European Jewish Congress (EJC) President Dr. Moshe Kantor sent a letter to the leaders of the European Union on Tuesday, urging them to relinquish the EU's plan to label goods produced by Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria. The European Union's various trade commissions have been inching towards issuing comprehensive guidelines on the issue for the past several months.
The letter said that the EU's decision to pursue the matter over recognizing Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, was "sending a worrying message."
In March, EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton issued a letter to the bloc's 27 member states, urging them to abide by existing EU legislation, which states that goods produced in Judea and Samaria, the Golan Heights and east Jerusalem do not receive the same treatment as products from areas the EU recognizes as sovereign Israeli territory and therefor should not be labeled as "made in Israel."
"This policy is seen as discriminatory as the European Union appears to be singling out one disputed territory of the world for special treatment, whereas the European Union has no similar policies for the other tens of territories that are the subject of international disputes," Kantor wrote.
"Moreover, the timing of the labeling issue is inauspicious as it is diverting energies that could be better placed supporting positive moves towards restarting direct negotiations between the parties. I believe that the implementation of a policy which is seen as one-sided and biased at this time will only serve to negatively affect this positive momentum and increase ill-faith and bad feeling between the parties.”
The EJC further argued that the EU's policy will have a negative effect on the Palestinian population, many of whom are employed by these Israeli companies facing this measure.
"This policy will also have the additional problematic effect of disenfranchising tens of thousands of Palestinians who work for these Israeli companies, who would suffer an enormous financial blow from the ramifications of this policy," Kantor wrote.
He noted that while the labeling of goods produced by companies residing beyond the Green Line was problematic, it is made worse by the comparative lack of traction on the issue of adding Hezbollah to the EU list of terrorist organizations.
Israel and the United States have been pressuring the EU to blacklist the Lebanese-based terror group, but a motion to that effect, brought before a meeting of the European foreign ministers last week by Britain, failed to garner support over fear such action would fuel instability in the Middle East, a western diplomats said.
Hezbollah's power base in Europe is steadily growing. Should the EU designate it as a terrorist organization, authorities in the 27 member state would be able to seize the terror group's financial assets, which for the most part are disguised as charities, crippling one of its major avenues of funding. Hezbollah receives most of its funding and weapons from Iran, and is also supported by Syria.
"The greatest concern to us as European citizens is that while there is a consensus and movement on the labeling issue, there appears to be little movement on the goal of proscribing Hezbollah as a terrorist organization within the European Union," Kantor wrote in his letter.
"While the European Union’s often-stated goal is to achieve peace and security in the Middle East, these words will remain hollow if an organization with a proven and indisputable record of murder and terrorism in Europe and around the world, and whose goal is to destroy the Jewish State, is allowed to act freely, recruit and raise funds unimpeded on the European continent."
"I would urge you to prioritize the proscription of an organization whose aim is to derail security and stability in the region and beyond, and whose ongoing role will ensure that peace will not be achieved in the Middle East. This is the greatest contribution the European Union can make to US Secretary of State Kerry’s efforts, and the efforts of those who wish to see a restart of negotiations which will lead to a resolution of the protracted conflict."
Kantor further applauded Ashton, who put her full support behind the diplomatic efforts of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.