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Belgium to start labeling goods made in illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied West Bank

Brussels (QNN)- The government of Belgium decided on Wednesday to start labeling goods made in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, warning companies of human rights abuse in the area.

Belgium’s foreign office confirmed on Wednesday that the country wants occupied West Bank settlement products labeled and that it plans to increase controls on goods coming from Israeli settlements.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll cancelled his meetings with Belgian officials in Brussels on Wednesday in protest of the decision.

The decision “strengthens extremists, does not help promote peace in the region, and shows Belgium as not contributing to regional stability,” Roll claimed.

The Belgian foreign office said in a statement that it continues to apply international and European law, “which makes a distinction between Israel on one hand and the Palestinian territories on the other hand.”

“We expect that these goods will be labeled correctly by exporters,” it said, noting that “we have found that it’s very difficult to confirm the exact origin of products.” It noted there was no ban on settlement products.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry portrayed the decision as a blow to their new government.

“The decision to label the products harms Israelis and Palestinians and is out of step with the government of Israel’s policy that is focused on improving the lives of Palestinians and strengthening the Palestinian Authority and with the improvement of Israeli relations with other European countries,” Israel’s ministry said.

The European Union’s top court ruled in 2019 that EU countries must identify products made in Israeli settlements on their labels.

The European Court of Justice said that when products come from an Israeli settlement, their labels must provide an “indication of that provenance” so that consumers can make “informed choices” when they shop.

The European Commission said it was up to individual EU countries to ensure that labels are correct, but that the origin of settlement produce must be made known in a way that is “not misleading to the consumer.”

Belgium’s move follows a similar step by France in 2016, which in a non-binding decision urged businesses to use labels to identify goods produced in the Israeli settlements.

Israel condemned France’s decision at the time and a winery located in a West Bank settlement took the matter to court, leading to the 2019 ECJ decision.

Most of the international community considers settlements to be illegitimate and an obstacle to creating a Palestinian state. Over the decades, Israeli occupation government has continued to expand illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in illegal housing units planning, and in 2020, plans were advanced for 12,159 housing units.

There are nearly 700,000 Israeli settlers living in 256 illegal settlements and outposts scattered across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Finnish Member of Parliament, Veronika Honkasalo, tabled recently a bill to ban the import of goods produced in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories in violation of international law.

The ban would apply, among others, to goods from illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

“Clearly, laws that ban such imports help businesses and consumers to act responsibly. Palestinians are suffering from the longest occupation in modern history and policies and human rights abuses that systematically violate international law. We must stop supporting Israel’s illegal settlements” – Honkasalo said.

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