34 European trade union organisations representing millions of workers across Europe have written to the European Commission and European governments demanding a ban on trade with illegal Israeli settlements.
The EU considers Israeli settlements as illegal under international law, however it allows Israel to export large quantities of products produced or partly produced in illegal Israeli settlements to Europe and products from illegal settlements are widely sold by European retailers, providing direct economic support to the ongoing expansion of the settlements.
As highlighted in the recent ILO report Israeli settlement industry undermines Palestinian economy and workers’ rights. In 2013, public pressure and lobbying by Palestinian and European organisations led the EU to introduce a policy against providing funding for or allowing Israeli participation in EU projects, if such projects or participation effectively recognises Israeli sovereignty over occupied Palestinian and Syrian territory. However the EU has failed to take adequate action to meet its legal obligation to end trade with illegal Israeli settlements and to tackle the participation of European businesses in Israel’s settlement enterprise.
In his legal opinion released last week, advocate general of the European Court of Justice said that European shops ought to label Israeli settler exports so that consumers can boycott them for «ethical» reasons the same way they did South African ones under apartheid.
“This opinion highlights the fact that European governments are falling short on their obligations under international law. In order to be consistent with its own legislation the EU and all European states should go further and end all economic relations with illegal Israeli settlements” – said Koen Vanbrabandt, a chair of European Trade Union Network for Justice in Palestine that initiated the letter.
According to the signatories of the call which includes an extensive list of trade unions, including some of the largest trade unions in Europe and together representing many millions workers, the EU as a whole and all of its Member States individually have the obligation to withhold from trading with settlements as part of their duties of non-recognition and non-assistance.
The trade union movement has consistently called for a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“The fundamental values of trade union internationalism mandates us to take concrete and effective action to facilitate the implementation of UN resolutions, international legal obligations, and a just and equitable peace for all” – the signatories say.
“It is in this spirit that we send out this call to the EU policy makers and European states to take effective action to bring an end to European complicity with human rights abuses associated with illegal Israeli settlements and to introduce a ban on economic activities with illegal Israeli settlements” – the letter ends.