Spite that lies behind the labels

November 24, 2016 23:17

In principle, I support the labelling of goods, especially those imported from abroad. The consumer has a right to know something about the origin of those goods, and whether they comply with British (and, for the moment at any rate, EU) safety standards. Moreover, as an Orthodox Jew, I take particular care over what I put into my mouth. So I naturally support the right of everyone else to take similar precautions.

The labelling must not only be accurate, it must be effected in a sensitive and proportionate manner. I don't mind the label: "Manufactured in Gibraltar" but I would object if the label read "Manufactured in Occupied Gibraltar," a form of words that might please substantial numbers of EU citizens of the Spanish persuasion but would be gratuitously provocative without adding any information of genuine value from the buyer's point of view.

The label "Manufactured in Gibraltar" is fit for purpose, and if anyone really is hell-bent on boycotting goods emanating from The Rock (a right which I support, by the way), then they are naturally free to do so.

I make these observations to establish my credentials where labelling is concerned and by way of an introductory comment on a story that has caused me greater concern each time I have considered it.

A long time ago, the EU decided that it could not accept the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights. But for the Eurocrats of Brussels, and their many admirers in the capitals of Europe, mere words were not enough. So, towards the end of last year, the decision was made to require Israeli exporters to label their products if any of these originated from beyond the Green Line. There was even a threat to publish an EU "code" relating to the retail labels on "settler" goods and, for all you and I know, this "code" might well be in an advance state of drafting prior to its solemn public dissemination.

The Eurocrats of Brussels do not trust consumers

So far so good. "Settler" goods will be labelled (hopefully in a proportionate manner), and the discriminating purchaser will be enabled to discriminate to her (or his) heart's content. But for the Eurocrats of Brussels, and their admirers in the capitals of Europe, this was not good enough. Because - of course - such labelling would not necessarily result in the cessation of such exports. On the contrary, the exports would continue, and the market - by which I mean the consumer - would decide. The Eurocrats of Brussels do not trust consumers. The Brussels mindset is that the consumer is basically a naive ignoramus and that they alone - the Eurocrats -know what is in the consumer's best interest.

And so it was that, on 28 July last, the Eurocrats swung into action. On that day, a letter was sent from Brussels to the government of Israel demanding that it stop issuing safety certificates for "products of animal origin" exported from Israeli companies based beyond the Green Line. The Netanyahu administration was given one month to remove "settler" companies from its list of entities deemed eligible to export goods to the EU.

That month has passed. And because Jerusalem has signalled that it will not be bullied, the Eurocrats have retaliated. Arguing that Israeli food authorities have no jurisdiction beyond the Green Line, the Eurocrats have said that, following a euphemistically termed "routine audit", the reliability of Israeli food-safety certificates has been called into question. As a result, a ban on the export to the EU of animal and dairy produce originating from anywhere in Israel is now a distinct possibility.

This threat is of course politically motivated. A wholly contrived concern - the reliability of Israel's food hygiene regime - has been manufactured in order to forge a weapon that can be deployed against the entire Israeli economy, with the larger purpose of punishing Israel for permitting Jews (who may or may not be Israeli citizens, by the way) to establish communities on the West Bank. If, next Pesach (or even next month), you are not able to buy Israeli chickens, Israeli yogurt or Israeli schnitzels, you will know why.

So, too, will the thousands of Palestinians who will inevitably be thrown out of work as a result of this Eurocrat-inspired embargo.

November 24, 2016 23:17

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