In an effort to divert some of the Israeli outrage in the wake of the European Union’s decision to brand Israeli products made in East Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights, EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen explained the situation thus to Army Radio:
“[Branding products] is a very technical matter that basically concerns European consumer legislation which requires that it is clear to consumers where products are coming from not only from this part of the world, not only from Israel or the territories, but across the globe. So these are uniformed standards that are applied to all products irrespective of the place of origin.”
In the same interview, however, the ambassador contradicted himself by saying that these “uniformed standards” are applied only to Israel.
When asked why the EU is not branding products from Tibet or Kashmir, Faaborg-Andersen replied: “All those situations that you are referring to, they are different from the one that we have here at hand.”
This answer is an admission of the fact that Israel is singled out as different from any other country and deserves special treatment. No wonder that former Finance Minister and Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid commented in a Facebook post that branding Israeli products is nothing but political and that “it is a step in the way of the BDS movement.”
By tying the EU to BDS, Lapid came pretty close to saying that the EU’s decision is anti-Semitic.
One must wonder whether this is a fair assessment. Ambassador Faaborg-Andersen resented the idea of anti-Semitic motivation, and naught but a few Israeli officials were willing to make such a claim. Still, whether European leader like it or not, making of Israel into a special case requiring special (usually negative) treatment does raise the question of anti-Semitism.
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Tuesday that the decision to label only Israeli products is “disguised anti-Semitism” because the EU is “taking steps against Israel that are unparalleled in similar situations.” Similarly, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said last week that the EU is discriminating against the Jewish state.
In a formal diplomatic reprimand, Israel said to Faaborg-Andersen:
“We regret that the EU has chosen, for political reasons, to take such an exceptional and discriminatory step, inspired by the boycott movement … it is puzzling and even irritating that the EU chooses to apply a double standard concerning Israel, while ignoring that there are over 200 other territorial disputes worldwide, including those occurring within the EU or on its doorstep. The claim that this is a technical matter is cynical and baseless.”
Biased as it may sound, it is fair to say that Israel’s criticism is well-founded, and, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has suggested, the EU should indeed be ashamed of itself.