Israeli settlement products must be labeled as coming from occupied lands, top EU court rules

Any produce made in Israeli-occupied West Bank settlements must be labeled as such so that the European consumer isn’t misled by the generic ‘Made in Israel’ tag, a top EU court said in a landmark ruling.

European Union member states must now mark products originating from Israeli settlements, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on Tuesday. Such labels are to help consumers make informed choices relating to some “ethical considerations,” the ruling reads.

The reasoning is that simply indicating that product is ‘Made in Israel’ – as it is usually done – could be misleading because, in fact, it comes from an occupied territory. Labeling settlement products will now state explicitly that the Jewish state “is present in the territories concerned as an occupying power and not as a sovereign entity.”

The case was pitched up to the court after an Israeli settlement-based winery challenged France’s application of a previous 2018 ECJ ruling on the labeling. That decision also enforced the use of identifying labels but wasn’t legally binding.

Israel began settling the West Bank and East Jerusalem shortly after it seized both areas during the 1967 Six-Day War in the Mideast. Today, almost 700,000 people live there, amounting to nearly 10 percent of the country’s Jewish population.The illegal occupation of the West Bank is recognized internationally; the EU, for its part, does not accept it as part of Israel.

READ MORE: ‘Illegal & an obstacle to peace’: EU slams Israel’s plan to build new settlements in East Jerusalem

Israel, in turn, doesn’t consider those areas occupied, instead referring to them as “disputed.” Back in 2012, a three-member committee headed by former Supreme Court justice Edmund Levy wrote in a comprehensive report that Israel's presence in the West Bank is not an occupation in the legal sense. The report was widely condemned outside Israel.

Israel is carrying on building Jewish settlements on occupied lands despite international condemnation. Earlier in June, Israeli officials published construction tenders to build more than 800 new units in the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Ramot and Pisgat Zeev.

Brussels responded to the news with a strongly-worded statement, pointing out that settlement construction and expansion in the area “continues to undermine the possibility of a viable two state solution with Jerusalem as the future capital of both.”

Also on rt.com France orders clear labeling of goods from Israeli settlements

 

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U.N. investigator says expectations low for Trump's peace plan

Expectations for the success of the Trump administration’s peace plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict appear to be very low, UN special investigator Michael Lynk told reporters at the United Nations in New York ahead of US special envoy Jared Kushner and his assistant Avi Berkowitz.

Kushner, who has taken the lead on the Trump peace plan, is expected to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White Party head Benny Gantz to discuss the plan. Kushner’s assistant, Avi Berkowitz, is expected to join as well.
No date has been set for the release of the political component of the plan, but it is presumed that it would only be published after the formation of a government.

“There seems to be a very low expectation that [the peace plan] would have much meaningful impact on the ground, if and when it ever winds up getting released,” said Lynk, who is the UN’s special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories.

He spoke with reporters on Thursday about the plan as part of a press conference he gave about the failure of the international community to hold Israel accountable for its continued “occupation” of the West Bank. Right-wing Israelis hold that Area C of the West Bank, and certainly the settlements located there, should be annexed to Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he would annex the settlements, should he become prime minister. It is widely believed that the Trump peace plan would allow Israel to retain the settlements.

Lynk holds that settlement activity is a war crime. Both he and the UN support a two-state solution at the pre-1967 lines, a move that would have to include the evacuation of some 130 settlements that are home to more than 430,000 Israelis.

Lynk said that any peace plan put forward by the United States must adhere to international law, a move which he holds would make it impossible for it to include the settlements.

In a report he presented to the UN in New York last week, and in his Thursday press conference, Lynk said that international pressure is the best way to halt settlement activity and force an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines.

In particular, he said, the international community and the UN must ensure compliance, particularly with the 30 to 35 UN Security Council resolutions, that have been approved with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 1967.

The international community has long promised to hold Israel to account and it has the power to do so, Lynk said.

The starting point for compliance is a “complete ban on all goods and services produced in whole or in part [in] the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem from entering the international market,” Lynk said.

Secondly, he called on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, to complete her database of businesses operating over the Green Line, which her office has worked on since 2016.

This database could become a template for other global conflicts, he said.

Should those mild measures not work, Lynk said, harsher measures could be employed, such as an arms embargo, travel bans and international arrest warrants. Countries or entities, such as the European Union and the UN, could refuse to ratify agreements with Israel until it ended its settlement enterprise, he said.

The UN General Assembly could ask the International Court of Justice at The Hague for an advisory opinion on the “legality of the occupation,” Lynk said.

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Palestinian prisoners go on hunger strike to protest administrative detention

Ramallah, October 18 (RHC)-- Over 6000 Palestinian prisoners are languishing in Israeli jails. Hundreds of these inmates are held without any charge or trial under what’s known as administrative detention deemed illegal based on international law.  Now, six Palestinian prisoners are refusing food to protest the policy.  Among those six protesters there is Heba al-Labadi, a Palestinian-Jordanian national who has been on a hunger strike for over three weeks. 

Among other detainees protesting their unlawful incarceration and the horrific conditions in Israeli prisons, there’s Ahmed Ghannam, who began his hunger strike in July. Human rights groups say Israel should either prosecute those prisoners or release them.  But Tel Aviv insists that they were arrested on secret reports which are inaccessible to prisoners and their lawyers.

Experts say Israel uses the policy of administrative detention to silence the voices of Palestinians but lacks any concrete evidence that could be presented in an open, military court. Palestinians say administrative detention is a whole other level of injustice. 

Israel’s administrative detention law allows it to imprison Palestinians for renewable periods without trial or charge.  Administrative inmates in Israeli jails say going on hunger strike is one of their few options to make their voice heard and to force Tel Aviv end this illegal policy. 

Several Palestinian prisoners have gone on hunger strike in recent months over Israel’s administrative detention.

Edited by Ed Newman

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Palestinian resistance fighters shoot down Israeli drone in Gaza

Gaza City, September 10 (RHC)-- The Palestinian Hamas resistance movement has shot down an Israeli drone in the Gaza Strip, a day after the regime carried out a fresh wave of air raids against the besieged coastal enclave.

Palestinian media reported that Hamas resistance fighters intercepted and downed the quadcopter drone east of Rafah in southern Gaza Strip on Monday night.  The Israeli military has confirmed that a drone fell in southern Gaza Strip, saying that an investigation into the incident is underway.

The aircraft’s remains are now in the hands of the resistance fighters, according to media reports.  This is the second unmanned aerial vehicle the Israeli army has lost over the past 24 hours.

The Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah said its air defense forces had shot down an Israeli military drone outside the southern town of Ramyah early Monday, amid heightened tensions between the group and the Israeli military.  The downing of the drone in Rafah area comes amid a series of exchanges between Israel and Gaza.

Palestinian news agencies said late on Saturday that Israeli airstrikes had targeted positions allegedly held by Hamas inside the enclave. Health officials said there were no casualties from the attacks that lasted close to an hour.

Israeli sources said the attacks had hit Hamas naval facilities on the Mediterranean and two military compounds run by the group in central Gaza. There was no confirmation from Hamas and its affiliated groups.

The relentless Israeli bombardment came after Hamas launched a drone operation targeting Israeli military equipment stationed along the border with the occupied Palestinian territories following a wave of Israeli aerial assaults.

Hamas’ raids have come in response to the regime’s killing of Palestinian protesters marching along the fence separating Gaza from the Israeli-occupied territories.

Gaza has been under Israeli siege since June 2007, which has caused a decline in living standards.  Israel has also launched three major wars against the enclave since 2008, killing thousands of Gazans each time and shattering the impoverished territory’s already poor infrastructure.

Edited by Ed Newman
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Palestinians slam Netanyahu for pledging settlement annexation

Ramallah, September 3 (RHC)-- Palestinian leaders have slammed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for pledging annexation of all illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. 

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that Nehru’s reiteration of annexation pledge was a  "continuation of attempts to create an unacceptable fait accompli."  He added that the move would "not lead to any peace, security or stability.”

The secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Saeb Erekat said, "Those who claim concern after every Israeli settlement announcement should face reality: Israel's PM is announcing further annexation of occupied territory.”

"Enough impunity: There's an international responsibility to impose sanctions on Israel after decades of systematic crimes," he added.

Netanyahu told an audience at West Bank settlement Sunday that he would annex all illegal settlements.  "With the help of God we will apply Jewish sovereignty to all communities, as part of the [biblical] Land of Israel, and as part of the state of Israel," he said. 

More than 400,000 Israelis live in the illegal settlements in West Bank and around 20,000 live in occupied East Jerusalem.   The prime minister’s comments come amid Israel’s elections due for Sept. 17. After elections in April, Netanyahu’s Likud Party could not secure enough support to form a government coalition and another snap election was called.

According to the polls, the prime minister is running in a very close race with his main rival Benny Gantz from the centrist Blue and White party.  In addition to that, his far-right Likud party needs to come out with a decisive lead in the ballot or Israeli President Reuven Rivlin might decide to appoint another candidate to form a ruling coalition.  It is in this context that he is seeking to draw support from the voters of the right-wing parties close to the influential settlement movement.

Edited by Ed Newman
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‘Grave aggression’: Israel begins demolition of residential buildings in the West Bank

Israel has started demolishing 13 residential buildings in East Jerusalem’s Wadi Hummus for being too close to the separation barrier, even though the area falls under the Palestinian Authority’s administration.

Israel Defense Force soldiers were seen placing explosives in a building set for demolition after they arrived before dawn. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said 700 police and 200 soldiers were involved in the operation. They evacuated a family from one of the buildings and removed activists protesting the demolition. Construction vehicles smashed up a number of buildings.

The buildings are set on land that falls within Area A of the West Bank, which is administered by the Palestinian Authority, and the residents got permits from the PA to build there. 

However, the High Court ruled in favor of an Israeli Defense Ministry order to demolish 13 buildings because they are too close to the separation barrier, which Israel built around and inside the West Bank. The June decision has sparked fears that it will set a dangerous precedent for other homes in the PA-controlled area.

“Despite an order from the military commander, the residents there are making their own law, building. There are hundreds of illegal structures,” Erdan told Israel’s Army Radio, adding that there is “no sufficient governance there.”

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh condemned the “grave aggression,” and said that a complaint would be made to the International Criminal Court. “This is a continuation of the forced displacement of the people of Jerusalem from their homes and lands – a war crime and a crime against humanity,” he said. 

Wadi Hummus is on the edge of Sur Baher in southeast Jerusalem, and falls outside the city’s municipal borders. When construction of the separation barrier began in 2003, Wadi Hummus was left on the Israeli side of the structure, even though it is part of the West Bank and under PA administration.

Three buildings now being taken down in this part of Sur Baher. The eight-story one in the foreground not being demolished yet, but Israeli soldiers inside and appear to be preparing explosives for it.

All That's Left: Anti-Occupation Collective

The IDF Central Command issued an injunction banning construction within 250 meters of the wall seven years ago, after many families from Sur Baher had begun building homes in Wadi Hummus with PA authorization. The residents say the order was not publicized, and that the area is the only place where they can expand their village as it is surrounded by the barrier and Israeli neighborhoods. The residents’ attorney Haitham Khatib has argued that the 250-meter limit does not apply to other areas in the city. 

UN humanitarian coordinator Jamie McGoldrick and other UN officials called on Israel to stop its demolition plans last week, and the EU said the policy “undermines the viability of the two-state solution and the prospect for a lasting peace.”

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Bolton and Netanyahu killed 2005 Iran talks, ‘lured’ Trump into shredding 2015 deal - Iranian FM

National Security Advisor John Bolton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scuppered a 2005 nuclear agreement between Iran and the west, and did the same with President Trump, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said.

“Bolton & Netanyahu killed Paris agreement between E3 & Iran in '05 by insisting on zero enrichment,” Zarif tweeted on Tuesday. “Result? Iran increased its enrichment 100 fold by 2012.”

Referring to Bolton and Netanyahu as the “B Team,” Zarif then said that “they’ve lured Donald Trump into killing JCPOA w/the same delusion,” referring to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or Iran Nuclear Deal.

Also on rt.com As Iran is pushed to step further away from nuclear deal, what’s next?...

Iran stepped up its uranium enrichment on Monday, going beyond the JCPOA-mandated cap of 3.67 percent purification level, in response to the US’ unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA last year, and application of biting economic sanctions on Iran. The step-up in enrichment was also carried out as a response to the JCPOA’s European signatories' failure to live up to their trade obligations with Iran under the deal.

Prior to Trump’s withdrawal from the deal, Netanyahu had pressured his American counterpart to abandon the deal, calling it a “historic mistake” and accusing Tehran of cheating on the deal - with the aid of a theatrical slideshow. In the run-up to the US withdrawal last year, Bolton, a longtime Iran war-hawk, called the deal a scam and promised regime change in the Islamic Republic by the year’s end.

Also on rt.com The world knows Iran doesn’t want nuclear weapons – Revolutionary Guard’s chief...

A similar situation played out in 2005. After reaching an agreement with Germany, France and Britain, Iran agreed to suspend all uranium enrichment and to fully cooperate with inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Though the US remained absent from negotiations, Washington then lobbied its European allies to demand that Iran have no uranium enrichment facilities on its own soil, under any circumstances. 

Hardliners within Iran considered the diktat unacceptable, and newly-elected president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad abandoned the deal and resumed enrichment the following year. “We do not humble ourselves in the poisoned atmosphere created by foreign sources,” he said in his inauguration speech in August 2005.

As a result, an IAEA report in 2012 claimed that Iran had produced around 190 kilograms of 20-percent-enriched uranium – enough for a single nuclear warhead if further enriched. “Once you get to 20 percent,” Middle East analyst Paul Heroux told RT, “you’re basically 99 precent of the way” to weapons-grade uranium.

Also on rt.com ‘Unilateral bullying is worsening tumor’: China blames US pressure for Iranian nuclear crisis...

After passing the 3.67 percent enrichment threshold on Monday, a spokesman for Iran’s nuclear agency threatened to once again up enrichment to 20 percent and to reactivate centrifuges that had lain dormant since the 2015 deal was signed. 

With the events of 2005 playing out again, Heroux cautioned that further sanctions and military action are out of the question for the west. 

“You can’t eliminate the knowledge Iran has,” he said. “You can’t bomb Iran’s knowledge out of existence. The right way is to go back to the negotiating table with Iran, and we’re probably going to get a worse deal.”

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US envoy smashes wall dug under Palestinian homes in E. Jerusalem with SLEDGEHAMMER

Top US diplomats, one responsible for Middle East peace efforts, were filmed frantically hammering a wall to finish a controversial Israeli tunnel running close to the most divisive holy sites in annexed East Jerusalem.

Ambassador David Friedman and Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, showed up on Sunday at the unveiling of what the Israelis call an underground “pilgrimage road” located right next to the contested Temple Mount.

The tunnel, excavated beneath the mostly Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, was officially opened with the ceremonial smashing of a brick wall which served to replace the traditional ribbon-cutting. US ambassador Israel Friedman swung the first hammer.

President Trump's envoys "burst the way" to the historic site in Jerusalem...

 

Digging of the 350-meter “pilgrimage road,” promoted and funded by a local rightwing group, occurred disturbingly close to a highly-sensitive area of East Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, which houses a number of Jewish sites but also the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock.

The dig had also started without the permission of the Silwan residents living overhead. It has been reported that some Palestinian families even had to leave their houses because of cracks and destruction caused by the excavations.

READ MORE: Israel could annex parts of West Bank in coming years – Netanyahu

Naturally, Palestinians have fiercely criticized the symbolism behind a US ambassador swinging a sledgehammer as an endorsement of occupation and colonial practices. That aside, the presence of the American officials at the bizarre ceremony raised suspicions that the US is helping Israel “Judaize” East Jerusalem.

Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Saeb Erekat, called it a “disgrace” to US diplomacy and compared the American delegation to “extremist fanatic Israeli settlers.”

Greenblatt and Friedman are doing everything that would bring prosperity to the apartheid colonial settlement.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry claimed that Friedman and Greenblatt were “faking history” for “colonial purpose.” The American actions are “blatant aggression against international law,” Chief Justice Mahmoud al-Habash said in a separate statement, calling on the international community to preserve the Palestinian heritage of the city.

Meanwhile, Greenblatt hit back at the “ludicrous” accusations, claiming on Twitter that archaeology has proven that Jerusalem belongs to the Jewish people: “We can’t ‘Judaize’ what history/archaeology show.”

Israel invaded and seized East Jerusalem – which was once under Jordanian custodianship – during the 1967 Six-Day War. The subsequent annexation wasn’t recognized by most countries, with the UN referring to East Jerusalem as an “Israeli-occupied territory.”

The status of East Jerusalem has been at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades. Recently, the US added more fuel to the frequent flashpoint of violence by moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, triggering a wave of massive Palestinian protests in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

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