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S. African government minister praises West Bank product ban

PRETORIA (JTA) — A South African government minister expressed strong support for a proposal to ban products from the West Bank from being labeled as originating from Israel.

In a policy briefing on South Africa-Palestinian relations July 14 at the College of Cape Town, South African Deputy Minister of International Relations Marius Fransman said that economic diplomacy could be an effective weapon of change in the Palestinian-Israel relationship — inspired by the economic boycott of apartheid-era South Africa.

"I am glad to inform you that our government, through the Ministry of Trade and Industry has recently, in May 2012, released government notice 379 of 2012, as a strategy to apply economic pressure on Israel," Fransman said, citing the notice that requires "traders in South Africa, not to incorrectly label products that originate from the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OTP) as products of Israel." 

Fransman says that he is inspired by the role played by the pro-Palestinian "Open Shuhada Street” and other pro-Palestinian organizations, in promoting the notice. "Although this initiative has been opposed by those who sympathize with Israel here at home and abroad, there are progressive Israeli forces who commended this initiative by our government,” he said.

Referring to the Israeli Law of Return, the deputy minister criticized Israel, claiming that it has "denationalized” the Palestinians.

"It granted every ‘Jew’ who immigrated to Israel, or, following the 1971 amendment, even expressed the desire to immigrate to Israel, ‘immediate’ Israeli citizenship without taking any formal steps. It retroactively altered the Palestinian Citizenship Orders, stating that they had to be ‘repealed with effect from the day of the establishment of the State,’" Fransman said.

Fransman’s statements contradict earlier statements by Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies who, during a meeting with the representatives of the South Africa Jewish community Board of Delegates, said that the notice concerned trade issues and was not politically motivated.

Following two pro-Israel demonstrations in Pretoria and Cape Town two weeks ago, Davies emphasized that he did not wish to promote a boycott on Israeli products.

The proposal notice accorded 60 days for submissions, which expired on July 13.  But Davies announced that he will allow another 30 days for more submissions to be filed.

Several Jewish organizations and private individuals have filed submissions objecting to the notice. The prolonging of the public debate time could mean that Davies would like to see more supporting submissions filed by the pro-Palestinian organizations, according to reports.

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