Sunday, December 6, 2015

Germany: First time since the Holocaust a German foreign minister agrees with labeling Jewish products

Benjamin Weinthal writes at the Jerusalem Post:
Germany’s Foreign Ministry announced on Friday its support for the European Union’s labeling of Israeli products from the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

In an email to The Jerusalem Post, the ministry defended the EU label, saying it “does not deal with a stigmatized warning decal, as many have presented…What Brussels wants is, however, only a clear designation of the origin of the products.”

The Post sent a press query to Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (Social Democratic Party) asking whether he is for or against EU guidelines marking products and whether he views the labeling system as a modern form of anti-Semitism.

The ministry’s reply, attributed to Steinmeier, was that “there will not be an Israel boycott in Germany” and “Israeli products will, of course, continue to receive preferential market access.”

Steinmeir’s position appears to contradict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement last month praising “the German government, which came out against product labeling.”

Israel’s National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz termed the EU label measure “disguised anti-Semitism.”

A spokeswoman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the Post by phone that the federal government is reviewing the Post query. Merkel has said she opposes boycotts of Israel, but has not issued a public statement on EU product labels.

Asked if Vice Chancellor and Federal Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel “a social democrat“ favors the labeling of Israeli products, a spokesman told the Post by email: “Because the European Commission with its ‘Interpretative Note’ from October,2015 deals mainly with affected food goods and some cosmetics it is the responsibility of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture.”

Post queries were sent to Social Democratic Party headquarters and its Bundestag faction seeking a statement.

Germany’s Parliament President Norbert Lammert said Wednesday during a visit to Berlin by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein that labeling is “unnecessary and unwise. Germany not only didn’t agree to the decision, it rejected it,” he flatly stated.  When asked whether the EU’s not having called to label products from places like Tibet or Crimea or the Western Sahara is an indication of anti-Semitism, Lammert said he could “understand Israel’s anger.”

Edelstein quoted the German Jewish poet Heinrich Heine, who said that “in a place where books are burned, people will be burned.”

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