Judge Balks at Israel Designation for Territory-Based Imports

(CN) – An EU magistrate backed French authorities on Thursday for refusing to label food imported from Israel-occupied territories like the West Bank or Golan Heights as products originating in Israel.

Psagot, a company that works with vineyards in Israel-occupied territories, initiated the challenge here alongside a nonprofit dedicated to French Jews called Organisation Juive Européenne.

Before the case is heard by the European Court of Justice, Advocate General Gerard Hogan weighed in Thursday with a nonbinding assessment.

“Just as many European consumers objected to the purchase of South African goods in the pre-1994 apartheid era, present day consumers may object on similar grounds to the purchase of goods from a particular country because, for example, it is not a democracy or because it pursues particular political or social policies which that consumer happens to find objectionable or even repugnant,” the opinion states.

“In the context of the Israeli policies vis-à-vis the Occupied Territories and the settlements, there may be some consumers who object to the purchase of products emanating from the territories, precisely because of the fact that the occupation and the settlements clearly amount to a violation of international law,” the opinion continues. “It is not, of course, the task of this court to approve or to disapprove of such a choice on the part of the consumer: it is rather sufficient to say that a violation of international law constitutes the kind of ethical consideration which the union legislature acknowledged as legitimate in the context of requiring country of origin information.”

Hogan said he was careful not to express a political or moral opinion on the issues at stake, but that nevertheless it has been the conclusion of the United Nations Security Council that Israel’s occupation activities since 1977 “have no legal validity.”

Pointing to an advisory opinion where the International Court of Justice concluded “that the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (including East Jerusalem) have been established in breach of international law,” Hogan said there is little else to add.

“This passage … demonstrates beyond argument that the Israeli settlement policy is regarded as a manifest breach of international law, in particular on the basis of the right of peoples to self-determination,” Hogan wrote.

Noting that the U.N. has regularly reached the same conclusion, Hogan called it “hardly surprising that some reasonably well informed, and reasonably observant and circumspect consumers may regard this as an ethical consideration that influences their consumer preferences and in respect of which they may require further information.”

“One is accordingly coerced to the conclusion that the absence of the indication of the country of origin or place of provenance of a product originating in a territory occupied by Israel and, in any event, a settlement colony, might mislead the consumer as to the true country of origin or place of provenance of the food,” Hogan added.

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