Montreal, October 5, 2023 — Products originating in the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT) must be properly labelled as such, argued Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) in a submission to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). CJPME submitted its opinion as part of the CFIA’s public consultation into the labelling of “food products from contested territories,” which was launched to resolve the problem of ‘Product of Israel’ labels on goods from illegal Israeli settlements. CJPME argues that any future labels must clearly indicate that such goods are from territories which are occupied, and distinguish between trade with the occupying power and the occupied population
“Canadians deserve to know if they are consuming goods sourced from Israel’s illegal settlements,” said Michael Bueckert, Vice President of CJPME. “Effective labelling is necessary so that Canadians can know how to avoid such products, which are produced under conditions that violate international law,” added Bueckert. Although the CFIA’s focus is limited to the labelling of food products, CJPME has elsewhere argued that the Canadian government must go further to prohibit trade with Israel’s settlements altogether.
CJPME’s submission affirms that goods from ‘contested territories’ should be properly labelled as such, and emphasizes two further considerations in how these territories should be described. First, CJPME argues that the CFIA must use the specific language of “occupation” to describe goods from the OPT, in order to properly convey the territory’s legal status under international law. Second, CJPME insists that the labelling of products must distinguish between the occupying power and the occupied population; for example, labels should indicate whether a product is sourced from a Palestinian area under occupation or if it is sourced from an illegal Israeli settlement. As such, CJPME recommends that the CFIA use the following labels to identify products originating in the OPT:
- Products originating in illegal Israeli settlements in the OPT should be labelled as “Israeli settlement (Occupied West Bank/East Jerusalem)”;
- All other products originating in the OPT should be labelled as “Palestine (Occupied West Bank/East Jerusalem/Gaza)” or “Palestinian Territories (Occupied West Bank/East Jerusalem/Gaza).”
The current CFIA public consultation follows several years of legal battles over the affixing of ‘Product of Israel’ labels to goods from illegal Israeli settlements in the OPT. Notably, a federal court ruled in 2019 that such labels were “false, misleading and deceptive” since Israel does not have sovereignty over these areas. Such labels also violate UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which mandates states to distinguish in their dealings between Israel and the OPT. While obscuring the origin of settlement goods as ‘Israeli,’ Canada has simultaneously concealed the word “Palestine” on the labels of imported goods, erasing their specifically Palestinian origin. CJPME hopes that the consultation process will finally resolve these issues and result in an appropriate labelling scheme for both.
CJPME notes that Israel has advanced more settlement units in the first half of 2023 than in any previous year on record, and is preparing to double the West Bank settler population to 1 million (excluding East Jerusalem). Meanwhile, Israel has undertaken steps that amount to the annexation of the West Bank. A recent report by CJPME, titled “Annexing Palestine Through Trade,” found that by failing to properly distinguish between goods from Israel, its settlements, and Palestinians in the OPT, Canadian trade policy operates as if the OPT was already formally annexed. In terms of labelling, the report argues that Canada should cease the practice of subsuming Palestinian trade under ‘Israel,’ and start properly identifying, tracking, and reporting imports from the OPT.
About CJPME – Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) is a non-profit and secular organization bringing together men and women of all backgrounds who labour to see justice and peace take root again in the Middle East. Its mission is to empower decision-makers to view all sides with fairness and to promote the equitable and sustainable development of the region.
For more information, please contact: Thomas Woodley, CJPME President: 438-380-5410 or [email protected].
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East www.cjpme.org
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