Experts and Israeli leaders from across the political spectrum have denounced the EU’s decision to label Israeli goods originating across the Green Line, calling it discriminatory and counter-productive. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "The EU decision is hypocritical and constitutes a double standard; it singles out Israel and not the 200 other conflicts around the world.” Similarly, law professors Eugene Kontorovich and Avi Bell claimed that despite the existence of 200 territorial sovereignty disputes, many of which involve the settlement of disputed territory, the “EU has never unilaterally adopted a regulation requiring geographic labelling.” Last week, Israeli Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog stated that labeling goods from Israeli settlements “serves only one purpose – continuing the hate and regional conflict. Marking these products is an act of violence by extremists who want to further inflame the situation and the EU is falling into their trap.” A spokesman for Germany’s Social Democratic Party rebuked the decision, calling it a “mistake.”
In a conference call with The Israel Project, David Simha, president of the Israeli-Palestinian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which aims to enhance economic ties between Israelis and Palestinians, noted that the economic impact of the EU’s policy will be very small, estimating that settlement products make up only 0.1% of total Israeli exports. Like Netanyahu, Simha warned that those most directly harmed would be Palestinian workers employed by Israeli companies who could lose their jobs if business slows, negatively impacting the Palestinian economy.
Additionally, the EU’s decision could undermine efforts to reach a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. Just a few days before the EU decision, 36 Senators, led by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) wrote a letter to the EU urging it not to implement the labeling policy, cautioning that it is “unwarranted, dangerous, and damaging to the prospects of a negotiated solution to this conflict.” The Senators also wrote that they were concerned the policy “would lead to the broader boycott of Israel.” The Israeli Foreign Ministry predicted that the decision would “reinforce the PA’s refusal to conduct direct negotiations with Israel.” The American Jewish Committee declared, “Today's decision will play into the hands of those determined to demonize the Jewish state; offend mainstream Israelis who favor territorial compromise and encourage maximalist Palestinian positions.”
Ahmed Shaheed and David Kaye, respectively the UN’s Special Rapporteurs for the human rights situation in Iran and for the right to freedom of opinion and expression, called on Iran to stop intimidating journalists “as the country prepares for parliamentary elections early next year,” in a statement released Wednesday. The statement appears to have been prompted by the arrest of five journalists, including Afarine Chitsaz, Ehssan Mazandarani, Saman Safarzai, and Issa Saharkhiz, earlier this month. According the statement, Iranian media reported that the reasons for their detainment were “suspicion of taking part in an infiltration network, seeking to influence public opinion and undermine the Islamic Republic on behalf of western governments.”
Shaheed warned that the, “Increasing intimidation of journalists is hindering their ability to operate freely in the country,” and added that, “The government of Iran should not silence critical or dissenting voices under the guise of vague and unsubstantiated national security concerns.”
Kaye similarly emphasized that, “Public participation in any electoral process is virtually impossible if the media and civil society are so frequently affected by arrests and prosecution,” and noted that UN experts had raised similar concerns before the 2013 elections in Iran. He also called on the Iranian regime to guarantee “a greater space for free exchange of ideas in the run-up to elections.”
Iran’s crackdown on journalists is the continuation of an aggressive campaign to limit civil liberties and dissent by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), whose influence is only expected to grow a result of the nuclear agreement signed between the regime and the P5+1 nations in July. (via TheTower.org)