South Africa defends ‘Made in Palestinian Territories’ tags
A South African minister on Monday defended plans to require "Made in the Occupied Palestinian Territories" labels on products from Jewish settlements, instead of just "Made in Israel" tags.
The plans drew a furious response from Israel’s foreign ministry which described it as “racist”.
Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said that by demanding that consumers be informed of a product’s origin, South Africa was “not so unique” as it is common practice in other parts of the world, including the European Union.
“A number of products are entering South Africa as products of Israel, even though they were actually products of the occupied territories,” he told reporters.
“Our recognition is the 1967 borders of Israel. There is a distinction between products from within borders and products from territories outside, notably the West Bank.”
He said public debates were needed before a decision was made.
“We have issued a notice of intention inviting comments from the public. Thereafter we will apply our minds and hear the results of representations received. We will take a decision accordingly,” Davies was quoted as saying by the Sapa news agency.
He said the move was not aimed at pushing for a boycott of Israeli goods.
Israel’s foreign ministry has reacted angrily to the plans and Davies said he understood that South Africa’s ambassador to Israel had been summoned over the matter.
“It is shocking to think that South Africa, of all countries, would display such callousness, and is blindly marching down the slippery slope of racism,” Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said at the weekend.
The South African Jewish Board of Deputies said government’s move “has unfortunately politicised a technical trade issue.”
“South Africa should not adopt a policy that is discriminatory and inconsistent with how it deals with similar questions relating to products imported from other parts of the world,” said the group in a statement.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), an ally of the ruling ANC party, said it “warmly welcomes and fully supports” the move plans to re-label goods from the Palestinian territories.
COSATU “reaffirms its support for the Palestinian solidarity campaign for boycotts, sanctions and divestments… of Israel, which draws much of its inspiration from the success of the boycott and sanctions levelled against apartheid South Africa to force pressure on the Israeli government.”