Labelling notice may lead to diplomatic row with Israel
BusinessDay - May 21st 2012, 08:47
A diplomatic feud between SA and Israel could be on the cards following moves by the Department of Trade and Industry to compel traders in SA not to label products originating from occupied Palestinian territories "made in Israel".
In a Government Gazette notice earlier this month, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said that he intended to issue a notice to "require traders in SA not to incorrectly label products that originate from occupied Palestinian territory as products of Israel".
This move could hamper Israeli companies wanting to do business in SA and also negatively affect large local retailers that stock merchandise from Israel.
Israeli media reported at the weekend that the government of that country had reacted "furiously" to Mr Davies’s proposals, and had summoned the South African ambassador to protest about it.
The Israeli government claims it is being singled out because special labels are not applied to products made in dozens of other places where territorial conflicts exist.
In the Government Gazette, Mr Davies said consumers in SA should not be misled into believing that products originating from the occupied territories were products originating from Israel.
Mr Davies specifically cited Ahava products, along with soft drinks and technology imports being distributed as products originating in Israel, "whereas they originate from the occupied Palestinian territories". He said the burden of proving where the products originated from would lie with the traders.
Civil rights lobby group Open Shuhada Street has been calling on the South African government to issue a notice requiring all products made in "illegal" Israeli settlements to be labelled as such. Group committee member Zackie Achmat said yesterday that the reaction by the Israeli government was "expected".
"Denmark has also indicated that it would follow SA ’s example. There is increasing pressure on Israel from government s," Mr Achmat said.
Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesman Clayson Monyela said yesterday that SA’s ambassador to Israel would meet the Israeli government to discuss the issue.
"This does not translate into strained relations ... it happens all the time, whenever there are issues, (foreign) government s request meetings with an ambassador ... there is nothing out of the ordinary with Israel requesting to meet our ambassador to that country," Mr Monyela said.
Two of the main targets of Open Shuhada Street’s campaign are SDV Pharmaceuticals and health retailer Wellness Warehouse, which distribute Ahava products that carry a "made in Israel" label, when in fact they are produced by Dead Sea Laboratories in an "illegal" Israeli settlement in the West Bank, know as Mitzpe Shalem. The lobby group said it had been trying to engage Wellness Warehouse directly since 2010.
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