A wide range of Jewish organizations in both the U.S. and Europe criticized Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government for announcing that it will follow the European Union’s controversial guidelines to label Israeli goods from the West Bank and the Golan Heights, Benjamin Weinthal reported in The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
Calling the decision “a disgrace,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Weisenthal Center explained, “Throughout her years as chancellor, Angela Merkel in word and [mostly] in deed has stood as a friend of Israel. She must certainly know that the EU labeling move does nothing to advance peace, but does further embolden an array of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic forces. Hiding behind a decision by the EU doesn’t hide the fact that she has violated a historic German responsibility when it comes to the Jewish State: Do no harm.”
Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, observed that he would have expected better from Germany as it commemorates 50 years of diplomatic relations with Israel, and particularity “that there would be sensitivity to a labeling regime which singles out one people in the whole world for a political, and therefore discriminatory, designation.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said the labeling guidelines will likely be co-opted by the anti-Israel boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, which opposes a two-state solution. “Even if European Union officials claim it does not support BDS, this policy will have a similar negative affect on European consumers, who are unlikely to make the intended distinction.”
Elvira Noa, leader of Bremen’s Jewish community, told Weinthal, “[it] is a stigmatization and the danger exists of calls to boycott and stoking of anti-Semitism.”
Likewise, Nathan Gelbart, chairman of the German wing of United Israel Appeal, called the government’s policy “discriminatory,” and praised Greece and Hungary for rejecting the initiative.
The German government’s decision to embrace the labeling guidelines comes just weeks after a spokesman for the ruling party dismissed them as promoting “stigmatization and boycott [that] are not probate to facilitate the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Last month, following an uproar, Germany’s largest department store restored Israeli wines to its shelves after briefly removing them.
In a paper published this past August, legal scholars Avi Bell and Eugene Kontorovich emphasized the unique and discriminatory nature of the guidelines, and argued that they amount to “unlawful trade barriers.”
There are about 200 territorial sovereignty disputes worldwide, in many cases of which the EU does not accept sovereignty claims of the states which administer the territory in question. Among these territories are Western Sahara (controlled by Morocco), Kashmir (controlled in dif ferent parts by India, Pakistan and China), and many others. In many of these areas, the controlling state allows or actively encourages its citizens to live in the territory, in practices that are far more intrusive than those identified by Europe as “settlements” when Israel is involved. Despite the ubiquity of territorial disagreements and settlement practices, the EU has never unilaterally adopted a regulation requiring geographic labelling contrary to the exporting country’s certificate of origination.
In November, Danielle Pletka, a senior vice-president at the American Enterprise Institute, equated the EU’s decision with past European practices towards Jews, writing:
What, you say, but there are no Jews occupying those other places? We only condemn the Jews? Well, of course. Because only the Jews are especially worthy of EU condemnation. Next, a yellow star. Now that would be bold.