The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled Tuesday that food and drink imported from illegal Israeli settlements must be labeled as produced in the occupied Palestinian territories and not as “Made in Israel," a decision welcomed by the Palestinians but condemned by Israel which said it would try to convince European countries not to comply with it.
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The Court of Justice said labels must not deceive consumers and imply that the goods they buy are not produced in the territories illegally seized from the Palestinians under international law.
Labels must “prevent consumers from being misled as to the fact that the State of Israel is present in the territories concerned as an occupying power and not as a sovereign entity”, the ECJ explained.
The ruling reaffirmed recommendations made by the European Commission in 2015, which said that grocery produce could not be labeled as "Made in Israel" if it had been made outside Israel's 1967 borders, in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat hailed the ruling and called on all EU countries to “implement what is a legal and political obligation.”
For its part, Israel’s foreign ministry said it “strongly rejects” the ruling “which serves as a tool in the political campaign against Israel.” Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said he would work with foreign ministers of EU countries to prevent its implementation.
Israeli farmers installed on Palestinian lands cultivate and sell a number of food and drink products including wine, herbs, fruits, and vegetables. Many of these products have been exported to the EU and labeled as “Product of Israel.”
The ruling bases itself from the Fourth Geneva Convention, which outlaws the transfer of an occupying power's population into occupied territory - settlements built for Israelis on occupied Palestinian territory precisely fit these criteria and their presence is therefore contrary to international law, the International Court of Justice said in a 2004 advisory opinion.
The court underlined that the occupied Palestinian territories could not be considered "Israel", even though the state of Israel carries some de facto or de jure jurisdiction in some of those areas - and the labeling was necessary "in order to prevent consumers from being misled as to the fact that the State of Israel is present in the territories concerned as an occupying power and not as a sovereign entity."
In similar case, a Canadian Federal Court ruled in July that Wines made and manufactured in illegal Israeli settlements within Palestine will not be sold in Canada under the label “Product of Israel.”