Photo Credit: Asher Schwartz

Belgium has decided to start labeling Israeli products coming from Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights, marking them for boycotts, and Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll has canceled his meetings in Brussels in protest.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Wednesday condemning “the Belgian government’s anti-Israel decision.”

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“The product labeling decision harms Israelis and Palestinians alike and is inconsistent with the Israeli government’s policy focused on improving the lives of Palestinians and strengthening the Palestinian Authority and its people and improving Israel’s relations with other European countries,” the statement said.

Arabs employed by these Israeli companies in Judea and Samaria are at risk of losing their jobs as a result of the EU’s move if Israeli factories operating in the area are forced to move as a result of the financial pressure generated by the labeling and subsequent boycotts.

There are 14 Israeli industrial and agricultural parks in Judea and Samaria, including some 800 factories and businesses employing over 11,000 workers from the Palestinian Authority alongside 6,000 Israelis. Many thousands more PA Arbs earn their livelihoods through secondary services provided to the Israeli factories, such as transportation and the sale of materials.

Israelis will be able to find jobs elsewhere, but PA Arabs will be forced to look for work in the failing Palestinian economy, joining a high percentage of the PA population that is unemployed.

Roll, who took off for a diplomatic visit to Belgium and Luxembourg, canceled his planned meetings with the Belgian Foreign Ministry and Parliament following the decision.

“The Belgian government’s decision strengthens the extremists, does not help promote peace in the region, and makes Belgium a factor that does not contribute to stability in the Middle East,” stated Roll.

The European Union (EU) announced in November 2015 it will begin to label Israeli products originating from Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights in an attempt to generate financial pressure on Israel and to protest Israel’s policies in these regions.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) in November 2019 upheld this decision.

Belgium’s move could expose it to US anti-boycotts law as well as state-level sanctions and potentially disrupt US-EU trade relations. Boycotts of Israel are illegal in the US and about half of the states have passed similar laws.

US law professor Eugene Kontorovich has stated that the ECJ’s ruling “is putting a new ‘Yellow Star’ on Jewish-made products,” calling the decision “inconsistent” with the treatment of other disputed areas. Kontorovich pointed out that the ruling set a precedent in product labeling addressing “who” it was produced by, rather than the standard practice of labeling products according to geographic standards.

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.