22 NGOs have accused the European Union of being "inconsistent" with illegal exports from Israeli settlements, and are calling for various goods including a cosmetic line falsely marked with ‘Made in Israel’ labels, to be banned in Europe.
Amongst the exports the NGOs are calling to be banned, are those of Israeli based ‘Dead Sea Cosmetics’ Ahava skin care brand line, which feature mud excavated from the occupied Palestinian area.
The company has factories in settlements in the West Bank, which has led to a number of organisations calling for a boycott in recent years because the products were found to be selling under a misleading label, which failed to indicate the real name of the settlement the factory is located in.
Back in 2009, Palestinian custom officials announced that Ahava products were destroyed as part of a campaign against goods from Israeli settlements, while Dutch foreign minister Maxime Verhagen requested the company be investigated in regards to benefiting from the lower tariffs reserved for ‘Made in Israel’ products.
Despite all of the media attention, Christopher Whitman, advocacy co-ordinator at Ma’an Development Centre, tells CosmeticsDesign-Europe.com that Ahava products are still amongst the biggest illegal exports to the continent today.
“Ahava is worth $150 million and settlement trade to the EU is said to be $300 million, so you have to assume a huge percentage of the $150 million goes there, and these products are getting preferential treatment by the Union which further subsidizes their being,” he explains.
“Considering that the products are mislabeled as being made in Israel, EU R&D money is used for companies like Ahava, which is illegal under international law. The company also has offices in Europe, which again is illegal considering the organization is a flagrant violator of international law.”
Furthermore, Whitman says it is the profits generated from these types of illegal businesses that “keep the occupation going and in fact solidify their existence.”
Calling for a ban…
In a bid for the ban to be implemented, the NGOs, headed up by Hans van der Broek, a former Foreign Minister in Holland, complied a report ‘Trading Away Peace: How Europe helps sustain illegal Israeli settlements’ revealing that the EU is buying 15 times more goods manufactured by Israeli settlers than those by Palestinians, and is therefore helping to sustain the settlements.
The report recommends possible measures such as, excluding settlement products from preferential market access, excluding such products and their companies from public procurements, or a ban on 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, this report argues that it is very difficult to differentiate between goods produced in Israel and those made on the illegal settlements.
“Governments need to finally move beyond rhetorical condemnations of settlements and at the very minimum ensure consumers can make informed decisions about these products in shops. This is nothing but abiding by European and international law."
This week Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson, Yigal Palmor announced that the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority; "Supported this report and we encourage all EU states to take a clear position on banning these products which come from settlements."