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24th Feb 2024

EU 'welcomes' Israeli settler exports

  • Israeli settler exports have little financial value, but high symbolic importance (Photo: [john])

Europe welcomes exports produced by Jewish settlers on occupied Palestinian land, the EU’s envoy to Israel has said, while insisting that the best way to stop boycotts would be to make peace between Israel and Palestine.

Lars Faaberg-Anderson made the remark at an event in Jerusalem on Monday (28 March) where speakers were criticising the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement - a Palestinian-led international campaign to stigmatise Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

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  • Settlement expansion seen as obstacle to peace by EU, but the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement unwelcome (Photo: ISM-NC)

The EU recently tightened up rules on grants and trade perks for settler firms as well as on retail labels for settler-made food, wine, and cosmetics.

Faaberg-Anderson said, according to Israeli media: “The settlements are not part of Israel, and for that reason products from the settlements, although they are welcomed in the European market, they are not given the same preferential treatment.”

He added: “The EU is against BDS. Our policy is totally the opposite - one of engagement with Israel, and we have a long track record to prove it.”

He said the BDS movement has had a “marginal” impact on Israel.

“The most effective antidote to BDS is to solve the Palestinian issue. If it were solved, there would be no BDS movement. It would shrink into virtually nothing,” he added.

EU states last week also tried to defeat a project to create a UN list of companies that profit from settlements.

The UNHCR, the UN’s human rights body, went ahead anyway after the project was approved by a large majority of member states, including China, Russia and Switzerland, as well as African, Arab and Latin American countries.

It means the Geneva-based body will “produce a database of all business enterprises involved in the [settlement] activities … to be updated annually”.

All eight EU members who currently sit on the UNHCR - Belgium, France, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, and the UK - had abstained.

EU-aligned members - Albania, Georgia, and Macedonia - also abstained.

The list passed despite the fact the British and Dutch ambassadors spoke out against the idea at the UNHCR meeting last Thursday. The British envoy said it would be “damaging” to the peace process, according to Israeli daily Haaretz.

However, EU states were less united on a separate UNHCR resolution, which endorsed a preliminary investigation into the 2014 war in Gaza by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Belgium, France, Portugal and Slovenia voted Yes to the text, while the other four EU members abstained.

Mahmoud Nawajaa, a spokesman for the BDS movement, said in a statement that Faaberg-Anderson’s remarks on Monday meant the EU was “complicit in Israel’s serious violations of international law”.

Nawajaa was also angry the EU diplomat had agreed to sit on the same panel as Dani Dayan, a hard-right Israeli politician

But the EU envoy told journalists at the anti-BDS conference: “I’m totally undeterred by allegations against me.”

The event, which was organised by Israeli media Ynet and Yediot Ahronoth, also heard from the US envoy to Israel Daniel Shapiro, who echoed his EU counterpart.

“One of our most effective tools to defeat boycotts and de-legitimisation is the presentation of a political process, negotiations or some political horizon that gives hope for a two-states-for-two-peoples resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Shapiro said.

The BDS movement recently claimed that a decision by British private security firm G4S to sell off assets in Israel was due to its campaign, but the firm denies this.

Dutch and Norwegian pension funds as well as French water-management and telecommunications firms have also divested Israeli assets in recent years.

Israeli settler exports to the EU are worth less than 1 percent of bilateral trade.

The EU institutions have indicated they will not prosecute countries that ignore the retail labels regime, even though it is grounded in binding EU consumer protection laws.

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