South Africa’s cabinet on Wednesday said it had approved the placing of Occupied Palestinian Territory labels on imported goods from Jewish settlements.
The trade minister was given the nod to issue a notice requiring that products are marked so that buyers knew their origin is not Israel, government spokesman Jimmy Manyi told a press briefing.
“This is in line with South Africa’s stance that recognizes the 1948 borders delineated by the United Nations and does not recognize occupied territories beyond these borders as being part of the state of Israel,” he said.
The plan has already met protests in South Africa and been slammed by Israel’s foreign ministry. Local Jewish leaders said Wednesday the community was outraged over what they called “discriminatory, divisive” measures.
“At bottom, they are believed to be motivated not by technical trade concerns but by political bias against the state of Israel. All attempts to discuss these concerns, however, have come to nothing,” the South African Jewish Board of Deputies said in a statement.
South Africa says its backing of Palestine stems from its own history of apartheid, oppression and rights abuses.
Deputy Foreign Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim recently expressed “concern by high profile and government institutions visits to Israel as it gives legitimacy to Israel occupation of Palestine land”.
The trade ministry in May invited public comments on the labels, saying traders must put the tags on so consumers will “not be misled”.
The decision has been described by the Institute for Security Studies as” very symbolic and not a surprise”.
“This may be the start, and a number of other countries may follow suit,” said Jakkie Cilliers, the head of the institute.
The South African decision was swiftly dismissed by the Israeli foreign ministry as “unacceptable.”
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said in a statement that the move constitutes “a blatant discrimination based on national and political distinction.”
“What is totally unacceptable is the use of tools which, by essence, discriminate and single out, fostering a general boycott,” he added.
He said Israel will summon Thursday the South African ambassador in the Jewish state.
Palmor said South Africa’s move was without precedent, adding that “this kind of discrimination has not been imposed - and rightly so - in any other case of national, territorial or ethnic conflict.”
“Such exclusion and discrimination bring to mind ideas of racist nature which the government of South Africa, more than any other, should have wholly rejected,” he added.