SA defends decision on West Bank labelling

Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies. (Gallo)

Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies. (Gallo)

Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies on Monday defended a call for public comment on whether products manufactured in Israeli-occupied territories should reflect that fact on their labels.

South African consumers had the right to make buying decision based on accurate labelling, Davies told journalists in Cape Town.

“Our recognition is the 1967 borders of Israel. There is a distinction between products from within borders and products from territories outside, notably the West Bank.

“A number of products are entering South Africa as products of Israel even though they were actually products of the occupied territories.”

Davies said South Africa was “not so unique” in requiring that its consumers had accurate information on where its products came from.

The British department of food, environment and rural affairs had indicated that products which state “West Bank” should make a distinction between Palestinian products and those from Israeli enterprises operating in those territories. It was already an offence in the United Kingdom to label products of that sort as products of Israel. The European Union also required a distinction.

“We have issued a notice of intention inviting comments from the public. Thereafter we will apply our minds and hear the results of representations received. We will take a decision accordingly.

“South African consumers have the right to be informed of the correct origin of products from a labelling that captures where those products emanate.”

Davies said the department’s call for public comment on the issue had given rise to “a huge amount of hyperbole”.

“Yesterday I was asked by an Israeli TV station whether I was an anti-Semite. I have been accused of being a left-leaning Jew. This has given rise to all labels, which I reject with utter contempt.”

Davies said he understood that South Africa’s ambassador to Israel had been summonsed to make a representation on the matter. He said if Israel wished to make a representation to South Africa, it would be considered. – Sapa

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