GENEVA (EJP) --- One of Switzerland’s largest supermarket chains has waded into the controversy over the labelling of West Bank settlement produce by announcing it will no longer brand settlement-sourced products as coming from Israel.
Migros claims the move is not a mark of support for pro-Palestinian boycott movements but is simply to designed to offer the customer “greater transparency” and fall in line with Swiss and UN condemnation of the settlements.
Migros spokesman Monika Weibel denied Tuesday’s decision constitutes a boycott, insisting the chain wants “to let customers decide which products they want to buy”. The supermarket previously issued generic ‘Made in Israel’ labels for settlement produce.
The news comes in the wake of similar developments in South Africa, following the country’s Department of Trade and Industry’s decision to cease labelling products originating from West Bank settlements as Israeli products. Instead the labels would indicate the products were “made in Occupied Palestinian Territories”. Affected products would include Ahava and Soda Stream.
Israel reacted with outrage to the move by trade minister Rob Davies, which it claims is targeted, considering similar laws do not apply to products originating from other conflicted territories, such s the Falklands, Kashmir or north Cyprus.
Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Paul Hirschson said the ministry would be taking up the matter the South African ambassador and alluded to obvious comparisons being made between Apartheid South Africa and Israel:
“The singing out of one side of one conflict out of all the conflict in the world is verging on racism”, he said, adding “this is sad coming from South Africa, which should know better”.
Palestinian groups, however, greeted the move as “significant”, with a joint statement by Palestinian lobby groups in South Africa paying tribute to legislation which would “render Israeli trade with South Africa far more difficult and is a serious setback for Israeli companies wanting to do business in South Africa”.
EU member state Denmark also announced earlier this month it would begin marking Israeli goods originating in Judea and Samaria with a special label. In an interview with a Danish newspaper, Danish Foreign Minister Villy Sovndal explained the government’s decision:
“This is a step that clearly shows consumers that the products are produced under conditions that the Danish government, but also European governments, do not approve of. It will then be up to the consumers whether they choose to buy the products or not.”
Sovndal denied the measure constituted a boycott of Israeli products, but instead targeted goods originating in illegal West Bank settlements. He added the labelling, designed to help consumers to differentiate between Israel and West Bank produce, would be the choice of individual supermarkets to adopt.
According to figures released earlier this year by CICAD, a Geneva-based organisation that coordinates the fight against anti-Semitism and defamation, the number of reported anti-Semitic acts in Switzerland in 2011 showed an increase of 28% from the previous year.
CICAD President Alain Bruno Levy attributed the resurgence of anti-Semitism to an increase in anti-Israel feeling: “The conspiracy theory resurfaced, especially via the internet. The conflict in the Middle East also fuels anti-Semitism.”
Approximately 18,000 Jews live in Switzerland, predominantly in Geneva and Zurich.
The Swiss government had released a statement saying: “The colonisation of occupied Palestinian territory, both in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, is illegal and constitutes a violation of international law.”