South Africa to re-label products from West Bank
- An open letter to South African Trade and Industry Minister, Dr. Rob Davies.
From Maurice Ostroff September 21, 2011
Dear Minister Davies
I refer to Mr. Zackie Achmat's recent call to legislate that all goods emanating from Israel's occupied territories be labelled accordingly, as reported in the September 16 article in the Mail and Guardian ("Move to relabel 'Israeli' goods as bads" by Ilham Rawoot).
Since discrimination contradicts the very basic concept of the new South Africa, I believe you will ensure that there will be no hint of discrimination in the proposed legislation and that it will apply equally to all occupied and disputed territories. For example Northern Cyprus, (occupied by Turkey), Jammu and Kashmir (disputed between India and Pakistan), Western Sahara (considered occupied territory by the Polisaro and the UN), South Ossetia (remember the 2008 South Ossetia war in 2008?) and the complex situation in Kosovo among many others which the proposed law will need to embrace.
The legislation will also need to include the labelling of goods produced in Tibet (occupied by China) as well as Nepal's claim that some of its territories are being illegally occupied by India, not to mention the long-standing Kurdish struggle for independence from Turkey.
But far more deserving of drawing the attention of buyers to the origin of goods produced in disputed territories than the few products produced in the West Bank are for example, the multiplicity of computers and other electronic products imported from Taiwan (the Republic of China - ROC). After all very few buyers know that both mainland China (the Peoples Republic of China-PRC) and the ROC officially claim each other's territory. Nor do they know that the PRC refuses to have diplomatic relations with any nation that recognizes the ROC and when the Obama administration intended to sell $6.4 Billion worth of military hardware to the ROC, the PRC threatened the US with economic sanctions.
And as the proposed labelling law is intended to give sensitive consumers the opportunity to avoid buying products that are produced under objectionable conditions, surely it will include "blood diamonds" from Zimbabwe.
According to a BBC report, an area in Zimbabwe, said to be one of the world's most significant diamond fields, is a place of torture where sometimes miners are unable to walk on account of beatings, "They beat us 40 whips in the morning, 40 in the afternoon and 40 in the evening," said one man. The company that runs the mine is headed by a personal friend of President Mugabe.
And since CNN is currently running a continuous anti-slavery campaign, the world has become aware of the fact that many products we buy are made under appalling conditions of forced labor and should be labelled accordingly,
Why, for example, should we label a product produced in Israel's West Bank by Jewish and Arab workers who willingly work for living wages but not a carpet made by 5 year old slaves in Asia?
The Bonded Labor Liberation Front reports that between 200,000 and 300,000 children are involved in the carpet industry in Asia. Surely the proposed legislation will require these goods be appropriately labelled??
Dr. Jacobs, President of the American Anti-Slavery Group in the April 1996 edition of World & I describes how these children work from toddlerhood to adolescence, from dawn to dusk, in horrid conditions. He describes a typical example. Five-year-old Santosh, sold into slavery in India was kept weaving carpets from 4:00 in the morning to 11:00 at night, every day, without breaks until rescued.
A group headed by Pharis Harvey, director of the International Labor Rights and Education Fund describes the scene: "Children work in damp pits near the loom. Potable water is often unavailable and food consists of a few chapatis [bread balls], onions and salt. Common practice is to keep the children hungry so they will stay awake and work longer hours. The children often are made to sleep on the ground next to their looms, or in nearby sheds. They work from ten to fourteen hours per day"
I am sure Sir, that you will not allow the proposed legislation to require labelling only of products from Israel while ignoring those from real objectionable sources as described above, particularly as such legislation would resemble discriminatory laws of the hated apartheid era.
I do not believe that you Sir, would be a party to such a deplorable lack of balance and judgement that would indicate either serious ignorance of world affairs or blatant hypocrisy, or both.
I would very much appreciate a considered response.
This open letter is being publicized as will the response I hope to receive from you.
Move to relabel 'Israeli' goods as bads
ILHAM RAWOOT - Sep 16 2011 00:00
Mail and Guardian
\Many supermarket products currently marked "product of Israel" could soon carry new labels reading "product of illegal settlement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories", following talks between activist Zackie Achmat and Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies.
Achmat and his organisation, Open Shuhada Street, and Davies have agreed in principle that goods manufactured in occupied territories should be labelled as such, as labelling them as product of Israel is misleading.
Davies told the Mail & Guardian this week: "I'm waiting for a formal submission and I will apply my mind and decide on the recommendations. We're persuaded it's in the interest of South African consumers to know whether their products are coming from Israel or from the occupied territories."
Achmat argued this week that Israeli settlements in the occupied territories were illegal under international law and that in terms of the Geneva Convention the occupying power could not remove resources from the land it occupied.
"In 2010, the European Court of Justice ruled that products from the occupied territories cannot be identified as products of Israel," he said.
Achmat said that he was aware of goods manufactured in the occupied territories, such as the cosmetics brand, Ahava; technology and soft drinks, such as the Soda Stream brand, being sold as products of Israel.
Ahava products are sold at Wellness Warehouse in Cape Town and at Foschini stores. Open Shuhada Street has been embroiled in a lengthy campaign to have them removed from the shelves.
Achmat said that some fruit exported by the company Agrexco, including plums, tomatoes, dates and figs, was sourced from the occupied territories and sold as a product of Israel at stores such as Pick n Pay and Woolworths.
It is understood that many kosher products, including halva and gherkins, sold at Pick n Pay and Spar, fall into the same category.
Achmat said that, although there would be an attempt to stop the relabelling process, the law was very clear that it had to happen.
"There are even some Israelis who don't buy goods that come from the settlements. This gives people a choice: some people won't buy Israeli products at all, while others won't buy settlement products if they know where they come from, as they involve a clear violation of international law."
The next step in the relabelling process would be for Davies to receive the final draft notice from his department. Achmat said this had already been seen and approved by the International Trade Administration of South Africa.
The notice, providing for a three-month period of public consultation and comment, would then be published in the Government Gazette.
The final step would be the issuing of a trade-description notice prescribing a change in the labels.
Achmat said that since the goods were labelled in Israel and not South Africa, Israeli suppliers might not want to follow the new requirement. As a result, "settlement products will probably become unavailable".