Labelling of Israeli and Palestinian products – transparency not boycott.

This is a guest post by “Progressive Zionist”

Earlier this month, an article on Engage welcomed the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) new guidance for the labelling of West Bank products. The document recommends that UK retailers should label produce as either “Israeli settlement“ or “Palestinian.“

It is telling how this non-binding document has stoked the ire of intransigent, anti-peace groups. Organisations united in their opposition to the Defra paper range from anti-Zionist campaign group, War on Want, who want to boycott Israel out of existence, to leader of the settlers’ Yesha Council, Dani Dayan.

It didn’t take long for UK Zionist Federation chair, Andrew Balcombe, to fire off a sharp letter to Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Hilary Benn, defending the settlements and claiming that the advice “will only fuel pressure for a boycott of Israeli goods”.

Mr Balcombe is wrong on both counts.

From personal experience, one of the key arguments put forward by boycotters like the Palestine Solidarity Campaign is that by buying an avocado labelled ‘Israel’ you could actually be buying produce from a West Bank settlement. Therefore, you should steer clear of anything remotely Israeli. This new labelling represents another nail in the coffin of their argument (which isn’t about the settlements – it’s about Israel full stop). Consumers can now buy Israeli food, drink and cosmetics with transparency and confidence.

The heat of this debate has risen out of proportion to reality – the volume of West Bank produce entering the UK is tiny. These knee-jerk reactions are unhelpful and make unlikely bedfellows of War on Want and the Zionist Federation. Both seek to blur the distinction between Israel and the West Bank – running against Israel’s security and welfare.

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