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Tuesday, 16 March 2010

European Court of Justice ruling blow for Settlement Goods

From little acorns, oak trees grow.
Tony Greenstein

Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) welcomes landmark EU court ruling, calls for intensifying grassroots BDS

Palestine- 15 March:

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign National Committee (BNC) welcomes the long overdue ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union that Israeli products originating from Israel's colonial settlements built on Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) do not qualify for preferential customs treatment under the EC-Israel trade agreement [1]. According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, all Israeli colonies are illegal and constitute war crimes. The BNC calls on all 27 member states of the European Union to implement the court's findings in full and without delay, as a first step towards a full ban on Israeli colonies' products. We also urge the citizens and civil society groups of European Union member states to pressure their respective governments and the EU leadership to abide by this landmark decision and enforce its implementation.

In response to an appeal lodged by German drinks firm Brita, who were asked to pay full EU import duties when importing supplies manufactured in the OPT by the Israeli company Soda-Club Ltd, Europe's highest court ruled that Israeli products originating in the West Bank do not fall within the territorial scope of the EC-Israel Agreement and therefore do not qualify for preferential treatment under that agreement. The court also ruled that Israeli companies operating in the OPT are "third parties" and cannot benefit from the terms of a separate EC-PLO trade agreement.

Worth €12 billion to the Israeli economy, the European Union is Israel's second largest export market after the United States; an estimated one-third of these exports are fully or partially manufactured in Israel's colonies [2]. On top of this, a large number of Israeli companies are providing products and services to the settlements, profiting from them, or rendering them sustainable in other ways. Illegal settlements in the OPT are an integral and significant part of the Israeli economy.

Allowing Israeli goods illegally produced on Palestinian territory to be imported under the terms of an EC-Israel trade agreement effectively constitutes a giant subsidy for Israel's brutal and ever-expanding military occupation and colonization of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. As with all forms of colonialism, the Israeli occupation is motivated by a combination of political ideology and economic self-interest. This subsidy greatly increases the economic incentive for occupation and is funding the systematic denial of the rights of Palestinians.

Additionally, the BNC would like to highlight the obstructiveness of Israeli export authorities. The court ruling observed that "despite a specific request...they [the firms involved and the Israeli export authorities] did not reply to the question whether the products had been manufactured in Israeli-occupied settlements in Palestinian territory". We call upon member states to hold Israel to what the court described as its obligation to "provide sufficient information to enable the real origin of products to be determined". EU member states should be wary of the likelihood that Israel may react to this ruling by adopting further measures designed to conceal the true origin of many Israeli exports.

In principle, the European Union refuses to recognize Israeli colonies in the Occupied Palestinian Territory as part of the State of Israel. While welcoming this stance, the BNC wishes to remind EU member states that their official position in this regard is undermined by welcoming Israeli products manufactured on Occupied Palestinian Territory into their vast markets. We hope that this new Court of Justice ruling will give member states the confidence and legal basis, assuming they have the will, to impose full import duties on Israeli settlement goods as a precursor to an eventual ban on such illegally produced imports. In fact, upholding international law as well as its own laws would obligate the EU to end its entire Association Agreement with Israel. The EU's lucrative trade with Israel despite its ongoing occupation, colonization and apartheid against the Palestinian people not only violates the human rights clauses in the EC-Israel Association Agreement; it makes a mockery of international law and human rights treaties and indicates complicity in maintaining Israel's system of injustice.

As we await confirmation from the 27 member states of the European Union that they intend to implement the ruling of the EU Court of Justice, the BNC reiterates its call for the suspension of the Trade Association Agreement with Israel and for all forms of civil society-led boycotts and divestment initiatives against Israel until it ends it fully abides by its obligations under international law and respects the rights of the Palestinian people.

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