European rabbis condemn Brussels’ labeling of settlement goods

The Conference of European Rabbis on Wednesday condemned the EU’s decision to label Israeli goods produced in the West Bank, despite opposition by a number of leading religious figures.

The CER’s condemnation echoed denouncements by Israeli politicians, who criticized the EU’s decision to impose labeling guidelines on Israeli products produced over the Green Line, with the government likening the move to a boycott and MKs saying it was tantamount to anti-Semitism.

At a meeting in Athens, the council of chief rabbis from across the Continent said the EU’s move smacked of anti-Semitism. “The EU’s decision to label products imported from the settlements and from the Golan Heights in Israel is a disgrace and is characterized by hatred of Israel,” Channel 10 quoted conference president and Moscow Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt saying.

He said that the conference successfully dealt with previous efforts by the EU to brand kosher meat, and that they would address this matter as well. “Today we’re saying again: you want to brand? Go ahead. Brand the products made in Syria by the Islamic State and in Syria by [President Bashar] Assad,” Goldschmidt said. “These initiatives are the new anti-Semitism in Europe.”

On the opposite side of the aisle, Belgian Chief Rabbi Avraham Guigui, head of the rabbis from EU countries, said the move by Brussels wasn’t anti-Semitism, rather “their way to oppose the politics of the current government [of Israel].” “They don’t like the government and its policies, so this is what they’re doing,” he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Israeli Foreign Ministry warned the plan could affect ties and accused Brussels in a statement of applying a double standard to Israel “while ignoring 200 other territorial disputes around the world.”

“Israel condemns the decision of the European Union to label Israeli goods originating over the ’67 lines. We regret that the EU chose for political reasons to take an unusual and discriminatory step which is drawn from the realm of boycotts, just as Israel is facing a wave of terror directed at all citizens,” the statement read. “The claim that this is a technical step is a cynical, baseless claim.”

At a meeting in Brussels, the European Commissioner “adopted this morning the interpretative notice on indication of origin of goods from the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967,” the EU’s executive said.

Wednesday’s move by the European Council, which will also apply to the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem, underscores the EU’s unhappiness over Israel’s continued expansion of settlements on territory that Palestinians are seeking for a future state.

According to the guidelines published, the labels will need to point out that the product is made in an Israeli settlement, and not just the geographical origin.

The EU claimed the move, which has been in the works for over a year, was independent of any political considerations, and meant only to clarify misleading labels claiming that goods from the territories originated in Israel.

AP contributed to this report.