the West Bank, which Israel has occupied since the 1967 Six-Day War, has aroused international condemnation, most recently from United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon, who in April that he was “deeply troubled” by Israel’s approval of three new settlements in the West Bank.

“All settlement activity is illegal under international law,” Ki-moon wrote in a press release, adding that he was “disappointed that such a decision comes at a time of renewed efforts to restart dialogue”.

The UK also introduced voluntary labelling guidelines for its supermarkets in 2009, while EU law already requires that products from settlements in the West Bank are labelled.

The foreign minister’s proposal was criticised by members of Dansk Folkeparti (DF), however.

“Villy Søvndal has no idea where the borders will be drawn for a new Palestinian state,” DF’s Søren Espersen told Politiken. “Until the negotiations have been finalised, there is nothing illegal about the trade [of these products].”

Morten Messerschmidt, MEP for DF, also commented on the development and drew a connection to the meeting between the environment minister, Ida Auken (SF), and Hamas.

“Søvndal wants to mark Israeli products. Auken is meeting with Hamas in the European Parliament. Does SF have a problem with Jews?” Messerschmidt wrote on Twitter.

The Danish government announced its policy toward Israel in its common governmental policy that was released in October which stated that it supported the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

“Denmark must make it clear to Israel that while it respects its right to defend itself, we – along with other EU countries and the current American government – see the Israel-Palestine conflict as more than a regional conflict. That conflict threatens to destabilise the global security situations.”

In March the government pledged 120 million kroner of aid for the Palestine Territories over the next three years though Søvndal ruled out unilaterally recognising Palestine as an independent state.

(Photo by Paul Kalirai)
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