Israelis living in the Jordan Valley have vehemently refused to label their products as coming from “occupied territories”, sending a scathing letter to Germany’s ambassador, several media outlets reported. According to Israel National News, David Elhayani, head of the Jordan Valley regional council, was responding to a phone request from a German marketing company.
The German company, Gaia, contacted a local farmer, informing him that their clients would like a prominent label applied to Jordan Valley products, stating “the product was produced in territories occupied by the government of Israel.” This is accordance with new EU guidelines, set in November, which forbid products made beyond the pre-1967 borders of Israel to be labeled “Made in Israel”.
Elhayani, himself a farmer, dashed off an angry letter last week to German ambassador to Israel Clemens von Goetze. Calling the demand “discriminatory” and “politically motivated”, he refused on behalf of the community to comply.
Reminding the ambassador of his country’s Nazi past, Elhayani wrote, “We will not label any of our products. In our eyes the demand to label goods is equal to the demand from the dark and awful days of the past when Jews were labeled in Europe.”
The timing of the demand, Elhayani argued, also showed incredible insensitivity to the plight of Israelis today, coming as it does in the midst of a terror wave which has claimed the lives of 29 Israelis and 3 foreign nationals in the past five months. “The state of Israel in these days is dealing with a wave of violent and severe terror. This decision for the harmful demand by the European Union comes on the background of this serious reality – it’s simply scandalous.”
According to The Jerusalem Post, Elhayani told von Goetze that 60 percent of Jordan Valley residents rely on agriculture for the income, and 20 percent of the region’s exports go to Europe.
Elhayani’s comments echoed those of Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel Friday, who said this was not the first time Europe had chosen to label Jews. Ariel demanded the EU renounce its “wretched boycott decision”.
Judea and Samaria are the heartland of Biblical Israel, and Jewish settlements there represent the return, after 2,000 years, of a people in exile to its home. The EU claims its decision to label Israeli settlement goods stems from an unwillingness to support what it considers an illegal occupation, but agreements reached with other nations in similarly questionable positions belie the claim. Europe also announced recently its agreements with Israel will no longer be applicable beyond the so-called “green line”, another move decried by Israel.
The US has quietly followed Europe’s example, with the US Customs Department “reissuing” a 1995 order to label West Bank and Gaza products. In reality, however, the original order applied only to Palestinian-made products from those regions, whereas the current directive is being applied to Israeli-made products, as well. Violators are subject to stiff fines.