In 1987, Israel became the last Western country to join global boycotts against South Africa’s apartheid regime. Twenty-five years later, in 2012, South Africa becomes the first country to introduce legislation to aid a boycott of products made in territories occupied by Israel.

South Africa’s cabinet recently introduced regulations that require consumer goods originating from illegal Israeli settlements to be labeled as originating from the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This requirement prohibits use of the ‘Made in Israel’ label on goods that are produced on usurped Palestinian land. The Jewish settlements in the West Bank produce a large variety of goods ranging from cosmetics to chemicals. All these products can no longer be disguised as Israeli products in the South African market.

As expected, the Israeli government was infuriated at this news and accused South Africa of ‘discrimination’ and complained of being ‘singled out’. Israel has engaged in a brutal and murderous occupation which is now in its 45th year, it’s understandable why it gets ‘singled out’. However, it’s unclear why it would persist in identifying settler products as ‘Made in Israel’. If it has a bona fide commitment to the two-state solution, why then insist on blurring lines between Israel and the Palestinian territories? Blurring territorial boundaries only gives credence to supporters of a one-state solution; an idea which by no means is considered kosher these days.

In addition to being sensible and moral, this move is symbolic as it comes from the birth place of apartheid. It indicates South Africa’s global commitment to dismantling policies that resemble its once oppressive and draconian laws. In accordance with international law, Canada too considers the Jewish settlements to be illegal. It thus becomes a legal and moral obligation upon Canada to ensure that it does not aid the occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people. Canada should thus introduce legislation to distinguish Israeli settlement products from those made in Israel proper.

Such regulation first simply ensures truthfulness and accuracy in advertising. Canadians have a right to know the correct origins of the products they are buying; this greatly helps socially conscious consumers buy conflict-free goods. Incorrectly labeling a product goes against marketing standards and carries with it serious penalties under Canadian law.

In addition, allowing settler products to be labeled as ‘Made in Israel’ is essentially white washing the occupation; as if it does not exist. It is our tacit approval of the wrongful annexation of Palestinian land. By introducing labeling to distinguish settlement product, we are making a strong statement that we reject the ongoing colonization and support a two-state solution to the conflict.

If Western countries like Canada do not take such measures, the settlement enterprise will continue to grow and will make the crises even more difficult to resolve. The two-state approach is already in jeopardy with over half a million settlers in the occupied territories; it is about time our government takes practical measures to discourage their continued expansion. Implementing regulations that will give consumers the ability to repress the settler economy will do just that.

Not only do we lack such a policy, Canada actually has a free trade agreement with Israel (CIFTA) which is meant to promote trade by giving preferential trade treatment and lower tariffs to Israeli goods. This includes goods which are manufactured on the illegal settlements. The first step Canada should take is to modify this agreement so that settlement products are not given this privilege.

The United Church, following numerous other organizations, recently announced a boycott of Israeli settlement products. This is yet another indicator that Canadians support an end to the occupation and are increasingly frustrated with the apathy and inaction of our government. The Harper government has stood by Israel for too long; it’s about time they take a principled approach to this conflict. They can start by introducing regulation to identify settlement products; this would be a welcomed first and a pragmatic step towards an end to the Middle Eastern conflict.

Advertisements