Israeli settlement goods should be labeled, court told

An Israeli settler prepares olive oil containers at the Achia Olive press factory in the Jewish settlement of Shilo in the occupied West Bank. (File/AFP)
Updated 13 June 2019
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Israeli settlement goods should be labeled, court told

  • To explain his ruling, Gerard Hogan refers the court to Europe’s previous opposition to apartheid

AMMAN: The European Court of Justice has been told that products from Israeli-occupied territories should be “clearly labeled as such to avoid misleading consumers.”

In his legal advice to the court, Advocate General Gerard Hogan drew on Europe’s previous opposition to apartheid to explain his ruling.

“Just as many European consumers objected to the purchase of South African goods in the pre-1994 apartheid era, present-day consumers may object, on similar grounds, to the purchase of goods from a particular country because, for example, it is not a democracy or because it pursues particular political or social policies which that consumer happens to find objectionable,” he said.

The former Irish judge said that under EU rules, labels must make it clear if products originate in the occupied territories and, in particular, if they come from Israeli settlements in those areas.

Ziad Khalil Abu Zayyad, the Fatah media spokesman, told Arab News that Israeli products are made on occupied lands that are controlled and used illegally by Israel, which prevents Palestinians from developing their own economy and production.

“Consumers of these products deserve to know that buying them supports and encourages the occupation policy that brings no benefit for anyone,” he said.

A spokesman for the EU told Arab News that Hogan’s legal advice is not binding on the Court of Justice.

“It is the role of the advocates general to propose to the court, in complete independence, a legal solution to the cases for which they are responsible. Judgment will be given at a later date. The EU court is due to decide next September,” the spokesman said.

The court is considering a request from France’s top tribunal for clarification of rules on labeling goods from the West Bank, including annexed East Jerusalem, which the international community considers occupied Palestinian land, as well as the Golan Heights, which Israel took from Syria in 1967.

France published guidelines in 2016 saying products from Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Golan Heights must carry labels making their precise origin clear, but this was challenged by the Organization Juive Europeenne (European Jewish Organization) and Psagot, a company that runs vineyards in the occupied territories.

The 2016 French ruling drew an angry response from Israel, which accused Paris of aiding a boycott of the Jewish state and of double standards by ignoring other territorial disputes around the world.

A major diplomatic row erupted between the EU and Israel in 2015 when Brussels drew up rules that effectively declared that products from settlements had to be labeled as such across the bloc.

Omer Korman, vice president of the Psagot Winery, which advertises itself as a “Jerusalem Mountains winery” and is based in the settlement nearest to Ramallah, declined a request for comment.

Ibrahim Milhem, spokesman of the Palestinian government, welcomed in an interview with Arab News the advisory decision of the European advocate general.

“His denunciation of Israeli violation of international law is welcomed and we can call on the world community not to engage with products made in the settlements which are illegal according to international law.”


Ethiopia pays tribute to slain military chief

Updated 35 min 21 sec ago
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Ethiopia pays tribute to slain military chief

  • Hundreds of soldiers and officers in uniform gathered for the ceremony in a huge hall in central Addis Ababa

ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia held a memorial on Tuesday for the army chief of staff slain with four other senior officials in weekend attacks that posed the biggest threat yet to the prime minister's reforms.
Abiy Ahmed, who survived a grenade attack at a rally in his honour last year, sat in the front row at the memorial and wiped tears from his eyes with a white handkerchief.
Abiy took power 15 months ago and has won widespread international praise for kickstarting political and economic reforms. But his shake-up of the military and intelligence services has earned him powerful enemies at home.
His government is also struggling to contain discontent from Ethiopia's myriad ethnic groups fighting the federal government and each other for greater influence and resources.
The foiled plot to seize control of the northern Amhara region and the assassinations in the national capital Addis Ababa underscored the threat of spiralling violence in Africa's second-most populous nation.
In addition to the killing of the chief of staff in the capital, Amhara state president Ambachew Mekonnen and an adviser were killed in the region's main city Bahir Dar.
The attacks were led by Amhara's head of state security General Asamnew Tsige, who had been openly recruiting fighters for ethnic militias in a state that has become a flashpoint for violence.
Asamnew, the alleged coup plotter, was shot on Monday near Bahir Dar, according to the prime minister's office. He had served nearly a decade in jail for a previous coup plot, but was released as part of an amnesty last year.
RISKS
Hundreds of soldiers and officers in uniform gathered for the ceremony in a huge hall in central Addis Ababa.
Roads in the capital were blocked for the ceremony and security was tight. Access to the internet appeared to be blocked across Ethiopia for the third straight day, users reported.
The coffins of army chief of staff Seare Mekonnen and a retired general, both shot dead on Saturday by Seare's bodyguard in the national capital Addis Ababa, were wheeled into the hall, draped in Ethiopian flags.
Photographs of the men in formal military dress were adorned with yellow roses. Seare will be buried in his home region of Tigray on Wednesday.
At the memorial, the army's deputy chief of staff General Birhanu Jula spoke of the chief of staff's bravery in the guerrilla war against the Communist Derg regime that was toppled in 1991, and of his leadership role in Ethiopia's war against neighbouring Eritrea in the late 1990s.
The weekend killings came as Ethiopia prepares to hold parliamentary elections next year, although the electoral board warned this month that they were behind schedule and that instability could delay polling.
SECURITY FORCES
Ethiopia's ruling coalition, itself a grouping of ethnically-based parties, is facing an unprecedented challenge from strident ethno-nationalist parties, global think-tank Crisis Group said in a briefing note on Tuesday.
Asamnew, who allegedly orchestrated the killings, had been appointed by state authorities as regional security chief in an effort to claw back support from Amharas supporting more his more hardline policies, including expansion of Amhara's borders, the group said.
"The 22 June killings confirm the dangers in handing security portfolios to hardliners like Asamnew who are ready to pander to extreme ethno-nationalists, from whichever of Ethiopia’s ethnicities," the note read.
Ethiopia analysts say the prime minister must tread carefully to restore security. Too strong a response risks derailing his reforms and angering a polarised population. But failure to punish those responsible could see violence could spiral out of control.
Mehari Taddele Maru, an independent Ethiopian analyst, said the government should channel public anger through dialogue, but if ethnic rivalries spread to the federal armed forces, that could destroy the state, he said.