Thursday, August 23, 2012

Freight Forwarders Warned to Keep an Eye on Israeli Developments (Literally)

War of Words Escalates as South Africa Acts
Shipping News Feature

ISRAEL – EUROPE – SOUTH AFRICA – Pressure is mounting on the state of Israel with further news of sanctions being imposed on goods emanating from disputed territories and areas of conflict. Today the South African Ambassador has been summoned to attend Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to explain his Government’s decision to require special labelling for goods emanating from Israeli settlements. Freight forwarders should take care over the coming weeks that they familiarise themselves with the changing attitudes between not only South Africa, but also the EU, with regard to goods coming from the region.

Yesterday’s pronouncement by the South African Government follows the reaffirmation by the EU of their declaration of February 2005 that, ‘operators are reminded that products produced in the Israeli settlements located within the territories brought under Israeli administration since June 1967 were not entitled to benefit from preferential tariff treatment under the EU-Israel Association Agreement.’ The South African statement yesterday said:

"Cabinet approved that a notice, in terms of the Consumer Protection Act, 2008, be issued by the Minister of Trade and Industry requiring the labelling of goods or products emanating from Israeli occupied territories to prevent consumers being led to believe that such goods come from Israel," said Cabinet spokesperson Jimmy Manyi on Wednesday.

"This is in line with South Africa's stance that recognises the 1948 borders delineated by the United Nations and does not recognise occupied territories beyond these borders as being part of the state of Israel."

Earlier this year, the department issued Notice 379 that was published for public comment regarding the labelling of products alleged to be originating in the Occupied Palestine Territory by Israeli forces. At the time, the Trade and Industry department stated it wanted to ensure that consumers were provided with accurate information on the origins of the goods they bought. Israeli reaction has been unsurprisingly swift and critical calling the latest move a blatant discrimination based on national and political distinction and continuing:

“This kind of discrimination has not been imposed - and rightly so - in any other case of national, territorial or ethnic conflict. Israel and South Africa have political differences, and that is legitimate. What is totally unacceptable is the use of tools which, by essence, discriminate and single out, fostering a general boycott. Such exclusion and discrimination bring to mind ideas of racist nature which the government of South Africa, more than any other, should have wholly rejected.”

On the 14th August the official response to the EU notice issued the previous day was equally cutting saying:

“There is not the slightest doubt that the Modi'in, Maccabim and Re'ut localities are an integral part of Israel. The EU ignores reality when it extends the domain of conflict to places and issues that do not belong there. For anyone who deals in reality, there is not the slightest doubt that the Modi'in, Maccabim and Re'ut localities are an integral part of Israel, and their future is not in question.

“The EU ignores reality when it extends the domain of conflict to places and issues that do not belong there. As for the other locations mentioned in the EU list, the European approach, though not new, is not acceptable in Israel's view, and it is being addressed through ongoing diplomatic engagement. Remarkably, by the unilateral publication of the locations list on the internet, the EU has unacceptably cut off a negotiating process regarding this very issue. This action, conducted "ex abrupto", has therefore been the object of an official protest lodged by the Mission of Israel in Brussels to the European Union.”

As tensions over the issue ratchet up it seems the Israeli Government remains oblivious to the official view in many other states that the occupation of the territories in question remains unlawful, a view which is extremely unlikely to change. With both EU and South African authorities firmly entrenched and Israeli concerns regarding security there seems little hope that these matters will be amicably settled in the short or medium term and importers from the region should ensure they stay abreast of current regulations.

Photo: A view over the occupied territory of Maccabim