A bipartisan team of lawmakers accused the European Union on Thursday of discriminating against Jewish-made goods by upholding a law that mandates Israeli products made in contested areas of the Jewish state carry consumer warning labels.
Reps. Lee Zeldin (R., N.Y.) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.) wrote to E.U. leader Federica Mogherini to express their concern over a decision by the E.U. Court of Justice to require that Jewish goods carry labels identifying them as having originated in "Israeli settlements" and "colonies."
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The E.U. decision sent shockwaves through the U.S. pro-Israel community, which roundly condemned the decision as reminiscent of Nazi-era boycotts, and prompted the Trump administration to launch an effort combating the mandate, the Washington Free Beacon reported Wednesday.
Congress also will be taking the fight to the E.U., according to the letter sent by Zeldin and Wasserman Schultz, two of the leading pro-Israel lawmakers in Congress.
The E.U.'s ruling was issued this week after an Israeli winery challenged a French mandate requiring the consumer warning labels be applied to Jewish products. The E.U. upheld the French law, drawing praise from supporters of the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, or BDS, which seeks to wage economic warfare on Israel.
"We write to condemn the recent ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union (‘CJEU') on whether a French interpretation of EU Food Labelling Regulation No. 1169/2011 is consistent with EU law," Zeldin and Wasserman Schultz wrote to Mogherini. "The CJEU's ruling will require EU states to identify products imported from those disputed territories the EU identifies as ‘occupied by Israel since 1967,' and as well those that originate in Israeli settlements by indicating their origin on the label."
The lawmakers describe the decision as discriminatory against Jews because it will only be applied to their products, not those made by Palestinians living in the same areas.
"This mandate to all EU member states will apply only to products from Israel and associated disputed territories, and thereby discriminate against Israel and against specific Israeli businesses," the lawmakers wrote. "This ruling empowers those who may wish to discriminate based upon ethnicity, religion, and nationality."
The E.U. court's ruling follows 2011 laws passed in Europe requiring that food products be labeled according to "health, economic, environmental, social and ethical considerations."
Wasserman Schultz and Zeldin—as well as legal experts and senior officials in the Trump administration—warned that such designations will open a "Pandora's box" of economic politicization. Activists will be empowered to argue that products made in any disputed territory or politically sensitive area should be required to carry similar warning labels, administration officials say.
"We fear that by affirming the use of food/product labels for ‘ethical,' foreign policy and international law, and a seemingly-unlimited set of other considerations, entirely unrelated to food safety and consumer protection, the EU has opened the door to the politicization of product labeling, which was never intended to be used for political purposes," the lawmakers wrote.
"In practice, the judgment of the CJEU opens a Pandora's box of legal labelling requirements and administrative burdens for Member States and the Commission," the letter states. "The judgment could also negatively impact products that come from any territory around the world that is subject to disputes under international law."
The ruling also is likely to trigger several U.S. anti-boycott laws and jeopardize some $3 trillion in trade between the E.U. and America.
"We believe that the EU requirement also will create new trade barriers, and may cause tensions between the EU and its trading partners, including the United States. In particular, the EU settlement's food labeling requirement, which is unrelated to food safety, quality or health risks to consumers, may be inconsistent with the EU's [World Trade Organization] commitments, including its obligations under the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) agreement," the lawmakers wrote.
The decision could further galvanize BDS activists who view it as their mission to delegitimize Israel on the international stage.
"In these regards, we are also highly concerned that this CJEU decision, which empowers the EU to require its member states to label Israeli and Palestinian products in the manner proposed, will facilitate Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) tactics and de facto boycotts and discrimination against Israel, and its products, contrary to existing EU policies and laws against BDS campaigns, Israel boycotts and discrimination," the lawmakers wrote.
The Free Beacon first reported on Wednesday following the E.U. ruling that the Trump administration is gearing up to combat the decision.
"This is BDS, plain and simple," a senior administration official told the Free Beacon. "The administration strongly opposes the decision. It will not have the intended effect. These efforts have never brought peace, only more divisions."
State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus issued a similar statement.
"The circumstances surrounding the labeling requirement in the specific facts presented to the Court are suggestive of anti-Israel bias," Ortagus said. "This requirement serves only to encourage, facilitate, and promote boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel."