Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) President Morton A. Klein issued the following statement:
The ZOA praises the new UK anti-boycott guidance announced by British Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock, and praises Minister Hancock and other British officials for serving on a trade delegation to Israel, to further trade between the UK and Israel. Unfortunately, however, the UK guidance reaffirmed UK labeling requirements that discriminate against Israeli products from Judea/Samaria and the Golan Heights.
In late February, the UK Cabinet Office, Minister Hancock and the Crown Commercial Office issued a statement entitled “Putting a Stop to Public Procurement Boycotts,” announcing anti-boycott guidance applicable to UK governmental and public entities (namely, the “Central Government, Executive Agencies, Non Departmental Public Bodies, the wider public sector, Local Authorities and NHS [National Health Service] bodies”). The British statement declared that: “Guidance published today makes clear that procurement boycotts by [UK] public authorities are inappropriate, outside where formal legal sanctions, embargoes and restrictions have been put in place by the Government. . . . Town hall boycotts undermine good community relations, poisoning and polarizing debate, weakening integration and fueling anti-Semitism. Locally imposed boycotts can roll back integration as well as hinder Britain’s export trade and harm international relationships.”
The British statement also said that: “Any public body found to be in breach of the regulations could be subject to severe penalties. The World Trade Organization Government Procurement Agreement – an international market access agreement – requires all those countries that have signed up to the Agreement to treat suppliers equally. This includes the EU and Israel. Any discrimination against Israeli suppliers involving procurements would therefore be in breach of the Agreement.”
An accompanying UK Procurement Policy Note (01/16) issued by the Crown Commercial Office likewise notes that the new UK guidance “ensures compliance with wider international obligations when letting public contracts” – including WTO Government Procurement Agreement non-discrimination obligations that require public authorities to treat signatories (including Israel) equally, and that provide court remedies for parties injured by discriminatory contract cancellations.
The UK Procurement Policy Note states: “The UK’s regime of procurement rules (the PCR 2015), derives largely from the EU procurement directives and the WTO Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) – an international market access agreement. These rules impose a legal obligation on public authorities when awarding contracts above certain thresholds to treat EU and GPA2 suppliers equally, and not discriminate by, among other things, favoring national suppliers. There are remedies available through the courts for breaches of these rules, such as damages, fines and ineffectiveness (contract cancellation). The European Commission can also bring legal proceedings against the UK Government for alleged breaches of EU law by a UK contracting authority. This can lead to formal action being required to rectify the breach, and substantial fines against the Government. The Government will always involve the relevant contracting authority in these proceedings.”
The ZOA praises Minister Hancock and the British government for issuing this guidance to assure that UK public entities comply with their WTO obligations.
Unfortunately, however, the British guidance issued yesterday also reaffirmed Britain’s (and the EU’s) discriminatory, divisive, inappropriate labeling policy, which forbids Israeli products produced in Judea/Samaria and the Golan from stating “product of Israel” and instead requires such products to use the labels “product from the Golan Heights (Israeli settlement)” or “product from West Bank (Israeli settlement).”
At the time the EU announced these labeling requirements, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister, Tzipi Hotovely aptly stated: “We see it as a boycott of Israel for all intents and purposes. We view it as a slippery slope. It’s simply a sweeping disqualification of Israel.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted that the labeling requirements punish “the side that is being attacked by terrorism,” and that “this will not advance peace; it will certainly not advance truth and justice.” The ZOA agrees with PM Netanyahu’s and Minister Hotovely’s statements regarding these unfair labeling requirements.
Moreover, the Obama administration’s labeling regulations are even worse. On January 23, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection Bureau instructed that Israeli-made products manufactured in Judea/Samaria must be labeled as being from the ‘West Bank,’ and not from ‘Israel.’ See ZOA’s press release supporting Senate bill S. 2474, introduced by Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), which would override the Obama administration’s regulation and authorize businesses to choose from an array of labeling options, including “Made in Israel.”