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I have a parallel blog in French at http://anniebannie.net

Date

May 10, 2010

Mislabelling

Herbs inside the Halpert Moshe Packing House
Despite increased publicity regarding the labelling of Israeli settlement produce, and the recent DEFRA guidance on the matter which states that produce from the settlements should be labelled as such, it only took us a few minutes inside the illegal Jordan Valley settlement of Mehola to find herbs bound for a British company being mislabelled. Herbs bearing the logo of Fresh Direct, who have their head office in Oxfordshire, were spotted inside the Halpert Moshe ‘fresh herbs’ packing house which operates under the Carmel Agrexco banner.
At this location herbs being prepared came with a joint Fresh Direct/Carmel Agrexco label which clearly states the product as being “Produce of Israel”, despite being packaged in an organic farm on an illegal settlement in the Israeli occupied West Bank.

The label we collected was for 70 grams of sage with the text written in English, indicating that the contents were intended for export to Britain. There were
also herbs labelled in German (without the Fresh Direct logo) inside the packing house.
Not only does this kind of labelling go against the the call for a distinction to be made between settlement and Palestinian produce -it goes one step further by not even acknowledging that the product is grown in the West Bank. The DEFRA advice regarding labelling of settlement produce, published in December 2009, is clear about the illegality of this practice: “the Government considers that traders would be misleading consumers, and would therefore almost be certainly committing an offence, if they were to declare produce from the OPT (including from the West Bank) as ‘Produce of Israel’. This would apply irrespective of whether the produce was from a Palestinian producer or from an Israeli settlement in the OPT. This is because the area does not fall within the internationally recognised borders of the state of Israel” (to read the full advice from DEFRA see http://www.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/food/pdf/labelling-palestine.pdf).

The particular label that we collected contains the “traceability” number 08209306 and the grower ID number 675256. If there are any organic farmers out there who know what this means and fancy helping us out, please send us an email on contact@corporatewatch.org

Fresh Direct have local branches all across Britain, as well as an office in the United Arab Emirates. Their head office address is Freshdirect (UK) Ltd, Bicester Distribution Park, Charbridge Way, Bicester, Oxfordshire OX26 4SW , phone 01869 365600. For local branches see http://www.freshdirect.co.uk/contact.aspx

Unanimous vote for Israeli accession to the OECD, yet…

You will have already seen that Haaretz has reported a unanimous vote for Israeli accession to the OECD this morning.
http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/after-unanimous-vote-israel-gets-accepted-into-oecd-1.289422

FYI, the Palestinians hope to achieve a small technical delay based on a legal argument (below) by getting the legal advisors of one of the MFAs of a member country to request a legal opinion on this issue from the OECD legal department, and asking that the accession process (due to be finalised May 27) be suspended until this legal question is answered.

The bottom line of this argument is that the OECD would itself be breaching the 4th Geneva convention if it admits Israel under current conditions (i.e with settlement data, but without data on Palestinians in the OPT). By including settlement data it has actually forced itself to apply the rules of occupation (Geneva 4) to Israel, which include responsibility of the Occupying Power for the welfare of the occupied population. The only way that accession would be legal is a) if settlement/OPT data is totally excluded [total disaggregation] or b) if data from both settlements and OPT Palestinians is included.

A brief based on this argument has been sent to all Ministries of foreign affairs of member countries.

The legal argument will now be important for press purposes. Please feel free to send it around as another point of messaging to your lists.

Here is the full text of the argument:

Israel has submitted economic statistics to the OECD which include data pertaining to its settlements in the OPT and has been unwilling/unable to disaggregate them. Due to this fact, the OECD cannot handle Israel’s application for OECD accession as if it were an application by the State of Israel in its pre-1967 borders; Israel’s application must be examined in light of its role as Occupying Power under the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention (GCIV) and the law on state responsibility.

Under the terms of the GCIV, the Occupying Power is under a legal obligation to ensure the economic wellbeing of the protected Palestinian population; the transfer of the Occupying Power’s own civilian population into Occupied Territory constitutes a grave breach (war crime). High Contracting Parties (HCP) are under a legal obligation to ensure respect for the GCIV by the Occupying Power. The law on state responsibility, moreover, requires that no state render aid or assistance to unlawful acts committed by another state.
Accordingly, if member states and the OECD itself accept accession of Israel with any of the data including Israeli civilians living in the Occupied Territory (even provisionally, with the proviso that the data is disaggregated at a later stage, after accession), they are absolutely required to ensure that the protected Palestinian population is also included in this data.

The OECD and member states would be violating their legal obligations under both bodies of international law should Israel be accepted – even provisionally – into the OECD with the current statistical data, including Israeli civilians living in Occupied Territory, but arbitrarily excluding four million GCIV-protected Palestinian civilians living in the Occupied Territory from the data. OECD member states as HCP would be thereby endorsing and becoming complicit with Israel’s grave breach of population transfer. This creates another legal, technical and political issue of substantive and immediate concern for the OECD and its member states. If the statistics of four million Palestinian civilians who currently live under the martial law of the Occupying Power are included, consideration will need to be given to the separate legal, political, military and economic systems and policies Israel has been applying to its settler-citizens and the GC-IV-protected Palestinian population in the Occupied Territory since 1967.

Our request is for OECD and member states to delay Israel’s membership until these serious legal issues are addressed and clarified.

Video: Israel Bans the Basics of Life

Why do Israeli authorities only allow 81 items into Gaza? According to journalist Amira Hass, the Israeli Advocacy organization, Gisha, filed a suit against the government of Israel claiming that commercial interests inside Israel and their lobbying power, were determining what came into Gaza.

Governments continue to let Israel get away with starving and depriving the people of Gaza the right to live in dignity. Therefore, we, the people of the world, will do what our governments refuse to do, deliver vitally needed supplies to the imprisoned people of Gaza so they can rebuild their homes, schools and hospitals. Follow our boats as we begin our journey to Gaza from Ireland

update :Threats against flotilla show weakness, activist says
Ma’an News

May 9, 2010

Gaza – Ma’an – Israeli threats to open fire at a host of solidarity boats carrying aid to Gaza later this month reveal Israel’s weakness, said Jamal Al-Khudari, head of Gaza’s Popular Committee Against the Siege on Sunday.

“Such threats reflect the occupation’s failure and embody state terrorism against peaceful individuals who come to support a people under siege and aggression,” a statement issued by Al-Khudari said.

Under international law, the activists attempting to dock in Gaza have the right to participate in breaking the siege, Al-Khudari added, saying the threats will not deter participants from arriving in Gaza.

The popular committee organizer said the group was coming well-equipped, and would be ready should the Israeli navy surround them for a long period of time.

The Freedom Flotilla announced plans in late April, saying a group of ships would depart from several corners of the Mediterranean and gather in international waters with the intent to deliver some 5,000 tons of building and medical supplies to the population under siege.

According to flotilla organizers, 600 activists will sail three cargo ships and five passenger boats for Gaza in what a statement called the “biggest internationally coordinated effort to directly challenge Israeli’s ongoing occupation, aggression, and violence against the Palestinian people.”

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