The EU Labeling Israeli Settlement Products is a Move Against Peace

Israel Boycott Middle East
Amichai Lourie Shiloh, winery wine maker, demonstrates wine making at Shiloh Wineries, north of the West Bank city of Ramallah November 8. Reuters/Baz Ratner

Some, including myself, criticize the settlements, but the decision made by the European Union Wednesday to label products manufactured in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is counterproductive and foolish. This will do nothing to promote reconciliation or understanding between the two sides. All it will do is serve the interests of those who oppose peace and compromise. This may not be the intention of the EU, but it certainly will be the outcome.

The settlements, particularly the industrial zones in the territories, provide employment for nearly 30,000 Palestinians. Even during tense times such as these, Palestinians work side by side with Jewish employees in these factories. Contrary to the lies published consistently against Israel, these Palestinian employees are not enslaved or exploited in any way. They are paid significantly higher salaries than their peers who are not employed in Jewish settlements.

Often, they hold more senior positions than some of their Jewish colleagues. These industries are an important component of the Palestinian economy. Those who advocate for the solution of two states for two peoples, such as the EU, and the author of this piece, must ensure that economic collaboration continues in times of peace as well. This means preserving industrial zones that serve both populations.

In order to understand the importance of this shared economy even today, before the conflict has been resolved, and certainly once an agreement is reached, we must keep in mind that the Palestinian Authority (PA) has ostensibly declared a boycott of Israeli products and demanded that the tens of thousands of Palestinians employed in the settlers' industries leave their jobs.

The PA has powerful security forces and the ability to force its opinion on the Palestinian population. But the Palestinian Authority itself has realized how harmful this would be for its own people. It would leave tens of thousands of people unemployed. It would critically damage the Palestinian economy. Therefore it is clear even to them that this demand is completely unrealistic and counterproductive. The PA has revoked this demand and more and more Palestinians are working in Jewish industries in recent years. Interestingly enough, there is no terror or even tension in these industrial areas. There, of all places, a model of economic partnership has developed between Jews and Arabs.

But instead of cultivating this model, the EU has decided to join the pressure being applied primarily by organizations that demand a boycott against Israel. These organizations demand a general boycott, but they rejoice at every step taken against these joint industrial zones where Jews and Arabs are employed side by side. And even more frustrating is that those who support the boycott, and those responsible for the boycott campaigns, are organizations that oppose peace agreements of any kind.

It is important to remember that labeling products is not equivalent to boycotting Israel, and the EU objects to any boycott of Israel. But the battle for labeling products is led by organizations such as the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Al-Haq, avid supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, an international campaign that advocates applying economic and political pressure on Israel. And BDS is explicitly opposed to any peace initiative based on a two-state solution. BDS leaders do not hide their aspiration for the destruction of Israel. But all of the European countries, as well as the EU, take an opposite stance. They support the two-state solution.

Therefore, the question that must be addressed is the following one: why does the EU, which supports peace, dance to the tune of those who object to agreements, normalization of relations, and peace, and instead support the annihilation of the state of Israel? Without the pressure applied by the BDS organizations, the EU would never have accepted the idea of labeling products. The organizations that promote this course of action consider it to be just the first step towards a general boycott.

We must also keep in mind that there are other occupied territories, such as the Western Sahara under Moroccan control and North Cyprus under Turkish control. Why weren't similar decisions made about these regions? Once again, the double standards against Israel become apparent. As a result, the decision to label products does not meet even the most basic of moral standards.

Another important difference is that unlike other occupied territories, the vast majority of the international community, including the EU, supports the Clinton parameters as the basis for a peace agreement. According to these parameters, the industrial zones will remain under Israeli control as part of several Israeli blocs within the territories, in a proposed exchange of land. Israel accepted Clinton's guidelines. The Palestinians declined.

In other words, product labeling is a decision based on double standards as well. It is opposed to the guidelines for peace that have been accepted by the majority of the international community and may cause more harm to the Palestinians than to the Jews in Israel. And most importantly, it is a decision that serves the interests of the most avid opponents to the peace process and of those who aspire to destroy Israel.

It is likely that many Europeans do not realize what lies behind their decision. We must hope that those who know the truth will object to this decision, and not because they are pro-Israel. Revoking this decision is necessary and is in the best interests of the Palestinian people and their economy. It is crucial for preventing another victory for those who object to peace and a long-lasting agreement.

Ben-Dror Yemini is a jurist, researcher and columnist for Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth. His latest book, "Industry of Lies", was published in Hebrew in 2014.