EU Ban on Settlement Goods a Moral Necessity

By Ray Hanania

January 14, 2016 5 min read

Politicians and American activists love to blather long and hard about how America cares about issues of law, business responsibilities, and helping the poor more than other foreign countries.

The truth is, the United States likes to exaggerate, believing that if they state it, it will be true.

But when it comes to the moral high ground, clearly the European Union stands far above the United States. Although in truth, the EU could go further when it comes to doing what is right.

A good example is the EU decision to require Israel to end its deceptive practices of misleading consumers about where its products originate. Until now, Israel has identified all of its products as coming from "Israel," including those products that are produced illegally on lands taken from Christian and Muslim Palestinians in the West Bank and the Golan Heights, two lands occupied in violation of International Law by Israel in 1967.

The EU voted in November 2015 to require Israel to end that practice and identify products that come from the occupied West Bank — what Israelis refer to as "Judea and Samaria" — and the occupied Golan Heights as coming from those occupied lands.

If this were really an issue of morality and ethics, however, the EU would have gone further and banned Israel's export of those products taken illegally by force from the people it occupies militarily.

It comes down to this: Israeli settlers, who are all Jewish, have been growing food items such as dates, for example, on lands and with date palms stolen by force from the Palestinians, non-Jews. But because Israel knows the world frowns on this human exploitation, Israel has allowed settlers to mislabel those dates as being "Made in Israel" or "Made in the Golan Heights" instead of "Made in the West Bank."

This mislabeling of products has allowed Israel to dodge criticism of the moral bankruptcy of its claims to desire peace. False labeling has allowed Israel to sell stolen products from stolen lands without accountability, without indictment for its brutal occupation policies, and without liability for the theft of that property.

Israel has worked hard over the past two decades to blur the line between the lands it occupied in 1948 and the additional lands it occupied in 1967. This hinders a negotiation process that requires Israel to surrender the occupied lands in exchange for a final peace.

Ironically, Nazis did the same thing to Jews during the 1930s and '40s of World War II. Yet when it comes to lands and property stolen from Jews by the Nazis, Israel has a different view. Jewish leaders have demanded that Germany and other Axis powers acknowledge the land and property theft, and they have used that to litigate for victim's rights.

Whether it is a blood diamond mined with the intent to profit and fund oppression and war, or a date grown by an armed Israeli settler on lands stolen from Christians and Muslims, consumers around the world have a right to know that the products they are buying are ethically challenged and stolen from others who have been denied their fundamental rights.

If this were not a moral and ethical issue, Israel would be proud to declare to the world that it has pushed aside indigent populations from lands that it occupied by military force in a war it started in 1967, and is producing a product that belongs to someone else.

The fact that Israel is outraged by the EU action proves that what Israel is doing is wrong, legally and morally, too.

And, if the public purchases a product that they know was taken from another people who are occupied, brutalized and oppressed, they are morally complicit in the crime, too.

That would make it hard to sell dates anywhere.

Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist, managing editor of The Arab Daily News at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, and writer at Al Jazeera English. Follow him on Twitter @RayHanania. To find out more about Ray Hanania and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.

Photo credit: Denise Krebs

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