Jewish advocacy group the American Jewish Committee said it was “dismayed” by the EU announcement.
“Today’ s decision will play into the hands of those determined to demonize the Jewish state; offend mainstream Israelis who favor territories compromise and encourage maximalist Palestinian positions,” said the director of AJC’s Transatlantic Institute, Daniel Schwammenthal.Schwammenthal warned that the activists promoting a boycott of all Israeli products would ultimately use these new guidelines as fuel for their political activities. Referring to the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, Schwammenthal said, “This BDS movement will no doubt use these EU rules to intensify its shameful policy of picketing shops and intimidating consumers and business owners to outright ban Israeli settlement products as a first step in their strategy to boycott all Israeli goods.”
As Israeli leaders have said, Schwammenthal stressed the singling out of Israel from among the world’s nations regarding the labeling of products from disputed territories.
Schwammenthal also criticized the EU’s labeling of products manufactured in the Golan Heights — such as award winning Israeli wines — saying regular Israelis would see this as removed from the reality on the ground, where neighboring Syria has crumbled under several years of sectarian violence. This could have the effect of “weakening the EU’s standing as a credible player in the region,” he said.
WJC CEO Robert Singer called the move a “misguided attempt to hamper trade with Israel and to exert political pressure on the government in Jerusalem.”
“This does nothing to advance the peace process. On the contrary, all it will do is strengthen those hardliners in the Middle East and in Europe who reject the Jews’ right to live in peace in the land of Israel,” he said.
The Anti-Defamation League called the EU regulations unproductive and one-sided, criticizing the EU for applying external pressure with the hopes of achieving a breakthrough in the peace process.
“It is for Palestinians and Israelis – not the Europeans – to determine future borders between them, not Europe. European countries have not had much luck drawing boundaries in the Middle East,” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt.
“In fact, this unhelpful policy to apply diplomatic pressure only on Israel only serves to reinforce Palestinian unwillingness to rejoin direct negotiations with Israel,” he said in a statement.
“If the EU wants to play a positive role in the Middle East peace process, it will not pressure Israel through economic sanctions, but use its influence to bring the Palestinian Authority back to the negotiating table, and end the wave of Palestinian incitement and violence,” he said.
B’nai B’rith International said the move was an anti-Israel measure that obstructed any resolution with the Palestinians.
“It also encourages and reinforces the Palestinian narrative at a dire time when anti-Semitic incitement is thriving and there have been more than 60 knife, gun and car attacks on Israeli Jews,” the group said.
“The European Union would better spend its time encouraging Palestinians to get to the negotiating table, as these guidelines only prolong the process, rather than resolve it,” B’nai B’rith said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meanwhile called the move hypocritical and said it held the Jewish state to a double standard, “dealing just with Israel and not the 200 other conflicts throughout the world.”
“The European Union decided to label Israel alone and we are unwilling to accept the fact that Europe is actually labeling the side that’s being attacked with terrorism,” he said, according to Army Radio.
The new Israeli ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, said in a press release that he was appalled by the EU move, saying it amounted to condemning the “entire Zionist enterprise as Racist [sic] and discriminatory.”
He said just as the 1975 UN resolution saying Zionism was a form of racism was repealed, “so too will this disgraceful decision be retracted.”
The new guidelines apply mainly to Israeli agricultural goods and products, such as olive oil, fruits and vegetables, eggs and poultry, as well as cosmetics, from Israeli owned businesses and farms operating in the disputed territories of the West Bank and the Golan Heights.