LONDON (AP) – The British government says that produce from the West Bank may not be labeled as “produce of Israel,” because the area is not within the internationally recognized boundaries of the state. Such products are now labeled “produce of the West Bank.”
The advice drew an angry response from Israel’s Foreign Ministry, which said Friday that it would promote further radicalization of Palestinians.
The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said traders and retailers could, at their option, add the additional label of “Israeli settlement produce” or “Palestinian produce.”
The department issued the advice on Thursday, saying it was responding to requests from retailers, consumer groups and others for greater clarity in labeling.
Britain regards Israeli settlements on the West Bank as illegal, but it also opposes boycotts of Israeli products, DEFRA said.
Since 2005, an agreement between Israel and the European Union excludes produce from the West Bank from a preferential tariff rate.
Shahar Arieli, assistant spokesman of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said the British advice “is a surrender to the Palestinian organizations, will lead to another radicalization within Palestinian positions, and will harm, at a critical moment, the Israeli and international efforts to renew the peace process on the basis of understandings between the two sides.”
Some campaigners in Britain welcomed DEFRA’s position. “We support the right of consumers to know the origin of the products they purchase,” said Barbara Stocking, chief executive of the Oxfam aid charity. “Trade with Israeli settlements which are illegal under international law contributes to their economic viability and serves to legitimize them. It is also clear from our development work in West Bank communities that settlements have led to the denial of rights and create poverty for many Palestinians.”