Sunday, January 25, 2009

What's in a label?

Allow me to post the following by Zina Jardaneh in the UK
about yet another loophole the Israelis have flown through
and got away with - agricultural produce exported from the
Occupied Territories of Palestine grown in illegal Israeli
settlements and sold on UK supermarket shelves
"produce of the West Bank" ...

What's in a label?

By Zina Jardaneh

Shopping at my local supermarket during October of last year, I saw for the first time packs of flat leaf parsley labelled produce of the “West Bank”. I became suspicious that these packs could have come from illegal Israeli settlements. Days later, my good friend Sue told me how thrilled she was to be making tabouleh with Palestinian parsley! This prompted an investigation!

Since then, the West Bank label has been making an appearance on
many packs of fresh herbs at major supermarkets. More recently, packs of Medjool dates on supermarket shelves blatantly declare:
"grown in the West Bank, by Masua” or “by Netiv Hagdud”, both illegal Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley.

It is a fact that settlement produce has found its way to our
supermarkets and continues to do so, labelled as produce of Israel.
These settlements are illegal under international law. The Geneva
Convention states that the transfer of a civilian population into
occupied territory is a war crime; to be complicit in this crime is
also a crime in English law. The UK government’s policy is quite clear. The government’s website reiterates the UN Security Council
Resolution: “Settlements are illegal under international law and
settlement construction is an obstacle to peace.” Despite this and
many other resolutions and agreements, Israel continues to export
settlement produce to the UK with impunity.

Moreover, most settlement produce benefits from the preferential (reduced or nil) rates of customs duty under the EC-Israel
Preferential Trade Agreement in force since June 2000. This has
cost British tax payers millions of pounds in unpaid customs duties.

Israel has been under pressure from EU member states to stop this illegal practice since 2003. This brought about what is known as the “Technical Agreement” between the EU and Israel Customs Co- operation Committee. The agreement entered into force in February 2005 and was engineered by Ehud Olmert, Trade Minister of Israel at the time. In order to differentiate between settlement goods and Israeli goods, Israeli exporters undertook to indicate the names of
the cities, villages or industrial zones where production had taken place. This practice would set apart settlement produce (Occupied Territories) from Israeli produce. The former would pay customs duties and the latter would be exempt under the EC-Israel Preferential Trade Agreement.

With the customs and duties issue put to rest, the Olmert agreement
conveniently allowed Israel to continue exporting settlement produce into the EU. It is no longer a question of whether the export of settlement produce to the EU is legal or not. Rather, it has become a matter of tariffs.

The agreement has not been effective in making Israel declare the
origin in all cases. However, it has prompted importers to probe further, for fear of accruing substantial amounts of unpaid duties. This is clearly illustrated in the following statement by Waitrose (the most forthcoming of the supermarkets we approached): “The reason for the change in packaging description was on the back of work being led by our herb supplier, who is part of the British Herb Traders Association. We believed that all our products were from the EC definition of Israel, which does not include any disputed territories. This was confirmed by our agents over there. However, on closer scrutiny, the information we were receiving was based on maps which the Israelis were using, which does include the disputed territories. Once this discrepancy was identified, we sought guidance from the Fresh Produce Consortium and we corrected our packaging to reflect this.”

Pressure from consumers and media reports have further reinforced
the trend to change the label. In November 2007, a group of UK
activists went inside Tomer, a settlement in the Jordan Valley, and took photos of produce labelled “Made in Israel” bound for UK supermarkets. An ITN report covered the story and interviewed
representatives of Sainsbury and Tesco, who admitted ‘mistakenly’
mislabelling settlement produce in the past and undertook to label
settlement produce as “West Bank” in the future.

Dialogue with supermarkets has revealed that they rely on their
suppliers for information which they pass on to consumers. This information is often unclear and contradictory. Further scrutiny
by activists has led to further probing with the suppliers and more
facts being released.

Two major supermarkets now admit that they label all produce from
the Occupied Territories as produce of the West Bank. They say that this complies with DEFRA guidelines on correct labelling. These stipulate that: “Under EC law, the origin of a product for retail labeling purposes can be given as a region or other geographical indication that does not equate to a country or state, provided that the meaning is clear to the consumer”.

The West Bank has become synonymous with Palestine in the public mind. Labelling produce that comes from the Occupied Territories as
produce of the “West Bank” misleads the consumer. Consumers buying
these products believe that they are supporting the Palestinian economy while in fact they are supporting the economy of these illegal settlements. The vast majority, and very probably, all produce that comes from the West Bank, comes from the settlements. Very little, if any, produce that comes from Palestinian farms makes it to supermarkets in the UK.

This unlawful practice denies consumers informed choices between
Palestinian goods, of which there are almost none, and illegal
settlement goods. For consumers to make ethical choices, settlement
goods must be clearly labelled as settlement produce and thereby set apart from Palestinian produce.

We must continue to ask three fundamental questions:

1) Why is illegal settlement produce sold in our supermarkets?

2) Why does Israel get away with all these illegal practices?

3) Why do we remain silent about the huge customs debt incurred
due to wrongly labelled settlement produce?

Note by Jo Ladies:

Yes, indeed we would all like to know the answer to Zina Jardaneh’s
fundamental questions …. would somebody, somewhere, with a
a clue … speak now ... please .... hellloooooooooo?
silence ... absolutely golden!



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Jordan Journals, I am a Mulsim American woman living in Jordan, married to a non-Jordanian Muslim husband. I was recently shocked by the attitude of a Jordanian woman towards me at a hotel reception register desk. I thought if I wrote to you , you might be able to explain the attitude of the woman. A misunderstanding occurred, and the woman started talking to the receptionist gentleman about me in Arabic, not realizing that I could understand Arabic. They seemed to be making a lot of stereotypical assumptions about me, even though they do not know me at all! I have actually grown up overseas my entire life, mostly in Muslim countries, and I do not even consider myself "American;" but they were talking in a derogatory way about me/foreignors/Americans as if they knew me. The woman knew my husband from his office, but I had never met her in my life. I wear traditional modest clothing, but I wear a scarf around my shoulders, not on my head like she did. I am a traditional housewife with children and I speak several languages. Our lifestyle is very traditional/Islamic. The way she was speaking about me to a complete stranger who was a man, the receptionist, was also a shock to me. Very embarrassing and hummiliating, and all based on a misunderstanding that I had interrupted her turn in registering into the hotel. Actually, I had been at the desk for 15 minutes already because my husband's name was spelled incorrectly! When another hotel employee had found out the misspelling of the name, I was told to tell the receptionist at the desk. I did not realize this other woman was being helped, or , of course, I would have waited for her. I was labelled in Arabic as being some sort of terrible, pushy, American, non-Muslim, bad white person! I feel terrible, but I was too embarrassed at the moment to speak up and apologize. I was rooted to the spot,as I heard the two of them discussing me in front of my nose; neither of them realizing I could understand! I was also shocked that the receptionist asked the woman my nationality and the nationality of my husband; he kept gossiping with her about me--I do not even know either of them! I found this very unprofessional, but I do not like to write the manager of the hotel, as I do not want the receptionist to lose his job. I do not know how to apologize to the woman for the misunderstanding. Now I also know she does not mind talking about me in front of my nose, thinking I do not understand a word. I do understand most Muslims and the Eastern world in general do not like Americans or the USA these days, due to the terrible policies of the US government and the terrible trajedies that have occurred recently in Gaza and Iraq, for example. Not only people like ourselves who live overseas and understand the situation, but also many Americans themselves living in the USA also protest these wars; but I suppose it is hard for people to understand not all people who look American have ideas like the US administration. I had thought that I would be welcome and good friends with Jordanian women, and especially any person who knows my husband. What do you think? I am relatively new here, and I thought as a Muslim Woman I would find friends in Jordanian women/sisters in Islam, but now I am shocked and upset about what happened. Thanks for your advice! Newcomer

Thursday, February 05, 2009  
Blogger joladies said...

Dear Newcomer

Just found this post ... so apologies for the late reply. I am a little concerned that you have turned a minor incident into a major one that has soured your opinion of an entire nation of Muslim women. You also don't mention what caused the misunderstanding on your part. So it is a little difficult to get a clear picture of what is going on, apart from the fact that you feel insulted, which I quite understand. It is your right, so why did you not talk back in arabic to stop some of the humiliation you felt? However this was a while ago, and I hope by now you have found some closure with this incident. If not, then I strongly advise you to write to the Manager of the said hotel, afterall it is not in his interests to have staff who are rude to customers ... your concern about their employment is not the issue here ... and I doubt that they will get the sack over a minor misunderstand. In fact you may even do them a favour by having them sent for more in house training! "Every cloud has a silver lining" as the saying goes. Please look on this as 'one incident' - it is not a reflection of all Muslim women in Jordan, who I have found to be nothing but hospitable, kind and accommodating when you engage them in conversation and friendship...even in my broken arabic, and even when opinions are not mutually shared. So hold out a hand in friendship and try again! Peace J

Thursday, March 05, 2009  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home