The top European Union diplomat in Tel Aviv has encouraged the sale of goods made in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Speaking in Jerusalem on Monday, Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen said that “settlement products are welcome on the EU market.”
Faaborg-Andersen made his comments at a conference aimed at stopping the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) in support of Palestinian rights, sponsored by the Israeli publications Yediot Ahronot and Ynet.
“Let me make something 100 percent clear: the European Union is against BDS,” Faaborg-Andersen said. “Our policy is totally the opposite of BDS, our policy is one of engagement with Israel.”
The envoy, who heads the EU delegation to Israel, had ignored calls from Palestinians to pull out of the anti-BDS conference where he was scheduled to speak on a panel with a prominent leader of Israel’s settler movement.
Faaborg-Andersen reiterated the EU’s verbal opposition to settlements, stating that they are “illegal under international law and a hindrance to the peace process.”
But his active promotion of settlement products continues the EU policy of sabotaging all measures aimed at holding Israel accountable and bringing a change to the realities the EU pays lip service to opposing.
“The European Union has once again abandoned its own policies that consider Israel’s settlements illegal,” Mahmoud Nawajaa, a spokesperson for the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), said in reaction to Faaborg-Andersen’s comments.
“This shameless EU complicity in protecting and maintaining Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid confirms the need to intensify grassroots and civil society BDS campaigns against this regime as well as against corporations and institutions that are implicated in its human rights violations,” Nawajaa added. “As was the case in the struggle against apartheid South Africa, when governments fail to uphold justice, citizens must act.”
Nawajaa also slammed another EU act of complicity, the refusal of its member governments last week to support a UN Human Rights Council resolution to create a database of companies that do business in Israel’s settlements.
The resolution passed nonetheless by 32 votes with 15 abstentions.
Complicit in war crimes
By promoting settlement goods, the EU’s Faaborg-Andersen is actively supporting human rights abuses.
In a landmark report, Human Rights Watch recently called on all corporations to completely end their business activities in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
“Settlement businesses unavoidably contribute to Israeli policies that dispossess and harshly discriminate against Palestinians, while profiting from Israel’s theft of Palestinian land and other resources,” Arvind Ganesan, the director of the business and human rights division at the New York-based group, said. “The only way for businesses to comply with their own human rights responsibilities is to stop working with and in Israeli settlements.”
Faaborg-Andersen also appears to be following EU policy to say one thing but do another.
In February, the French government, which also claims to strongly oppose Israeli settlements, partnered with a settlement-profiteering supermarket chain to promote French products inside Israeli settlements.
“Europe is complicit in Israel’s serious violations of international law, including war crimes, by continuing its thriving military trade and joint military research with Israel and its import of settlement products that result from Israel’s theft of Palestinian land and resources, a policy the EU says it opposes,” the BNC’s Nawajaa said. “The EU has even refused to suspend the EU-Israeli free trade agreement despite Israel’s persistent violation of its human rights clause.”
The EU envoy also allied himself with Israel’s efforts to crush the BDS movement, denying that a recent EU decision to require accurate origin labels on settlement goods constitutes a boycott.
“When combating BDS it is important to keep a sense of proportion and to ensure that BDS is not given an additional platform through efforts to combat it,” Faaborg-Andersen said, as reported by The Jerusalem Post.
“There is a big, big difference between legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies and BDS,” he stated.
By denying that BDS is legitimate, Faaborg-Andersen appears to be endorsing the crackdowns by some European governments on citizens involved in the Palestinian rights movement.
However, those supporting free speech when it comes to Palestine found an unlikely ally in the US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro.
In his speech, Shapiro denounced the BDS movement and revealed that “Our efforts to fight back against boycotts are a recurring topic in high-level and working-level bilateral discussions with the government of Israel.”
“It is true that there are voices in the United States, on college campuses and elsewhere, who are promoting the BDS campaign against Israel,” Shapiro said. “And in our democracy, their right of free speech cannot be curtailed.”
“But no American citizen should have any doubt that the policy of the US government is resolute opposition to such initiatives,” the ambassador added.