Though Europeans enjoy the import of many products from Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, a new effort on the part of a group of European NGOs may put an end to the trade, in the name of supporting Palestinians.
The European Union has maintained that Jewish communities in the biblical heartland to the north and south of Jerusalem – known by them as the “West Bank” of the Jordan river but to lovers of the Bible as “Judea and Samaria” – are “illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible.”
Yet its constant importation of products from the areas have provided some of the support that allows the areas to thrive and grow, according to a new report, and must end, according to an article chronicling efforts to stop the practice in Der Spiegel.
According to the report, Hans van den Broek, a former European Commissioner for External Relations, has initiated a study: “Trading Away Peace: How Europe helps sustain illegal Israeli settlements.”
The study shows that European countries import 15 times more goods from Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria than they do from Arab ones.
Der Spiegel reported that Israel’s government records an estimated €230 million ($298 million) in produce, toys, textiles and cosmetics exported to the EU yearly from Judea and Samaria – approximately 2% of all its exports to Europe, despite a European Court of Justice ruling in 2010 excluding Jewish products from Judea and Samaria from the EU’s international customs cooperation agreements.
The products have been brought into Europe because they are labeled as Israeli, and do not identify their specific point of production in the blockaded areas (in the UK and Denmark, producers from Judea and Samaria are obligated to mark their products). To such a degree does Europe attempt to boycott Judean and Samarian products, that European customs authorities are obligated to check the postal codes from which the products arrive, to determine if they were sent from Jewish areas in the forbidden zone – yet , according to the study, officials often fail to do so.
The new group seeking to boycott Jewish products from Judea and Samaria is pushing to require all producers from the area to label their products, so that the EU can deny them entry.
The report decried Israeli government assistance to residents in the opposed region. Yet Der Spiegel’s article noted that “the European Union provides the Palestinians with massive amounts of support. Between 1994 and 2011, some €5 billion in development aid was sent by the EU according to the European Commission, €525 million of that in 2011. In addition, several EU member states send aid independent of EU funding.”
The report noted that if Europe severely restricts its participation in anything to do with Judea and Samaria, it can affect real change. It noted last year’s decision by the German national railway company, Deutsche Ban, to pull out of a project to build a high-speed railway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem as a positive example. Deutsche Ban backed out of the project after German Transport Minister Peter Ramsaeuer wrote a letter to Deutsche Ban’s CEO, noting that 3.7 miles of the track would run through areas Germany considers to be Palestinian territory, making the project a problem “from the perspective of human rights”.