South African Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies on Saturday said that he intended to instruct local food importers not to use the label "Product of Israel" for products manufactured in Judea and Samaria. Davies said such products are imported from "occupied Palestinian territories."
Explaining his decision, Davies said it was not fair to "fool consumers" about the true origin of products. "The government of South Africa recognizes the State of Israel only within its 1948 borders, which were delineated by the U.N.," Davies said. "That area does not include territories captured by Israel in 1967."
In a similar move, Danish Foreign Minister Willy Sondal said on Saturday that importers of food products in his country would also be instructed to use a label denoting the origin of products manufactured in the West Bank, which he said should be labeled products produced in "Palestinian territories."
In response to the announcements, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said: "This is essentially a racist measure. It is shocking to know that of all the countries, South Africa is acting so callously."
At a conference with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman went even further and accused South Africa of "adopting a staunchly anti-Israeli policy for the past several years."
"It is rather unfortunate that a country which has suffered from racism for many years now uses the same measures against Israel as well. It is no coincidence that the Durban Conference, the most anti-Israel forum, was held in South Africa," Lieberman said.
The Foreign Ministry has summoned South Africa's ambassador to discuss the matter on Sunday, during which time ministry officials are expected to rebuke the ambassador's government for making the decision.
Officials in Jerusalem are worried that other countries may join the boycott, but pointed out that trade agreements with the EU prohibited any member from taking measures against Israel such as the one announced by Denmark.
Danny Dayan, chairman of the Yesha Council, the umbrella organization of the Jewish communities of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, said of the South African minister’s statement: "It is not surprising that the person who made the decision, Rob Davies, is Jewish and an extreme leftist."
A senior Palestinian Authority official commented that the measure was the first step taken by the international community to mark products manufactured in Jewish settlements throughout the West Bank.
Since the establishment of Israel in 1948, voices have been heard throughout the world calling for boycotts of Israeli products, especially those manufactured in Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria.
Speaking at the Jewish Council for Public Affairs Plenum in Detroit on May 6, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren said he was shocked that American Jews would consider boycotting Israel.
"There are American Jewish concerns such as ensuring Jewish continuity, maintaining Jewish institutions, affording a Jewish education. All are genuinely serious concerns, and not just for American Jewish kids. I was shocked, then, that on the very day that I spoke with my kids about their concerns in Israel, some American Jews were discussing a call to boycott products made by Israeli settlements in the West Bank," Oren told the audience.
Internal boycotts of Israeli products also became an issue, eventually prompting the Knesset to pass a controversial law in July 2011, banning calls for anti-Israel or anti-settlement boycotts. The legislation, formally called the "Law for Prevention of Damage to the State of Israel through Boycott," defines any call for an economic, academic or cultural boycott of Israel or the settlements as a "civil offense" and subjects Israeli groups or individuals calling for a boycott to lawsuits of nearly $10,000 without having to prove any damage.
Just after the law was passed, popular Israeli pretzel company Bagel Bagel decided to relocate from a West Bank factory to a new site inside the Green Line, although Unilever Israel, which owns Bagel Bagel, did not mention the new law when it announced its decision to move the factory to the northern city of Safed from its previous location in southern Samaria.
Unilever Israel is a subsidiary of Unilever International, a British-Dutch multinational corporation that owns many consumer products in foods, beverages, cleaning agents and personal care products, with a reach that expands to 150 countries.