Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
House of Commons
London SW1A OAA
Labelling of goods from the illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories
I am writing to you urgently concerning the current drafting that is being carried out by lawyers from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Food Standards Agency and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on how goods from illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Occupied Territories are labelled when they are on sale in the UK.
My main concern is that goods from settlements should not be sold in Britain at all because these settlements are illegal under international law. The Geneva Convention states that the transfer of a civilian population into an occupied territory is unlawful. Settlements are invariably founded on extensive theft or destruction of Palestinian property and water, which is a war crime. Therefore, since the lands and the water have been stolen from their rightful owners, then the goods produced must also be regarded as stolen property.
Current practices of mislabelling of produce from the illegal settlements in the West Bank as produce of Israel has led to the producers illegally benefitting from the EU Israel preferential trade agreement and loss to the British taxpayer of trade tariff revenue, and the more recent ‘West Bank’ labelling in some supermarkets has misled consumers in to believing that they are supporting Palestinian farmers.
If the UK government will not ban the import of these goods, then they must ensure that the labelling gives the consumer clear ethical guidance on the origin, and retailers with clear unequivoval quidance on correct labelling practices. This can only be achieved if all these goods carry a label that describes the goods/produce as coming from ‘illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank’. Only then can consumers make the informed choice that they are entitled to under EU law. Supermarkets will have to reconsider the promotion of their ‘ethical and fair trading’ standards should they decide to continue to sell these illegal goods