Archive for December 11th, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

London: A Flurry of “Justice”

The British government will reportedly advise retailers and importers to distinguish on labels whether imported goods from the West Bank were made by settlements or by Palestinians. It looks like a good decision. After all, there should be no settlements in the West Bank. And the measure doesn’t hit an Israeli government that is reeling between attempts of moderation and domestic pressures like the one led by Kadima until March this year.

I know quite a number of people here in Germany who would like to see the same move here, and if they have any misgivings at all, it will be merely for historic reasons.

But many of the people on my mind who might like the planned British import labels and see them as a good example for Germany will at the same time oppose sanctions against Iran. Besides, the timing of the move makes me wonder. Shortly ago, a super-tax on bankers’ bonuses was announced. And on or before June 3 next year, prime minister Gordon Brown and his Labor Party will have to face general elections. Why the sudden flurry of “justice”?

If Gordon Brown is just acting as the messenger boy for the American government as the Telegraph suggests, that would be good news.

But even if so, we in Europe should remember a few things:

In 2005, Israel withdrew from Gaza. Then prime minister Ariel Sharon saw the withdrawal through, despite immense pressure against it from within his own country. The Gaza Strip is now controlled by Hamas.

In 2000, Israel withdrew from Southern Lebanon. The move didn’t add to Israel’s security.

I’m not fundamentally opposed to labelling products from the West Bank. But before doing so, we should be sure about who it will serve, and who it will hurt. It won’t necessarily be the proverbial ordinary Palestinian farmer who has been denied access to his own land so far who will suddenly see his rights enforced.

Oversimplification within the Middle East has done a lot to fuel its conflicts. Oversimplification from our side of the Mediterranean won’t do anything to defuse them.

Looking at the sudden activity in itself, a lot would speak in its favor. But in the context of some other trends, it stinks.

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