Monday, 30 June 2008

UK supermarkets sell illegal Israeli settler products under misleading labels

Press Release

Palestinian General Delegation to the UK

London, 30 June 2008: The Palestinian General Delegation to the UK has been pursuing the issue of illegal Israeli settlements’ products being exported to the UK (branded as the produce of the West Bank).

A number of British organizations and activities brought to our attention that Tesco, Sainsbury and Waitrose sell products described as the produce of the West Bank. Upon investigating the matter, we found no evidence that these are Palestinian products.

In December 2007, we wrote to the three stores to seek clarifications (please find a copy of the letter below*). As of today, we have not received a satisfactory answer. We therefore would like to bring this issue to the public and call upon our friend and supporters to take note of this issue and help us by writing to the three stores and by ensuring that Israel does not profit from its illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

The Israeli military occupation spares no efforts or time to forcibly and illegally confiscate Palestinian privately and publicly owned land as evident by the numerous UN and international bodies’ reports. Whilst encouraging, protecting and providing economic incentives for illegal settlers in the occupied territory to steal and farm Palestinian land, the Israeli authorities have been applying unjust policies aiming at strangulating Palestinian economic activities, particularly the agricultural sector. Among other policies, the confiscation of land; the building of the Wall; creeping annexation and expansion of settlements; construction of hundreds of bypass roads for Israeli settlers only; denying access to natural resources, particularly water; movement restrictions; and siege – all these meant that the Palestinian economy is near collapse and the Palestinian people are being imprisoned in an ever shrinking bantustans.

We commend our many British friends who are standing firm in defending the laws of the UK that safeguard the right of British consumers to accurate information and in upholding international law. The growing number of forces that are siding with justice, freedom and dignity for the Palestinian people and fighting all attempts to profit from occupation give us greater hope for a better future for our people and for the human family.


*Subject: Herbs showing the origin “West Bank”

Date: 05.12.2007

Dear Sir/Madam,

It has come to my attention that herbs showing the origin “West Bank”are now being sold in your stores. This, I understand, will cover all produce coming from the cccupied Palestinian territory, regardless of whether this produce comes from Palestinian farms or Israeli illegal settlements.

This is an extremely disturbing practice, and it is very misleading for the following reasons:

The vast majority, and in fact very probably all produce that comes from the West Bank, comes from illegal Israeli settlements. Very little, if any, produce that comes from Palestinian farms makes it to supermarket shelves in the UK.

The West Bank has become synonymous with Palestine in the public mind. Consumers buying these products believe that they are supporting the Palestinian economy, while in fact they are supporting the economy of the occupier.

The settlements are illegal under international law. The Geneva Convention states that the transfer of a civilian population into occupied territory is a war crime, to be ancillary (complicit) in this crime is also a crime in English law under the terms of the International Criminal Court Act 2001. The settlements are built on stolen land and are irrigated by water stolen from the Palestinians. It is no secret that they are projects that exploit the Palestinians and employ child labour.

Tesco must not sell these products and thus be party to this unethical and illegal operation. If you feel you want to continue selling illegal settlement products despite all of the above, then they must be labelled in a way that clearly shows their origin and sets them apart from Palestinian produce, so that consumers can make ethical choices.

We are also aware that most settlement products, the dates from the Jordan Valley for example, show Israel as country of origin. This is also misleading as the Jordan Valley is occupied territory and not part of Israel. Profiting from military occupation, we believe, is the most
unethical act and must be stopped immediately.

We would highly appreciate your clarifications for this matter that we deem of utmost importance to the national interest of the Palestinian people and to the vast majority of the British people who wholeheartedly support our quest to end one of the longest foreign military occupation in the history of mankind.

Thank you in advance for your kind considerations

Yours sincerely,

Ambassador Manuel Hassassian

Head of Mission, Palestinian General Delegation to the UK

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