Czech lawmakers reject labeling of Israeli settlement goods

Marcy Oster

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (JTA) — The lower house of the Czech Parliament has called on the government to reject European Union guidelines for the labeling of products from Israeli settlements.

In two separate votes on Thursday, Czech lawmakers approved resolutions criticizing the European Commission’s decision as politically motivated, describing it as non-binding and urging the Czech government not to abide by it.

According to the measures, released by the European Commission last month, fruit, vegetables and other products from Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the Golan Heights cannot be labeled as made in Israel. The decision has come under criticism in Israel and elsewhere, with Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu slamming it as discriminatory.

A group of 27 Czech lawmakers, headed by Robin Böhnisch of the ruling Social Democrats party, denounced the measures shortly after they were published.

“I do consider the settlements a big problem for Israel, both domestically and in terms of foreign relations,” Böhnisch told his fellow lawmakers.

“But the European Commission’s argument that the guidelines are a service for European consumers is absurd. It is obviously meant to put Israel under pressure, and at a time that requires meticulous political work rather than clumsy activism,” Böhnisch said.

Petr Papoušek, the head of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the Czech Republic, told JTA he welcomed the decision of the lower house.

“I’m glad it was passed and I would like to thank the MPs for it,”Papoušek said. “It has become obvious that labeling goods from the settlements will not help the peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Instead, it will hurt the process and will also make the situation worse for the economy in the Palestinian territory.”

The resolutions were also hailed by Czech Culture Minister Daniel Herman, who said the vote has aligned the Czech Republic with democratic countries that fully respect human rights and reject any form of discrimination.

The resolutions won backing from all parties in the house with the exception of the Communists, who argued the Czech Republic was too complacent towards Israel.

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