France Should Be Ashamed of Labeling Products Made by Jews

December 2, 2016 | Michael Oren
About the author: Michael Oren, formerly Israel’s ambassador to the United States, a member of the Knesset, and a deputy minister for diplomacy, is the author of the forthcoming Swann’s War.

Paris has now announced that it will begin implementing the European Union’s 2015 regulations requiring that goods produced by Jewish businesses in the Golan Heights, the West Bank, and east Jerusalem be labeled as such. It is the first European government to do so. Michael Oren comments:

Though intended to punish Israel, France’s labeling decision seriously harms the many thousands of Palestinian and Golan Druze who work in Israeli companies. The move also rewards the Palestinian Authority for refusing to negotiate directly with Israel for almost eight years and for seeking unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state without giving Israel peace. . . .

For Israelis, as well as many Jews worldwide, France’s labeling decision cannot be viewed in isolation from French history. From the Dreyfus trial at the end of the 19th century, to Vichy’s anti-Jewish laws 50 years later, France has much to atone for in its relations with Jews. . . . Does the France that once mandated the registration of Jewish businesses and made Jews wear the yellow star now intend to mark Jewish-made goods?

As a sovereign state, France of course has the right to express its opposition to another state’s policies. But as an ally of Israel that wishes to advance, rather than impede, the peace process, and to disassociate itself from former atrocities, France must find other means than labeling Israeli products. Such actions may appeal to a sense of self-righteousness or satisfy certain parts of public opinion, but they will only prevent France from playing any serious role in Israel-Palestinian diplomacy. . . .

Israelis should not boycott French products, but we should certainly think twice before buying them. Or perhaps we should just label them with a sticker stating: “Made in a country that singles out Jewish goods”?

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