European Court of Justice Champions Palestine

European Court of Justice Champions Palestine

By His Excellency Mr. Salim Zaanoun, Speaker of the Palestine National Council (PNC) In the context of realizing achievements for the Palestinian efforts that aim at isolating, proscribing and incriminating Israeli settlement activities, considered illegitimate for violating international law, the European Court of Justice took a step that may be considered genuinely historical.

On 12 November, 2019 the Court endorsed the recommendation presented by the prosecutor General at the Court last June stating that not putting labels on products of the settlements is apt to mislead European consumers, which is contrary to the directive of the European Commission, considered as a non –binding recommendation.

The Court’s ruling was a review of a contested decision which was issued by the French Ministry of the Economy in November 2016, which obligates Israel to put different labels on the products of the Palestinian territories. The French ministry took this decision as an application of a European legislation adopted in 2011 which stipulates that consumers must be informed about food stuffs. In 2015, the European Commission issued an Explanatory Note about mentioning the origin of the commodities coming from the Palestinian territories since June 1967, and ratifying the application of the controversial decision on stating the origin of commodities.

A wine factory in Bessghot settlement, established on Palestinian territories in the town of Al-Beira, in middle of the West Bank, appealed to the Administrative Court in France against putting labels on products coming from the settlements claiming that such a decision is contrary to the French Constitution. However, the Court rejected the appeal and decided that labels ought to be put on those products. Then the Israeli factory made an appeal to the European High Court, and the latter rejected it. In a press statement, the Court, being the highest judicial authority in the European Union, stated that “food materials coming from the occupied territories by way of the State of Israel, must carry a reference to the place of origin, together with reference to the source, if those materials were coming from an Israeli settlement inside this place.”

Fifteen judges wrote that it is necessary to put labels on commodities produced in the Israeli settlements so as to “preclude misleading consumers on the fact that the State of Israel is present in the concerned areas as an occupation force and not as a sovereign entity.” The Court stated further that the Israeli settlements reflect the fact that the policy of moving citizens which this State practices outside its lands, is in contravention of the general International Humanitarian Law.” The Court stated also that the label which refers only that the “product has been manufactured in the “West Bank” is not sufficient because consumers will not know that the product which they purchase is manufactured in a local community established in contravention of the rule of the International humanitarian law.” The Court stated further that according to the European Union’s laws of 2011 on placing labels on food materials, the source of materials must be made clear so that consumers are able to choose on the basis of “moral considerations, considerations that relate to commitment to international law.” The Court stated that the label says products are from the “State of Israel”, whereas in fact they are from “lands occupied by Israel… as a force of occupation as defined by the International Humanitarian Law.”

Points of Strength in the Decision of the European Court of Justice :

Perhaps the ruling of the Court may be considered an international legal stance, par excellence. In 2010 the European Court of Justice looked into another case, called (Breta Case). It concerns the entry of settlement products into Germany. But the Court offered an opinion on the case but did not issue a ruling. The legal opinion of the Court does not carry the same legal value of the recent ruling. The latter has set up legal rules for the behavior of the states of the European Union through formulating new important legal principles and rules. The importance of this decision comes from the fact that: it is first decision to be made by a high judicial European authority, concerning several aspects of Zionist settlement.

-It established not only European jurisprudence but a new world jurisprudence which is difficult to recant. It reaffirmed the legal status of occupied territories, and that the competence of the agreement of Israel – EU partnership does not apply to the West Bank and Al-Quds, and that Israel does not have any sovereignty on these lands even if international law has given some authority in the security field.

-Comprehensiveness of the application of the decision on Israel’s products in the regions of Al-Quds will consolidate their description as part of the occupied territories. This gives us the ability to challenge any country’s decisions. It will make it easy for us to face the risk of departure of some EU States from European unanimity, through carrying out political and diplomatic steps which may underline the legal status of Al-Quds as part of the occupied territories.

- The decision addressed the products coming from Palestine and not from Palestinian territories or lands of the national authorities, which means a legal recognition of the State of Palestine by the highest European court, and lays the ground for the recognition of the EU States of the State of Palestine which is under Israel occupation.

-The decision addressed in length the colonialist settlement, maintaining that it is not permissible for Israel, the occupying power, to move inhabitants from and to the occupied territories. It mentioned a very important expression that settlement has led to the “establishment of gatherings of residents of foreign origins in the occupied territories in clear violation of the international law,” and that the presence of Israel does not change the legal status of the occupied territories despite illegal annexations and settlement, and that the Palestinian people have the right to self –determination on these lands, and that the European Union must act to ensure application of the international law and the principles of the UN Charter as regards occupied territories, and that the decision to label the products expresses a moral commitment towards the European consumer, as well as, towards commitment to the rules and provisions of the international law.

- The decision lays the foundation for imposing a blockade on Israel at the level of international law, as well as making some achievements through pursuing all institutions working in settlements and inhabitants of settlements with European nationalities as well as Israeli officials.

Future effects of the decision

The decision constitutes a victory for international legitimacy and a painful blow to the policy of colonial settlement practiced by Israel through stealing Palestinian lands, and exploiting natural resources in favor of settlers.

Benefiting from this legal precedent to invite other states outside the European Union to place labels on the products of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.

The decision of the European court allows DBS activists to submit petitions to local courts in different states, which will not be forced to deliberate on the matter because of the existence of the decision of the European Court of Justice.

The European judicial decision is a step toward totally preventing entry of settlement products in European and world markets, and imposing an economic blockade on the occupying power just like blockading the racial segregation regime which led to the downfall of Apartheid in the Republic of South Africa.

Decision of the Court is binding to all (28) EU states, and constitutes a legal precedent allowing taking similar steps in other states outside the European Union, if this precedent is exploited, especially by activists of Boycott Israel Movement.

The decision allows all EU member States to label settlement products which cannot be contested because it was issued by the highest European judicial authority, and will put an end to the prevarication of governments of member states, and evasion of applying EU decisions on the rules of origin. It may be noted that a study prepared by the Brussel-based independent European Middles East Project has concluded that the EU has failed in implementing its decision of 2015 on putting the correct label on the products of settlements. The study found that only 10% of the products in the EU has the correct or semi correct label concerning their origin as required by European laws.

The ruling provided horizons for widening its jurisdiction on sensitive sectors, such as individuals, ie. settlers, educational and health institutions, banks and companies which are implicated, directly or indirectly, in settlement activities, through linking the legal reason of the ruling with the decision of the European Court of Justice of 2010 concerning the geographical competence of the partnership agreement between the EU and Israel.

Pompeo Announcement Unmasks the US- Zionist Partnership 

In an attempt to forestall the decision of the European High Court, Israel sent “warning messages” to European states threatening of “damage” that may happen to bilateral relations with Israel if those states implemented the possible court decision. The messages state “States which will label products of settlements will cause strong damage to relations with Israel.” A secret document issued by the Israeli Foreign Ministry to the EU before the decision, states “The possible ruling could have an effect on Israel’s relations with the EU, and encourage the boycott of Israel.” The Israeli Foreign Ministry issued prior to the decision a cable of secret directives to all the Israeli ambassadors to the EU Member States which stipulates, “Ruling of the Court concerning products of settlements might have dire large- scale consequences on exporting Israeli products to Europe.” The cable requested the ambassadors to approach the highest political levels in the countries of their accreditation, upon issuing of the possible ruling and, “to explain the negative consequences which might result from implementing the court’s decision and its impacts on relations with Israel.”

Following issuing of the decision / ruling, the US secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, announced, on the evening of 18 November, revocation of the legal opinion of the US State Department concerning Israeli Settlements in the occupied West Bank of 1978, which provides that settlements in the occupied territories “do not conform with the international law”, and that the US opposes the positions of previous US Administrations on establishing Israeli settlements, and now considers that the establishment of Israeli settlements in the West Bank does not contradict international law. This foolish announcement is made by full instigation from the settler US ambassador to abolish the pertinent decision/ position which was written by the legal advisor of the Sates Department Herbert Hansel in 1987, which stipulates that “establishing Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands contradicts international law according to Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which stipulates that it is not permissible to any occupying power to repatriate or partially move part of the civilian inhabitants to territories under its occupation.

Members of the US Congress have sensed the gravity of the step resulting from this announcement which damages American interests and position in the world arena as well as threatens the principles and rules of international security and peace, especially the inadmissibility of acquiring other people’s lands by force and aggression, and makes America a renegade state in the system of international relations. These members collected signatures inside Congress demanding the Secretary of State to retract his statement. More than 135 members put their signatures in this regard. All states of the world have condemned that announcement which exposes the real Zionist – US partnership in the aggression against the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. It is worth mentioning that 13 prominent Israelis, including past ambassadors, politicians and academics have requested Europe to impose an embargo on importation of commodities produced in settlements built in the occupied Palestinian territories. The signatures of the latter, sent on 15 November to the Chamber of European Justice, expressed commendation of the decision of the European Court of Justice.

Urgent Steps:

The above shows the historical nature and importance of the decision made by the European Court of Justice which will result in many consequences and dimensions, and rectify previous European positions bringing them back to the path of international law and provisions of international legitimacy. The urgency of investing this court ruling by being adopted in the strategy of diplomatic action and Palestinian rights, and take action for:

-Calling on the High Commissioner For Human Rights Mrs. Michelle Bachelet, to be committed to her competence according to the resolution 31/36, and issue a long- awaited date base on the companies involved in the work of occupation.

- Inviting EU States to implement the resolutions of their respective parliaments and the ruling of the European Court of Justice, by recognizing the Israeli- occupied States of Palestine.

-Demanding the EU States and Russia to revoke the citizenship of the settlers.

-Urging the international community to hold Israel and the US administration accountable for their systematic violations of the International Humanitarian Law, and the UN resolutions, including Security Council Resolution No. 2334 as a sine qua non for preserving the peace process that leads to ending occupation, and establishing the independent, sovereign Palestinian State, in the shade of a durable and just peace in the region, according to the principles and rules of international law and successive resolutions of the legitimacy on the Palestinian cause.

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