Touché: Michael Oren responds to French labelling of products from Israeli “occupied” territories

Former ambassador to the U.S. and current Kulanu Knesset Member Michael Oren shows a 'Made in Europe' label he prepared in response to the European decision to label products made in territories Israel captured in the Six Day War in 1967. (Photo courtesy Michael Oren)

History is repeating itself. Some 80 years ago parts of mainland Europe boycotted Jewish businesses and now France is the first European country in modern times to be accused of doing the same.

France has just announced that products made in the historic Jewish homelands of Judea and Samaria, otherwise known as the West Bank, in addition to products from East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, should be clearly labelled as such as a warning to consumers. The decision follows a European Union ruling a year ago.

That is simply anti-semitic, according to former ambassador to the U.S. and current Kulanu Knesset Member Michael Oren.

“France is labelling Israeli products from Judea, Samaria, and the Golan,” Oren tweeted Sunday. “Israelis should think twice before buying French products.”

French ambassador to Israel Helene Le Gal responded to Oren.

“So you are calling for boycotting French products when in France boycotting Israel is punished by law?” she asked. Boycotts are technically illegal in France.

France is the first country to implement the EU labelling guideline, the timing of which coincides with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision earlier this month to snub France’s upcoming Middle East peace conference and instead to insist on direct peace talks with the Palestinians with no preconditions.

It is unclear whether the notice requiring product labelling is mandatory and whether the apparent conflict between that and France’s existing law banning boycotts will be legally challenged. Ultimately EU law trumps member states’ national laws. And anyway, the French government is not categorizing the labelling as a boycott, which Israel says is hypocritical.

“It is a puzzling and disturbing fact that France chooses to implement a double standard when it comes to Israel while ignoring the 200 territorial conflicts which are taking place today across the world, including those taking place right on their doorstep,” the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “We regret that France, of all countries, in which a law exists against boycotts, is taking steps which can be interpreted as a nod of support to radical elements and the BDS movement against Israel.”

The disagreement hinges on the historical and legal categorization of the territories in question, where Oded Revivi, former lawyer and chief foreign envoy of the YESHA Council, the official umbrella organization representing Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria, has criticized positions such as EU’s as “ignorance of history and law.”

The Christian community responded with scripture. Christians United for Israel (CUFI) quoted Genesis 12:1-3 referring on its website: “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

“We believe that the Jewish people have a right to live in their ancient land of Israel, and that the modern State of Israel is the fulfillment of this historic right,” CUFI stated.

In contrast to France, CUFI not only advocates the purchase of Israeli goods, it even sells such products.

“While others are burning down Israel we carry the torch of the #Jewish people by supporting the work of their hands,” the organization wrote on its website. “You can get these Made in #Israel products from our store!”

It remains to be seen whether France’s actions will be implemented across the EU and whether Israelis and indeed Christians around the world will take Oren’s advice to “think twice before buying French products.”