The ZF was appalled to see the DEFRA guidelines (published on 10 December) on labelling of goods produced in the West Bank. About eight months ago the ZF led a delegation to the British Ambassador in Israel. This included representatives of the Manufacturers’ Association of Israel, the Histradrut and COHAV (an international Israel advocacy organisation). At that meeting the Ambassador was asked which consumers had requested the labelling transparency which the government claims as a reason for issuing the guidelines.
The answer was Oxfam and War on Want– two of the most viciously anti-Israel NGOs. The government should listen to those 30,000 Palestinians dependent on settlements for their income. Local Palestinians have repeatedly said that they do not want a boycott and that a boycott would increase unemployment and hinder economic development in the Palestinian territories. The economy of the West Bank is growing very rapidly and this guidance will be bad for growth and therefore bad for peace.
The Zionist Federation asks whether these mythical British consumers are more concerned about products from the West Bank than products from other disputed areas, such as Tibet, Kashmir, northern Cyprus, Chechnya, Kosovo, parts of Bosnia or even places like Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands and Northern Ireland.
As the British Jewish leadership lights the Menorah in Downing Street this week, they should reflect on the Maccabees and what they stood for and then compare that to their own roles. The ZF does not believe it is a coincidence that a few days ago the Treasurer of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the constitution of which states categorically that the Board is required to ‘advance Israel’s security, welfare and standing’, publicly expressed regret that the settlement freeze announced by PM Netanyahu did not include Jerusalem. One can surmise that the British government, which has been reflecting on the labelling issue for over a year, would take this as a sign that the Board’s leadership is lukewarm in its support of Israel.
The British Jewish Community has to face the fact that this Government is the most anti-Israel Government in many years and (together with the Swedish government) is the most anti-Israel Government in the EU. This is demonstrated by its recent actions over the Goldstone Report, the UNHRC meeting in Geneva, its support for the original Swedish Resolution on East Jerusalem and now by its stand on labelling.