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Sat Nov 01 10:08:43 SAST 2014

So many comments: Israeli ambassador Dov Segev-Steinberg

Chris Barron | 27 May, 2012 00:16

The South African government wants to stop products that are made in occupied Palestinian territory being sold under the label "Made in Israel". Chris Barron asked Israeli ambassador Dov Segev-Steinberg ...

How do you view this move?

It is a very sudden step that we view as quite curious, because what we see now is a situation in which Israel is singled out completely with regard to other countries with conflicts in their areas.

Surely, it is about complying with consumer legislation, which states that products must be accurately labelled?

 We beg to differ on that. We think what we are dealing with is a political step.

Why do you say that?

Because it's the first time it's being done by any ministry of any country in the world.

Did Britain not do this three years ago?

No, not at all. This is the first time that a country decides to label products that come from Israel, from the West Bank. Never in the past have we had a government issuing a decree like this.

Do consumers have a right to make ethical decisions about what they buy?

 Consumers have that right, but it has to be implemented with all countries, not just Israel, otherwise it is discrimination. If your minister had said "I would like to label products coming from Kashmir, from northern Cyprus, from other parts of the world that are in conflict" - no problem. But here we have a situation where it applies only to Israel and therefore we see it as discrimination.

Do you know of other countries exporting goods made in illegally occupied territories being sold in South Africa under false labels?

 I'm not an expert on South African markets so I cannot give you an answer.

Then how can you accuse South Africa of discriminating against Israel?

 Even the terminology "illegal occupation" is not accepted by me. I am referring to South Africa's attitude to products coming from areas in conflict such as northern Cyprus, Kashmir, western Sahara and so on.

Are products from these areas being sold in South Africa under false labels?

 I'm not an expert on your markets, but it should be checked.

You're accusing South Africa of discriminating against Israel, but you have no evidence? We have lots of reasons to believe we're being singled out completely.

But you have no evidence?

 It's being checked now.

Until then, you have no evidence for your statement?

 This is all I can tell you right now. We have been singled out completely.

But you have no evidence?

 We are being singled out by the statement itself. The minister didn't make any statement about other areas under dispute.

Do you agree that consumers need accurate information to make ethical decisions?

 Consumers have their rights and so on, but then it should be implemented on products from everywhere and not just Israel.

Do you agree that products labelled "from Israel" are not accurately labelled?

 Those products are coming from Israel. Basically, they're coming from Israel. That's what I can tell you.

If they are from the West Bank then they are not from Israel, are they?

 The West Bank is an occupied territory under Israeli control. Legally.

Not according to international law.

 This is a matter of dispute. This is the way we see it. This is our position.

Surely the South African government is entitled to act in accordance with international law?

 I cannot tell you exactly what the South African government is entitled to or not. I can just tell you what our position is.

Surely the issue is about accurate labelling?

 I can tell you that, ultimately, labelling those products [as the South African government wants them to be] will hurt the Palestinians themselves. That is the main issue. Seven percent of the Palestinian labour force finds work in factories [in the occupied territories]. They get paid twice what they get in the Palestinian territories.

Israeli human rights groups say the Palestinians in those factories are exploited and underpaid?

 Not at all. I can tell you that every Palestinian who works in those places gets $44 a day, which is double what he gets in the Palestinian territories.

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