An Opportunity, Not a Crisis for Israel in French Move to Encourage Boycott

Israel is upset that France will be requiring goods and produce made by Israelis in the Judean and Samarian [West Bank] areas to be labeled as such, not as products of Israel. The Israeli government is furious, and considers the requirement to be a possible death knell for those goods.

Paris published guidelines on enforcing European Union (EU) regulations on produce from the West Bank, including annexed east Jerusalem, which the international community considers occupied Palestinian land, and the Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in 1967. -- The Independent

The European Union considers the Eastern side of Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and the "West Bank" as not part of Israel, but rather the possession of a soon-to-be Palestinian state; and they want the origin labeling to reflect that. Israel feels such labeling will mark out such products for boycott.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry responded by saying it "regrets that France, which actually has a law against boycotts, is advancing measures that can be interpreted as encouraging radical elements and the movement to boycott Israel".  The Independent

Ironically, France, along with many European states, had already declared Boycott, Divestment and Sanctioning (BDS) against Israel to be illegal discrimination. However, those protections would not apply to Israeli communities in the contested areas, which Europe sees as violating international law.

Those who support BDS are celebrating the decision.

The Israeli government sees the idea of a settlement boycott as a farce because it knows how impossible it would be to stop even a targeted boycott from bleeding right through the Green Line it’s been working so hard to erase. -- 972mag (a pro-Palestinian site from Israel)

Israel here is not totally blameless. Naturally, since 1967 when Israel conquered the area during the Six Day War, Israel has desired to incorporate the Biblical homeland of Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] into its polity. However the areas won came fully equipped with millions of hostile Arabs.

Under international law, and standard Western democratic practices, annexation of an area requires full enfranchisement of those residents in that area. This is naturally problematic for Israel. Judea and Samaria contain approximately 2 million Arabs, give or take. Add to that the Israeli-Arabs already inside Israel, and if Gaza were thrown into the mix, the Arabs would start to approximate the number of Jews in the region. Some, such as Yoram Ettinger, have claimed that Arab numbers are exaggerated. Others dispute Ettinger's conclusions.  But, true or not, there is no doubt that Arab numbers are sufficiently high that enfranchisement would turn Israel into a bi-national, rather than a Jewish, state.

Hence for the past five decades Israel has left the area in a legally undefined state. Israel has used this ambiguity to its advantage for decades. The Arabs there are under martial, not civil, law. Not exactly Israel, yet under Israeli rule. Even the Oslo Accords left Israel in ultimate charge of border crossings, population registry, movement, import, export, etc.  All for security reasons, but still not the freedom that the Arabs claimed they wanted. Of course, this means that Israel is not fully adhering to Western norms as Europe defines them, and hence the criticism.

So as sympathy for Israel has waned, Europe is forcing the issue.  In essence:  If Israel won't give these Arabs full equality and the vote, then Israel must get out and let them go free.

Ironically, to a lesser extent, Israel has complied with some Western norms. Israel officially annexed the Golan, and the Eastern side of Jerusalem. Arabs in Jerusalem are offered citizenship -- albeit after a grilling vetting process. It is not as easily offered as US citizenship was to Mexicans in 1848, even to those who had initially fought American forces, such as Diego Archuleta.

There is no birthright citizenship to Arabs born in Jerusalem; and there is a complaint that Israel limits to low numbers the awards of citizenship to Jerusalem Arabs.  In 2016, in light of the recent knife intifada, Israel has reduced the numbers of awarded citizenship to a few dozen Arabs in Eastern Jerusalem. Still, over the decades, almost all the Arabs in Jerusalem have refused to even apply, so it is hard to tell who is more to blame. In the Golan Heights, the Druze refused to accept Israeli citizenship even when it was given to them without vetting.

Because Israel has roughly complied with the usual Western norms regarding the Golan and the Eastern side of Jerusalem -- officially annexing the areas; and at least offering citizenship to the local Arabs -- France has no legitimate basis to consider these two areas part of Palestine.

But the issue of Judea and Samaria remains. Israel has not annexed these areas, nor offered citizenship to the locals.  And so, France requires that Jewish goods from these areas not be labeled as Israeli in origin; but rather as coming from Israeli settlements.

The first suggestion is that Israeli producers could label their goods and produce as coming from Judea and Samaria.  This would conform to the French requirement that it not be labeled as Israeli in origin; but it would assert a Jewish connection.

If the French were to press the case in court -- and require that it still be labeled as coming from Israeli settlements -- it would be rather easy to demonstrate that Judea and Samaria are valid names, equally as valid as the West Bank or Palestine. It is probably a case that the French would prefer to avoid.  Even if the Jewish side lost the case, the very introduction of Jewish geographical names into the debate would be a victory. It would force the general public to recognize the Jewish history in the area.

Should the Europeans allow for a compromise labeling of Judea and Samaria. This alone would be a major victory for the Jewish side, as it would contest the Arab names. It might even be preferable to labeling the goods as Israeli -- which oddly ducks the issue -- for it would forcibly assert a Jewish claim on the land.

Those who would still support a boycott would be forced to tell their followers to avoid Judean and Samarian products, a requirement that would stick in their throat, as they would be obliged to use Jewish names.

Rather than a disaster, this French requirement could be the means by which the term "West Bank" is driven out of its monopolistic position as the only term in the debate. It could be the means by which millions of Europeans are educated in the historical nomenclature of the area.

Israel still has a demographic problem -- despite what Yoram Ettinger says.  That will not go away easily. And, despite what many would like, Jordan will not absorb these Palestinians, especially as many of those Arabs have their origins in what is now Israel -- many with roots in Haifa, Caesaria, and Jaffa, not Amman. Nor will a partial annexation of Judea and Samaria ameliorate European criticism as some Jews, who favor annexing Area C, suggest. Indeed, the last suggestion will be seen as a land grab by Europeans. And please, stop with the delusion that referring to the Arabs as Fakestinians will solve the problem. Do not expect any solution soon.

However, this French ruling is not so much a disaster as an opportunity to educate the world with a counter lexicon to the Arab narrative. One can use the French ruling to assert a Jewish nomenclature to the region. If played rightly, it can be a first step.  It can turn the tables on the supporters of BDS.

Mike Konrad is the pen name of an American who laments that he never fully availed himself of the opportunity to learn Spanish in his high school days, lo those many decades ago.

Israel is upset that France will be requiring goods and produce made by Israelis in the Judean and Samarian [West Bank] areas to be labeled as such, not as products of Israel. The Israeli government is furious, and considers the requirement to be a possible death knell for those goods.

Paris published guidelines on enforcing European Union (EU) regulations on produce from the West Bank, including annexed east Jerusalem, which the international community considers occupied Palestinian land, and the Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in 1967. -- The Independent

The European Union considers the Eastern side of Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and the "West Bank" as not part of Israel, but rather the possession of a soon-to-be Palestinian state; and they want the origin labeling to reflect that. Israel feels such labeling will mark out such products for boycott.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry responded by saying it "regrets that France, which actually has a law against boycotts, is advancing measures that can be interpreted as encouraging radical elements and the movement to boycott Israel".  The Independent

Ironically, France, along with many European states, had already declared Boycott, Divestment and Sanctioning (BDS) against Israel to be illegal discrimination. However, those protections would not apply to Israeli communities in the contested areas, which Europe sees as violating international law.

Those who support BDS are celebrating the decision.

The Israeli government sees the idea of a settlement boycott as a farce because it knows how impossible it would be to stop even a targeted boycott from bleeding right through the Green Line it’s been working so hard to erase. -- 972mag (a pro-Palestinian site from Israel)

Israel here is not totally blameless. Naturally, since 1967 when Israel conquered the area during the Six Day War, Israel has desired to incorporate the Biblical homeland of Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] into its polity. However the areas won came fully equipped with millions of hostile Arabs.

Under international law, and standard Western democratic practices, annexation of an area requires full enfranchisement of those residents in that area. This is naturally problematic for Israel. Judea and Samaria contain approximately 2 million Arabs, give or take. Add to that the Israeli-Arabs already inside Israel, and if Gaza were thrown into the mix, the Arabs would start to approximate the number of Jews in the region. Some, such as Yoram Ettinger, have claimed that Arab numbers are exaggerated. Others dispute Ettinger's conclusions.  But, true or not, there is no doubt that Arab numbers are sufficiently high that enfranchisement would turn Israel into a bi-national, rather than a Jewish, state.

Hence for the past five decades Israel has left the area in a legally undefined state. Israel has used this ambiguity to its advantage for decades. The Arabs there are under martial, not civil, law. Not exactly Israel, yet under Israeli rule. Even the Oslo Accords left Israel in ultimate charge of border crossings, population registry, movement, import, export, etc.  All for security reasons, but still not the freedom that the Arabs claimed they wanted. Of course, this means that Israel is not fully adhering to Western norms as Europe defines them, and hence the criticism.

So as sympathy for Israel has waned, Europe is forcing the issue.  In essence:  If Israel won't give these Arabs full equality and the vote, then Israel must get out and let them go free.

Ironically, to a lesser extent, Israel has complied with some Western norms. Israel officially annexed the Golan, and the Eastern side of Jerusalem. Arabs in Jerusalem are offered citizenship -- albeit after a grilling vetting process. It is not as easily offered as US citizenship was to Mexicans in 1848, even to those who had initially fought American forces, such as Diego Archuleta.

There is no birthright citizenship to Arabs born in Jerusalem; and there is a complaint that Israel limits to low numbers the awards of citizenship to Jerusalem Arabs.  In 2016, in light of the recent knife intifada, Israel has reduced the numbers of awarded citizenship to a few dozen Arabs in Eastern Jerusalem. Still, over the decades, almost all the Arabs in Jerusalem have refused to even apply, so it is hard to tell who is more to blame. In the Golan Heights, the Druze refused to accept Israeli citizenship even when it was given to them without vetting.

Because Israel has roughly complied with the usual Western norms regarding the Golan and the Eastern side of Jerusalem -- officially annexing the areas; and at least offering citizenship to the local Arabs -- France has no legitimate basis to consider these two areas part of Palestine.

But the issue of Judea and Samaria remains. Israel has not annexed these areas, nor offered citizenship to the locals.  And so, France requires that Jewish goods from these areas not be labeled as Israeli in origin; but rather as coming from Israeli settlements.

The first suggestion is that Israeli producers could label their goods and produce as coming from Judea and Samaria.  This would conform to the French requirement that it not be labeled as Israeli in origin; but it would assert a Jewish connection.

If the French were to press the case in court -- and require that it still be labeled as coming from Israeli settlements -- it would be rather easy to demonstrate that Judea and Samaria are valid names, equally as valid as the West Bank or Palestine. It is probably a case that the French would prefer to avoid.  Even if the Jewish side lost the case, the very introduction of Jewish geographical names into the debate would be a victory. It would force the general public to recognize the Jewish history in the area.

Should the Europeans allow for a compromise labeling of Judea and Samaria. This alone would be a major victory for the Jewish side, as it would contest the Arab names. It might even be preferable to labeling the goods as Israeli -- which oddly ducks the issue -- for it would forcibly assert a Jewish claim on the land.

Those who would still support a boycott would be forced to tell their followers to avoid Judean and Samarian products, a requirement that would stick in their throat, as they would be obliged to use Jewish names.

Rather than a disaster, this French requirement could be the means by which the term "West Bank" is driven out of its monopolistic position as the only term in the debate. It could be the means by which millions of Europeans are educated in the historical nomenclature of the area.

Israel still has a demographic problem -- despite what Yoram Ettinger says.  That will not go away easily. And, despite what many would like, Jordan will not absorb these Palestinians, especially as many of those Arabs have their origins in what is now Israel -- many with roots in Haifa, Caesaria, and Jaffa, not Amman. Nor will a partial annexation of Judea and Samaria ameliorate European criticism as some Jews, who favor annexing Area C, suggest. Indeed, the last suggestion will be seen as a land grab by Europeans. And please, stop with the delusion that referring to the Arabs as Fakestinians will solve the problem. Do not expect any solution soon.

However, this French ruling is not so much a disaster as an opportunity to educate the world with a counter lexicon to the Arab narrative. One can use the French ruling to assert a Jewish nomenclature to the region. If played rightly, it can be a first step.  It can turn the tables on the supporters of BDS.

Mike Konrad is the pen name of an American who laments that he never fully availed himself of the opportunity to learn Spanish in his high school days, lo those many decades ago.

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