Europeans are considering stigmatizing Jewish businesses — an idea last popularized by the Nazis — all in the name of neutrality. This time, the focus is on Jewish-owned businesses located in the world’s only Jewish nation state and the European Union’s not-so-subtle suggestion that Israel exists only within its pre-1967 borders.
In June, Gerard Hogan, an advocate general at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, issued a nonbinding opinion, which many expect the court’s judges will adopt, suggesting that EU member states marginalize foodstuffs from Israel through detailed labeling. So products produced by Jewish citizens of Israel on land Israel won in the Six Day War is supposed to be labeled as hailing from “Israeli settlements” rather than being labeled “made in Israel.”
The advocate general writes that it’s not acceptable to simply mark a product as being from the West Bank or the Golan: “Although these terms do refer to the wider area or territory from which the product originates, the omission of the additional geographical information that the product originates from Israeli settlements is likely to mislead the consumer as to the true origin of the product. In such cases, it is necessary to add, in brackets, the term ‘Israeli settlement’ or equivalent terms.”
Targeting the Jewish State
Got that? The advocate general explains that such detailed labeling is necessary to provide consumers “neutral and objective information.” He uses the loaded term “settlement colony” and compares Israel to apartheid South Africa, which is totally not an inflammatory analogy.
Danny Danon, Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations, told The Federalist this “shows the double standard and anti-Israel bias growing across Europe. The EU ignores very real abuses taking place all across the world and instead chooses to focus only on the Jewish state. To call Jews building on our ancestral homeland an ‘ethical consideration’ is ridiculous and antisemitic.”
There’s no doubt this isn’t a positive development. That’s especially true if the 15-judge panel accepts this June recommendation and takes things a step beyond the EU’s geographically focused labeling guidelines from 2015.
The French applied labeling rules in 2016, which is what fueled the lawsuit by Psagot winery, first in France and then at the European Court of Justice. Psagot winery founder and CEO Yaakov Berg told The Federalist, “An EU-mandated boycott of Jewish businesses would be devastating, not to our business necessarily, but to the heart and soul of the European continent. It would signal that, 80 years after Kristallnacht, Europe is returning to the policies of one of its darkest chapters.”
(For the record, France acting like a moral authority on anything related to Jews is darkly comical after the recent revelation that a former French intelligence chief responded to a 1982 attack on a French Jewish restaurant that left six dead and 22 wounded by cutting a deal with the terrorists. French Jews are now rightly demanding an investigation.)
Singling Out and Stigmatizing Israeli Business
But back to the big decision currently facing the EU’s highest court. According to EUobserver, “The World Bank, in 2012, estimated that settler exports to the EU are worth €230m a year.” New labeling requirements could easily change that figure, though.
Consider how a consumer might react to a bottle of wine that doesn’t simply explain the grapes grew in the Golan Heights. The label would also note that this wine was produced in an Israeli settlement. This kind of bottle stops being a simple celebratory bottle of wine. Now it’s a political football, and who’s in the mood to toast anymore? You might well put that bottle back and choose another one.
That’s why, when Europeans insist they’re not debating a boycott, they’re focusing on the letter, rather than the spirit, of the law. In practice, this is another example of stigmatizing Israel and potentially bringing economic harm to Israelis.
Yes, as things look now, Israeli-made goods, even those hailing from beyond the Green Line, could still be imported into the EU. However, such proposed labeling requirements tip the scales, nudging consumers away from purchasing products made by Jewish Israelis who live and work beyond the Green Line. Quite simply, highlighting this detail represents the opposite of the neutrality the advocate general claims to champion.
There’s Still Time to Change Course
This change is still not a fait accompli, though. As Psagot’s Berg told The Federalist, “The French Government has suspended enforcement pending the outcome of the case, so they are not yet enforcing this antisemitic policy, and it’s not too late to change course.” And the EU’s 15 judges could still steer a different course when they return from their summer holiday.
As those judges decide whether to follow the advocate general’s guidance, they are hopefully keeping in mind the potential international ripple effects. While the focus of this case is Israel, any new legal precedent could have ramifications for other contested regions, such as Crimea and Western Sahara, as well as the United States.
Marc Greendorfer, president of the Zachor Legal Institute, told The Federalist, “The labeling requirement is a form of boycott against Israel. We believe that compliance with foreign boycott calls against Israel violates state and federal laws,” which could trigger legal repercussions.
The European Court of Justice has yet to announce the date for its final ruling, but it could come as early as the first week of September. So we’ll know soon enough how seriously Europeans take neutrality. It’s an important principle; they should absolutely uphold it.