BERLIN – Germany opposes the “unwise” European Commission decision to label products from the West Bank, Golan and Jerusalem, Bundestag President Prof. Norbert Lammert said Wednesday.
Lammert initially avoided the topic of labeling at a joint press conference in the Bundestag with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, speaking about planned joint meetings between the two parliaments, but Edelstein brought it up in his statement.
“We had a very interesting discussion on the product labeling decision that Germany opposed in the first place, but the EU still adopted,” Edelstein said. “In our conversation, the question of whether [the decision] was motivated by anti-Semitism or not came up, and we disagreed, and we also did not quite agree on whether [labeling] will have destructive results or somehow bring some good.”
“Maybe now the president and members of the Bundestag will understand Israeli sensitivity to the issue,” the Speaker added.
Lammert said the labeling decision is “unnecessary and unwise, but it doesn’t come from anti-Semitism. We have to understand the situation in the occupied territories is complicated, because of international law.”
According to Lammert, “Germany not only didn’t agree to the decision, it rejected it.”
When asked whether the fact that the EU did not call to label products from places like Tibet or Crimea or the Western Sahara is an indication of anti-Semitism, Lammert said he can “understand Israel’s anger.”
“Germany can imagine a better law, if it were to apply to everyone, on principle, to all occupied land,” he added. “Because it’s specifically against Israel, I repeat that it is unnecessary and not very smart.”
Lammert also pointed to the pressure on renowned Berlin department store KaDeWe after it removed unlabeled Golan wines from its shelves, a decision it reversed, and said that he is certain it will deter other businesses from removing products.
MP Elisabeth Motschmann (CDU), a member of the Bundestag Foreign Affairs Committees, also discussed labeling in a briefing with Israeli journalists accompanying Edelstein in Berlin.
“Germany has a special responsibility towards Israel, but there are critical positions towards settlements,” she explained.
Still, Motschmann said labeling is “not my policy,” and she would buy products without looking at where they are from.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier “doesn’t want” labeling, she added.
The EU delegation to Israel responded to the comments that “the Commission expects all member states to comply with EU legislation.”
The directive regarding labeling states that enforcement is the member states’ responsibility, and that the choice of penalty is left to their discretion, as long as they are “effective, proportionate and dissuasive,” and that infringement proceedings may be held if the decision is not enforced.
German-Israel Association President Helmut Konigshaus, a former MP, said his organization is working to pressure the German government to demand that the labeling directive be canceled.
Koninghaus described recent efforts by BDS activists in Bremen, Germany, who impersonated EU inspectors and entered supermarkets, demanding all Israeli products be removed from shelves if they are not specially labeled as settlement products.
“This is very similar to what we saw in the past, people saying not to buy from Jews. The only difference is they wore white and not brown,” he said.
Koninghaus said canceling the labeling directive is the only way to solve the problem because Germany always implements European regulations.