The British government issued a statement urging businesses around the country to place clear labels on products made in Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank so that consumers engaged in boycotts will easily identify settlement products.The decision is nonbinding as the UK is not boycotting Israeli products, even products of the illegal settlements, but was viewed by Israel as another escalation in UK-Israel relations.
Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported that Naor Gilon, an official of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, slammed the decision and filed a complaint to UK embassy officials in Jerusalem.
There is a law at the European Union that states that imported products, especially food products, must have a clear label of the country of origin, but settlements are illegal structures built by consecutive Israeli governments and cannot, by International Law standards, be considered part of the state of Israel.
Boycott campaigns are focusing on all settlement products imported into the country while the British government recommended to several NGO’s in the country to differentiate between products imported from Israel and settlement products.
The new guidelines issued by the UK instruct businesses to clearly state on the label whether products, originating from the occupied West Bank, were made by Palestinians or Israeli settlers.
The government also stated that marking settlement products as products made in Israel is a criminal offense because it misleads the public.
But Israel’s Foreign Ministry said that this issue promotes boycotting all Israeli products regarding of the place of origin.
Yossi Levy of Israel’s Foreign Ministry claimed that this issue “harms the peace process”, and is considered a capitulation of the British government to what he described as “pro-Palestinian organizations”.
The official stance of the British Embassy is that this decision is not a boycott of Israel, and that it is only a recommendation that does not bind businesses to label the Israeli products as products made in settlements or in Israel.
The Fourth Geneva Convention, also signed by Israel, considers settlements as war crimes as an occupying power cannot move all or part of its population to territories it occupies.