West Bank labels 'will strain ties'

2012-09-21 15:51

Cape Town - The relabelling of goods from the West Bank will strain relations between the government and the Jewish community, the SA Zionist Federation said on Friday.

Briefing parliament's trade and industry portfolio committee, federation chairman Avrom Krengel said Jewish groups remained opposed to general notice 379 published in the government gazette in May.

Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies gave notice that the government intended to re-label all products coming from the West Bank from "made in Israel" to "from Israeli Occupied territories".

Several organisations have called for a clear statement from the government that it does not support the occupation of Palestinian territories in the West Bank.

Krengel told MPs that if the re-labelling went ahead it would greatly trouble Jews.

He said they lodged papers with the High Court in Pretoria in July in an attempt to have the minister's decision overturned.

"We intend to make an application for an order declaring the notice unlawful, interdicting the minister from taking decisions pursuant to the notice, reviewing and setting aside the notice," said Krengel.

It would be the first time in the federation's 114-year history that it challenged the government in court.

Krengel said the federation was happy to participate in a re-labelling process, but objected to the new wording because it was "inflammatory".

His sentiments were echoed by SA Jewish Board of Deputies' national director Wendy Kahn.

Kahn said Davies had met Jewish bodies, but appeared dismissive and hostile at the meeting.

"The minister's dismissive attitude towards the mainstream Jewish leadership and the overtly biased, politicised wording of his notice has fostered a suspicion that the ultimate goal is to not resolve a consumer protection matter through more accurate product labelling, but rather a punitive action against Israel."

She said this was done at the behest of Open Shahuda Street, an organisation campaigning for "full civil rights for all Israelis and Palestinians and an end to occupation".

In his presentation to MPs on Friday, Open Shuhada Street activist Zackie Achmat said products entering South Africa ought to be properly labelled to allow consumers to make an informed choice.

He said Israel's actions were in contravention of international conventions and United Nations resolutions, and the South African Constitution.

"Our government's job is to enforce the local rules of law and the international rule of law, and the sad thing is it hasn't done so up to now," said Achmat.

Trade and industry department chief director Macdonald Netshitenzhe, later told MPs one of two things would happen following Davies' notice of intention.

"Either we come with notice that is not yet final or with regulations. There won't a be a final notice without speaking to the public," he said.

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