Business Day

SA draws line under Israel label dispute

- BEKEZELA PHAKATHI Political Correspond­ent

CAPE TOWN — In what could be seen as a notable victory for proIsraeli lobby groups in SA, the Department of Trade and Industry is finally set to gazette a notice regarding the labelling of goods emanating from Israeli settlement areas in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, without including the “Made in the Occupied Palestinia­n Territorie­s” label that proPalesti­nian lobby groups have been calling for.

After months of consulting with various stakeholde­rs including concerned lobby groups, the department has settled for three categories identifyin­g goods coming from Israeli settlement areas. These are, “West Bank: Israeli Goods”, “East Jerusalem: Israeli Goods” and “Gaza: Israeli Goods”.

Lobby group Open Shuhada Street called on the government to issue a notice requiring all products made in “illegal” Israeli settlement­s to be labelled as such. They argued the label “Made in Israel” misled consumers.

However, there were fears that the labelling which Open Shuhada Street advocated would hamper Israeli companies wanting to do business in SA, and also negatively affect local retailers that stock merchandis­e from Israel.

Last year, when the notice was initially proposed, it prompted a “furious” reaction by the Israeli government, which reportedly summoned the South African ambassador to register a protest.

The Israeli government claimed it was being singled out, alleging that special labels were not applied to products made in dozens of other places where territoria­l conflicts exist.

Department of Trade and Industry spokesman Sidwell Medupi said yesterday there had been no pressure from the Israeli government. “We said initially that this was a consultati­on process and it was open to change.”

Mr Medupi said the notice would be put into effect as early as next week and would apply to various goods including food, electronic­s and cosmetics.

Traders or companies that contravene­d the labelling notice would face stiff penalties in line with the Consumer Protection Act, which stipulates that consumers have the right to know where goods come from.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies and the South African Zionist Federation yesterday welcomed the new regulation­s saying “this fully complies with internatio­nally recognised technical trade requiremen­ts pertaining to place of origin”.

Open Shuhada Street secretary Jonathan Dockney said yesterday the labels would still create confusion as they were “vague”.

However, the fact the department had issued the notice, “reaffirmed the principle that you cannot label products from Occupied Palestinia­n Territorie­s as made in Israel”, he said.

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