Sunday, July 05, 2020

European Union double standards regarding Israeli settlements

By Anna Germaine - January 28, 2013
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [settlement construction] [West Bank] [European Union] [Al Haq]

Following the announcement that Israel planned to expand settlements to the highly contentious E-1 area between Jerusalem and Ramallah, the foreign ministers of the 27 European Union (EU) states decried the continuous settlement building.  

The statement issued in October announced, “The European Union is deeply dismayed by and strongly opposes Israeli plans to expand settlements.” 

“The European Union will closely monitor the situation and its broader implications, and act accordingly,” it concluded.

Despite the European Union’s words of condemnation, over the years it has become Israel’s largest trading partner—receiving 20 percent of Israel’s exports annually. However, many of these imports are not from Israel proper; they are agricultural exports from Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which are illegal under international law.  

Palestinian Legal Association Al-Haq recently released a report titled, “Feasting on the Occupation: Illegality of Settlement Produce and the Responsibility of the EU” criticizing the European Union, and calling on it to stand by its public criticism of Israeli settlements and to impose a trade ban on Israeli settlement goods. 

The European Union is deeply dismayed by and strongly opposes Israeli plans to expand settlements

“There is no specific incentive for the EU to purchase settlement-made produce, however the current legal regime between the EU and Israeli allows products to enter the EU market with ease, unimpeded by tariffs or trade barriers,” a representative from Al-Haq commented to the Palestine Monitor. “Settlement exports to the EU amount to 300 million USD per year (230 million Euro). This represents a vital source of revenue to the settlements. Without this income, the existence of the settlements, particularly in the Jordan Valley, would be seriously threatened.”

The Jordan Valley, where most Israeli settlements in the West Bank are located, has the most fertile land and extensive water resources of the West Bank—if the politics were different, it could easily serve as the breadbasket of Palestine. 

However, due to Israeli settlement construction, 86 percent of the land is under Israeli settler jurisdiction, leaving only 6 percent for Palestinians. In addition, though the largest aquifer between Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea runs beneath the Jordan Valley in the West Bank, Israeli authorities have complete control over it—allocating eighty percent of it for Israeli settlements, and leaving only 20 percent for Palestinians in the West Bank. 

While Israeli settlement agribusiness is booming (thanks to optimal land and water resources), several Palestinian farmers—who once fed not only Palestine, but also exported their goods widely throughout the Middle East—have been forced out of business, unable to compete with the superior resources of Israeli farmers and resulting quality of Israeli produce. Many of the farmers have farmed their land for generations, feeding not only themselves but also Palestine as well as exporting their goods throughout the Middle East. Now, they find themselves without land or livelihood. 

Launched in 2005, the global Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) movement has drawn extensive attention to the immoral and illegal aspects of Israeli settlements in solidarity with the Palestinian cause. Britain has gone so far as to implement a labeling campaign, labeling settlement products as “Made in an Israeli Settlement in the West Bank” instead of the misleading, “Made in Israel.”

However, according to Al-Haq, a labeling campaign places the impetus on the consumer whereas a trade ban creates a far more significant economic blow. 

If the European Union were to impose a trade ban on settlement products, this could wield a meaningful blow towards the Israeli settlement economy—and by way of cause and effect, the very existence of settlements whose economy rests on the agriculture sector. Since the Arab League collectively imposed sanctions on Israeli settlement products, the European Union is an essential client for Israeli settlements, and is key to their very survival. Now, the EU is in a unique political position to economically dismantle Israeli settlements, and set a precedent for the rest of the world. 

The question, however, is will it do so? Or will it continue to pay lip service in acknowledging the illegality of the settlements while simultaneously conducting trade with them?

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