Denmark follows South Africa in allowing special labels for settlement goods

PRETORIA, South Africa (JTA) — Denmark’s foreign minister said he plans to allow supermarkets to place a special label on goods originating from West Bank settlements.

The announcement by Villy Sovndal comes shortly after a similar initiative by South Africa.

“This is a step that clearly shows consumers that the products are produced under conditions that not only the Danish government, but also European governments, do not approve of,” Sovndal told the Politiken newspaper last Friday. “It will then be up to consumers whether they choose to buy the products or not.”

Earlier last week, the South Africa Department of Trade and Industry announced that products originating from Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank will be labeled as such, and not as Israeli products.

In a notice printed in a governmental publication, South African Trade Minister Rob Davies declared that consumers in his country should not be misled into believing that products originating from the OPT, or Occupied Palestinian Territories, are products originating from Israel. Davies specified in his notice some ”misleading labeled products” as "Ahava products, and other Cosmetic brands, technology and soft drinks."

Open Shuhada Street, a Palestinian international organization focusing on the issue of rules of origin, has been campaigning in South Africa for several months against products manufactured in Israeli settlements. It has threatened to use legal action to require the South African government to declare the labeling of these products as "illegal" and "consumer misleading."

The Palestinian lobby targets specifically Dead Sea beauty products made in Kibbutz Mitzpeh Shalem, which is located about a mile from the western shores of the Dead Sea in the eastern West Bank. 

In a joint statement, Palestinian lobbies in South Africa called the decision "significant," adding that "This will now render Israeli trade with South Africa far more difficult and is a serious setback for Israeli companies wanting to do business in South Africa."

The decision is set to take effect on July 1.

The Israeli Embassy in Pretoria criticized the proposal in a statement issued Sunday.

”We regret the decision to adopt this notice, which carries an unpleasant scent of singling out Israel on a national and on a political basis," the embassy said, adding that it is investigating the implications of the decision. The bilateral trade between the two countries surpasses $1 billion a year.

Ben Swartz, spokesperson of the South Africa Zionist Federation, said the Jewish community in South Africa is deeply concerned by the proposal and that the content of the notice is "highly political and politicized, and has been prepared without proper public debate and discussion." Swartz said he does not believe that the proposal reflects all governing parties in South Africa, nor the African National Congress, the country’s governing party, as a whole.

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