SA Trade Ministry to issue softened West Bank product labeling language

PRETORIA (JTA) — The South African Trade Ministry will issue new regulations requiring the labeling of imported goods from West Bank settlements, which will include a softening of the language used on the labels.

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The new regulations will be consistent with the compromise reached last month between the Trade Ministry and the Jewish community of South Africa, Jewish groups said Wednesday.

According to a letter received on April 9 by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, products from Israeli settlements in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem must be identified as ”West Bank: Israeli goods” or ”East Jerusalem: Israeli goods.”

Trade Minister Rob Davies issued a notice nearly one year ago, saying that products from the West Bank would be required to be labeled as originating from “the Occupied Palestinian territories.”

The notice stirred loud objections from the local Jewish community, backed by the African Christian Democratic Party, which held a first-of-its-kind demonstration in front of the Ministry of Trade building. The Israeli embassy in Pretoria conveyed its objection to the South African Foreign Ministry, qualifying the decision as ”singling out Israel.”

The decision to change this announced policy on labeling was reached after long deliberations between the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Jewish organizations and representatives of pro-Palestinian lobbies.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies and the South African Zionist Federation issued a statement Wednesday saying that ”this decision fully complies with internationally recognized technical trade requirements pertaining to place of origin. Unlike earlier proposed versions of the legislation, it does not make use of politically charged and biased language, but rather uses terms that are essentially neutral and descriptive…without the addition of politically-motivated aspects that can only cause division and alienation within the South African population. ”

Mary Kluk National chairperson of the board of deputies told JTA that the decision is ”balanced and sensible’.’

The new regulation has been approved by the South African cabinet, and a new binding notice is expected to be issued by the end of the week.

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