In South Africa, tempers flare over labeling of West Bank, Gaza products 20Oct12 October 19, 2012

Haaretz   -   19 October 2012

JOHANNESBURG – Wendy Kahn, the usually urbane and non-confrontational national director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, has angrily and publicly denounced the behavior of Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies regarding the spat over the labeling of imports from Israel’s “occupied territories.”

On October 12, in Government Gazette 35796, Davies officially announced his intention to issue a notice that, “in terms of section 24 of the Act, [prescribes] information requiring an importer, producer, retailer or supplier in the Republic of South Africa, to label goods that originate from the Israeli Occupied Territory (hereinafter referred to as ‘IOT’), namely: East Jerusalem, Gaza and West Bank, as goods originating from IOT.

“Goods originating from IOT must not be labeled as goods originating from Israel.3. The label ‘Made in Israel’ may only be applied to goods that originate from within Israel’s borders of 1948 – 1967 before they were unilaterally changed by Israel in 1967 ‘Six Day War’.”

Davies went ahead with the notice even though a court action against his plans – an action claiming that Davies’ decision is technically flawed and therefore legally invalid – is going through the “court process” at the moment. It was brought before the North Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) in July by the South African Zionist Federation.

But what is particularly incensing Kahn is that she appeared before the T&I Parliamentary Portfolio Committee just under a month ago.

There, according to Kahn, “following the presentation of oral submissions from the SAJBD, the SAZF, and Open Shuhada Street, it was decided that the three parties would put in writing their ‘minimum requirements’ regarding the legislation and that a consultative process would then identify acceptable solutions going forward.”

Kahn continued: “We were assured by the minister’s representative at the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee meeting, Macdonald Netshitenzhe, that ‘there will not be a final notice without talking to the public’.”

In addition, said Kahn, the SAJBD and the other parties agreed with the chairman of the committee, Joan Fubbs, that October 15would be the deadline on which the “minimum requirement” documents would be forwarded by the three parties.

“But the minister,” said Kahn, “didn’t even have the grace to honor that agreement. Instead he issued the “Final Notice on Labeling of Goods Originating from the Israeli Occupied Territories” on the 12th of October.”

Kahn said it was obvious that the SAJBD’s written submissions had been ignored and that he had now disregarded the agreement made at the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee to delay the final notice without proper public participation.

“It is such a pity,’ said Kahn, “that the Minister did not hear the comments of the members of the Portfolio Committee who stressed the need for consultation and stakeholder involvement in arriving at compromise solutions. If the minister had been present he would have understood that the SAJBD and SAZF are not opposed to the use of labeling, but object to the technically incorrect use of the term ‘occupation’.”

Kahn said it was “disastrous’ that the minister had not only sidelined the Jewish community but also undermined a parliamentary process that could have resulted in a positive outcome.

“The latest circumvention of the consultation process is just another example of Davies’ obsession with forcing through flawed legislation so as to placate a narrow focus anti-Israel activist group. It’s appalling,” said Kahn.

Davies was unavailable for comment. He is currently overseas trying to deal with the fallout of the recent downgrading of South Africa’s investment outlook by two major international credit ratings agencies.

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