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'West Bank' labelled goods leave consumers in the dark

Jul 6

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06/07/2008 14:50  RssIcon

UK supermarkets are selling products from illegal Isreali settlements in the West Bank

According to a report in today's Observer food grown on illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied territories is being sold in Britain. And because it is labelled "West Bank" as country of origin, as required by EU law, consumers may assume they are supporting Palestinian-owned farms.


"Tesco, Sainsbury's, Waitrose and Somerfield have all admitted sourcing produce from Israeli-owned farms on Palestinian territory but claimed that labelling the goods 'origin: West Bank' gave enough information for the customer to make an informed choice," according to the Observer. But consumers of 'West Bank' labelled goods have no way of knowing whether their purchases are supporting the Palestinian economy or the economy of illegal settlers in the occupied territories.


Tesco told the Observer it sourced 'a number of products' from illegal settlements in the West Bank and Golan Heights. Its policy contrasts with its announcement last week that it would stop selling goods from Zimbabwe, whilst continuing to support its suppliers. The announcement followed criticism of Tesco, Morrisons, Waitrose and others for selling Zimbawean sourced goods, despite violent political oppression by the Mugabe regime - and was a u-turn on its earlier statements that it was supporting small farmers, not the regime.


The UK's official policy on the illegal settlements, an extra 149 of which have been built this year alone, supports the UN Security Council resolution that 'settlements are illegal under international law and settlement construction is an obstacle to peace'. Foreign Secretary David Miliband raised the issue of UK companies purchasing goods from the settlements when he visited Jerusalem last year.


Ruth Tenne, an Israeli peace activist and member of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, said: 'Ethical consumers of all faiths ought to boycott Israeli goods, especially those produced by the Jewish illegal settlements in the West Bank as well as campaigning for divestment from companies which profit from Israel's illegal occupation and for suspending the EU Association Agreement which grants Israel a privileged access to the European market.'


3 comment(s) so far...

Re: 'West Bank' labelled goods leave consumers in the dark

It's good to see this issue being flagged up. The expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank is an ongoing problem for the Palestinian population and is making any hope of a peaceful settlement less and less realistic, because it is splitting the West Bank into smaller and smaller areas which are completely unviable - in terms of water, infrastructure and safety - for Palestinian civiliians.
The growth of support for Palestine makes it a real danger that goods labelled 'West Bank' might be attractive to people looking to support the Palestinians, who would be very unhappy to find that they are actually supporting extremist settlers. This problem is only set to get worse, because a number of industrial zones are being built, to be used by Israeli companies employing cheap Palestinian labour, on Palestinian land and with employment practices which discriminate against Palestinians (see for an excellent article on the subject from earlier this year).
The only way for supporters of Palestine to be sure that they are really buying Palestinian goods is to opt for fair trade goods such as those from Olive Co-op in Manchester (, Hadeel in Edinburgh and Zaytoun in London ( And when buying fresh fruit and veg, unless you're very sure it's genuinely of Palestinian origin, avoid anything from the region (and buy closer to home).

By Sarah Irving on   06/07/2008 15:46

Re: 'West Bank' labelled goods leave consumers in the dark

Hadeel ( obviously agrees with Sarah Irving. Based on 10 years' experience working in Jerusalem with partner organisations in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon and Palestinians marginalized in Israel (like Bedouin), our shop imports directly from community based groups in these areas. The sale of these products gives not only income to the communities, but also dignity and hope; it ensures the survival of traditional palestinian crafts particularly embroidery. Culture is an essential element in the identity of people, and Palestinians are a people under threat by illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. This is a prime reason why we should boycott any goods coming from these settlements, whether on West Bank or Syrian land. European law should differentiate, not just say "West Bank".

By Carol Morton - on   08/07/2008 10:02

Re: 'West Bank' labelled goods leave consumers in the dark

This is very worrying. I tend not to buy anything from Israel because of the water situation but I didn't realize this was going on too.

By Robyn on   11/03/2010 16:12


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