Last Updated: Sun May 20, 2012 23:57 pm (KSA) 20:57 pm (GMT)

Talk on possible EU boycott of Israeli settlements stirs controversy

Jewish settler Joseph Zander, founder and co-owner of Holy Cocoa, holds the handle of a roaster containing cocoa beans at his workshop in the West Bank settlement of Pnei Hever. (Reuters)
Jewish settler Joseph Zander, founder and co-owner of Holy Cocoa, holds the handle of a roaster containing cocoa beans at his workshop in the West Bank settlement of Pnei Hever. (Reuters)

Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore’s recent statements that he may push for an EU wide boycott of products from Israeli settlements if Israel does not quickly change its settlements policy in Palestinian territories has stirred controversy.

Gilmore, whose country will take over the rotating presidency of the European Union in January 2013, also said his government may seek to have certain extremist Israeli settlers banned from the EU if they do not stop their violence in settlement areas, according to a report by the Irish Times.

He was speaking following an EU foreign ministers’ meeting that condemned the Israeli settlements as threatening to the possibility of a two-state solution.

The ministers criticized “the marked acceleration of settlement construction” following a 2010 freeze, and slammed evictions of Palestinian families and demolition of their homes in east Jerusalem. “It’s a very strong statement, particularly in relation to the illegal settlements on the West Bank, which are making the achievement of a two-state solution in the Middle East impossible,” Gilmore said.

“I think at that stage if there isn’t a change in Israeli policy in relation to settlements in particular, I think we may have to look at some additional measures,” the second-most senior officer in the government of Ireland said.

“I think we may have to look at the question of banning products from settlement areas into the EU. We have always resisted the idea of boycotts in relation to Israel. But I think a distinction has to be drawn here between Israel and the settlements.”

Joe O'Brien, of Irland’s Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), wrote in a letter to the Irish Times that Gilmore’s proposal “is a welcome development that is both measured and moral.”

Signatories of an online petition set up by a member of the public using Avaaz’s community petition tool denounced the Irish proposal and urged Gilmore and the Irish government not to seek a boycott of Israeli goods, but instead “look to build bridges between various communities in the Middle East.”

Alice Jay, Campaigns Director at Avaaz, said: “These are campaigns that are created by members of Avaaz and do not represent the views of the Avaaz community as a whole. In fact Avaaz has campaigned for a Palestinian state and strongly against illegal settlements in the West Bank and see them as one of the greatest obstacles to peace in the Middle East.”

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