CAMPAIGN TO END FALSE LABELLING OF ISRAELI SETTLEMENT PRODUCTS
South Africa has become the first African country to pass national legislation to ban the false labelling of Israeli settlement products made in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Since 2010, Open Shuhada Street (OSS) has has campaigned to ban the false labelling of Israeli settlement goods in accordance with South African and international law. As a result of this, the South African Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) issued General Notice 380 of 2013 (5 April 2013, Government Gazette No. 36364, vol. 574).
According to the Notice, it is now illegal for Israeli settlement products to be labelled as ‘made in Israel’. Labels must now read either
- Gaza: Israeli Goods (this is a mistake in the Notice and should read Golan Heights. OSS is engaging the DTI on rectifying this),
- West Bank: Israeli Goods, or
- East Jerusalem: Israeli Goods.
This is a small but significant victory for supporting Palestinians right to self-determination. It allows consumers to make informed choices about the products that they wish to buy and it forces Israel to acknowledge its legitimate borders.
Now that the South African government has legally acknowledged that settlements goods cannot be labelled as ‘made in Israel’, because they are not produced in legal Israeli territory, South Africa must end all trade with the illegal settlements. Read more here about the next step in this campaign.
Why do we support proper labelling?
Israeli settlement businesses remove Palestinian resources and land that are vital for the establishment of a Palestinian state. By falsely labelling their products, settlement companies make consumers complicit in this dirty affair by providing economic support to the illegal settlements.
Proper labelling will help consumers make socially responsible decisions as to whether they wish to provide economic support to the illegal Israeli settlements. Oxfam reports that settlement business extract about $1 billion worth of resources from Palestinian territories; and Spiegel Online reports that Israeli business export €220 million worth of settlement products to the EU vis-à-vis about €15 million of Palestinian exports.
Proper labelling will:
- Allow consumers to choose for themselves whether or not they wish to provide economic support to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory,
- Apply economic pressure to Israel’s illegal settlements enterprise; and
- Force Israel to acknowledge its internationally recognised borders based on the United Nations 1949 Armistice Agreements.
OSS’s public call for the Minister to issue such a notice was made after two years of campaigning companies in South Africa that import, distribute and/or stock falsely labelled Israeli settlement goods to act within the law and either re-label products or cease stocking them. When these attempts failed, OSS pursued charges against the use of false trade descriptions with the South African Police in terms of section 7 of the Merchandise Marks Act (Act 17 of 1941 as amended) against the respective companies. A further request was directed by OSS to the Minister of Trade and Industry to issue a notice originally in terms of the Merchandise Marks Act and later in terms of the Consumer Protection Act.
In addition to the above actions we have:
- Written at least three letters to Wellness Warehouse (who stock Ahava skin care products, which are illegally made in the West Bank and then falsely labelled as ‘made in Israel’) and SDV Pharmaceuticals (importers of Ahava to South Africa) informing them of their legal violations by stocking falsely labelled Ahava products;
- Laid charges (on 29 November 2010) with the South African Police against Wellness Warehouse and SDV Pharmaceuticals for selling these products;
- Laid a complaint against the above mentioned companies with the Western Cape Office of the Consumer Protector (on 30 November 2010) and the National Consumer Protector (on 30 June 2011);
- Requested that Minister Davies issue a notice prohibiting false labelling and met with the Minister in this regard;
- Conducted public awareness campaigns including: holding four protest actions outside Wellness Warehouse; conducted over ten workshops on the matter; participated in Israeli Apartheid Week (2012 and 2013) and the OSS International Campaign events (2012 and 2013); and conducted two television interviews and over 30 radio interviews on product labelling;
- Made a comprehensive public submission to the (DTI) on the Notice. We also presented this submission in Parliament to the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry;
- Lead an online petition in support of Minister Davies, which collected over 7500 signatures from around the world;
- Applied to be litigants in a case brought by SDV Pharmaceuticals and the SA Zionist Federation against Minister Davies regarding the Notice. This case was eventually dropped after the Minister issued an updated notice on 12 October 2012