The European Union’s top court has ruled that EU countries must oblige retailers to identify products made in Israeli settlements with special labels, in a ruling likely to spark anger in Israel.
The European court of justice (ECJ) said in a statement that “foodstuffs originating in the territories occupied by the state of Israel must bear the indication of their territory of origin”.
The Luxembourg-based court said that when products come from an Israeli settlement, their labelling must provide an “indication of that provenance”.
The EU has consistently spoken out against settlement expansion, saying it undermines the hopes for a two-state solution by gobbling up lands claimed by the Palestinians. Israel says the labelling is unfair and discriminatory. It claims that other countries involved in territorial disputes are not similarly sanctioned.
The EU wants any produce made in the settlements to be easily identifiable to shoppers and insists they should not carry the generic “Made in Israel” tag.
Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and began settling both areas shortly afterward. The Palestinians claim both areas as parts of a future state, a position that has global support.
The international community opposes settlement construction, saying their continued growth undermines the establishment of an independent Palestine alongside Israel. Today, nearly 700,000 Israelis live in the two areas, almost 10% of the country’s Jewish population.
The ECJ underlined that settlements “give concrete expression to a policy of population transfer conducted by that state outside its territory, in violation of the rules of general international humanitarian law”.
It said that any failure to identify the point of origin of produce meant that “consumers have no way of knowing, in the absence of any information capable of enlightening them in that respect, that a foodstuff comes from a locality or a set of localities constituting a settlement established in one of those territories in breach of the rules of international humanitarian law”.
The case came to court after an Israeli winery based in a settlement near Jerusalem contested France’s application of a previous ECJ ruling on the labelling. That ruling backed the use of origin identifying tags but did not make them legally binding.