France warns vendors to apply stricter labels to settlement goods
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France warns vendors to apply stricter labels to settlement goods

SodaStream's West Bank factory was relocated to the Negev following international criticism. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

SodaStream’s West Bank factory was relocated to the Negev following international criticism. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

(JTA) — A French government anti-fraud agency is requiring vendors specify whether goods originate in Israeli settlements.

The demand, which an Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson said gives “tail wind to radical actors and the boycott movement against Israel,” was published Thursday in the French government’s Official Journal.

The circular by the French Economy Ministry’s General Directorate for Competition, Consumption and Fraud Prevention, requires the use of the word “colonies,” French for “settlements,” to specify goods originating in Israeli settlements in the Golan Heights, the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967.

“Labeling a product only as originating from the Golan Heights is unacceptable” and “amounts to misleading” customers, read the circular, whose authors said it was based on binding regulations adopted last year by the European Commission on labeling settlement goods. “It is necessary to add between brackets the expression ‘Israeli settlement.’”

Several European countries apply the regulations, including Britain, Denmark and Belgium, but many others are ignoring them. The European Commission has no recourse against countries that don’t apply the regulations and no lawsuit has been brought to date against a vendor who declined to apply them.

The European Union has issued no regulations on labeling of goods from other disputed areas, including Western Sahara, which is under Moroccan control even though the United Nations has called the kingdom’s presence there an occupation. It is currently fighting a ruling from December by an EU appeals court that designates Western Sahara as occupied. It applies a different set of trade restrictions to Northern Cyprus, where Turkish Cypriots run a sovereign entity unrecognized by the European Union and backed by Turkey. E.U. officials argue that disputes between Israelis and the Palestinians, Greek and Turkish Cypriots and Morocco and indigenous Saharans vastly differ and require varied approaches.

Emannual Nahshon, the Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson, was quoted by the Russian news agency RT as calling the circular an expression of a double standard that risked encouraging boycott actions, which are illegal in France.

“It’s astounding and disturbing that France chose to apply a double standard only to Israel, while ignoring more than 200 territorial conflicts worldwide, including at its own doorstep,” he said.

Separately, the municipality of the Norwegian city of Trondheim, which is located 250 miles north of Oslo, last week adopted a resolution endorsing a boycott of Israeli settlement goods, the Adresseavisen newspaper reporter.

Aldermen for the ruling Labor Party, the Socialist Party, the Green Party and the Red Party supported the motion, which was opposed by the Conservatives, Progress Party, Pensioner’s Party, Christian Democratic Party and Centre Party.

The resolution was brought to a vote after a local transport worker and activist, Ole Roger Berg, gathered 340 signatures endorsing it and condemning “the Israeli occupation of Palestine” and policies that the co-signatories said harm the sovereignty and livelihood of Palestinians.