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European NGOs criticise EU trade with Israeli settlements

February 17, 2014 at 11:19 pm

A report commission by European NGOs has condemned the EU’s “inconsistency” of regarding Israeli settlements as illegal while importing goods made on the same settlements. European countries buy 15 times more goods manufactured by Israeli settlers than those produced by Palestinians, the report signed by 22 NGOs claims.

Written by Hans van der Broek, a former Foreign Minister in Holland, the report argues that the EU’s policy towards Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestine is inconsistent, not least because EU trade helps to sustain the settlements which it considers, rightly, to be illegal under international law.

According to World Bank estimates, EU imports from Israeli settlements are valued at $300 million a year, around 15 times more than the value of imports of Palestinian-made goods. There are more than 4 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, compared to about 500,000 illegal Israeli settlers.

“Despite its firm position that settlements are not part of Israel, Europe has been accepting imports of these settlements’ products with their origin designated as ‘Israel’, thus acquiescing to Israel’s extension of sovereignty over the occupied territory (the West Bank),” the report said. It calls for all settlement goods which are marked as “Made in Israel” to be banned in the European Union.

The report recommended a range of other possible measures, ranging from excluding settlement products from preferential market access to excluding such products and the companies which make them from public procurements. As a stronger measure, the report suggests that national governments consider banning all imports from Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

In 2010, the Court of Justice of the European Union issued a decision that settlement products should not receive the same duty-free status as Israeli products. However, the NGO’s report said that it is very difficult to differentiate between goods produced in Israel and those made on the illegal settlements.