Anger at Palestinian label decision

2012-05-21 16:07
Johannesburg - A government move to re-label Palestinian products has raised the ire of the Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) and SA Zionist Federation.

"This decision was taken... based on communications with lobby groups that have a pronounced anti-Israel political agenda," SAJBD spokesperson Charisse Zeifert said in a statement on Monday.

Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies has announced steps that could see products manufactured in the occupied Palestinian territories, and sold in South Africa, labelled to indicate their place of origin.

The SA Zionist Federation said Davies relied on the views of groups whose aims were to enforce a regime of boycotts and sanctions against Israel.

"At the same time the minister has refused to meet and consult with interest groups opposed to his position on this matter," it said in a statement.

Technically complicated

The board said Davies had repeatedly declined to meet with its members.

"The question of products originating from disputed territories is a technically complicated one," said Zeifert.

"In addressing it, the SAJBD urges the South African government not to prejudge the issue."

It regretted that the minister had gazetted the decision before broad consultation. The SAJBD said South Africa should not adopt a discriminatory policy which was inconsistent with how it dealt with similar products imported from other parts of the world.

"The SAJBD, like the SA government and the ANC, supports a negotiated settlement that will see a two state solution with Israelis and Palestinians living side-by-side."

Zeifert said the minister's actions were not helpful in achieving this goal.

The Zionist federation added: "The interests of all parties to the Israel Palestine conflict are best served by a process of dialogue and discussion... and not a process that seeks to blame and isolate one party."

Cosatu supported the department's decision.

Accurate information

"The Congress of SA Trade Unions warmly welcomes and fully supports the decision of the department of trade and industry that certain goods originating from Israel must be re-labelled," spokesperson Patrick Craven said in a statement.

"The federation reaffirms its support for the Palestinian solidarity campaign for boycotts, sanctions, and divestments of Israel."

Davies on Monday defended a call for public comment on whether products manufactured in Israeli-occupied territories should reflect that fact on their labels.

He told reporters in Cape Town that South African consumers had the right to make buying decisions based on accurate labelling.

Davies said South Africa was "not so unique" in requiring that its consumers had accurate information on where products came from.

The British department of food, environment, and rural affairs had indicated that products which stated "West Bank" should make a distinction between Palestinian products and products which were from Israeli enterprises operating in those territories.

It was already an offence in the United Kingdom to label such products as products of Israel.

The European Union also required a distinction.
Read more on:    sajbd  |  sa zionist federation  |  rob davies  |  palestine  |  sa  |  israel

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