End support for illegal settlements

19 November 2012

End support for illegal settlements

The designation 'Made in Israel' on a range of products can be deceptive, as they may also come from the illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories of Palestine. The customs service must exercise stricter controls.

SP Member of Parliament Harry van Bommel

Former Christian Democrat Foreign Minister Hans van den Broek is completely correct when he says that the illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories represent an obstacle to peace. (De Stentor, 31 October 2012). Buying products from these illegal settlements is therefore immoral and a consumer boycott is in place. However, not only individual consumers but the Dutch authorities could be doing a great deal more to put a stop to the financing of the settlements policy.

The designation 'Made in Israel' on products from the Palestinian Occupied Territories misleads not only the consumer but also the customs service and the Food and Water Authority. This designation enables these products to enter the Netherlands on a low import tariff. The reduced tariff in effect means that the government is contributing to maintaining the settlements. The customs service must therefore exercise much stricter controls and actively investigate the origin of products labelled ‘Made in Israel’.

In addition, recognition of the status of ‘Institution Aimed at the General Benefit’ (known by the Dutch acronym ANBI, and equivalent to charitable status in the UK or US ) for organisations which finance projects in the settlements, the government is once again contributing to maintaining the latter. ‘Christians for Israel’ is such an organisation and donations to this foundation are tax deductible. This could be resolved by refusing ANBI status to organisations which give financial support to any policy which conflicts with international law.

Local authorities are also in a position to play their part in putting a stop to the settlements policy. They should grant no tenders to firms which invest in projects in the settlements. The bus company Veolia, which operates in the Netherlands under the name Connexxion, is one such corporation, running bus services on the West Bank which transport only Israeli colonists, while the firm was also involved in the Jerusalem Light Rail in the occupied eastern section of that city. In Utrecht and The Hague – which, one should remember, is the capital city of international law – Veolia attempted to win the contract for bus transport. Partly thanks to resistance from the group Een Ander Joods Geluid (literally, Another Jewish Sound), this was unsuccessful.

For consumers it is currently still difficult to maintain an effective boycott of products from the settlements because their origin is often unclear. It is therefore preferable to ask the management of the firm in question for the exact origin of a product labelled as Israeli. For governmental bodies there is, however, no credible excuse whatsoever for not taking immediate action. All financial support, whether direct or indirect, of the illegal settlements must as rapidly as possible be brought to an end. Otherwise the two-state solution desired on all sides will no longer be possible at all.

This article first appeared, in Dutch, in the regional newspaper De Stentor of 9 November 2012.

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