The European Court of Justice has ruled that Jewish products from Israeli-controlled territories must be singled out for punitive labeling if they are to be sold in European Union countries. This attack on Israel’s economy is a blow to America’s most important ally in the Middle East.
What largely has been absent from the debate about the EU decision — which penalizes Israel alone among over 100 countries involved in territorial conflicts across the world — is the apparent Nazi and neo-Nazi origins of the measure.
The EU’s top court seeks to punish the Jewish state because of its presence in the disputed territories of the West Bank, Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. Instead of encouraging direct negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel over these contested territories as part of an eventual peace deal, the EU appears to have chosen to wage economic warfare against Israel.
The ideological basis for the anti-Israel labeling penalty is clear: In 2012, Germany’s National Democratic Party (NPD) submitted a bill in the parliament of the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania to single out Israeli products. The NPD initiative called for “Palestinian and Israeli products” to be labeled and for a “clear designation of origin” to be implemented.
The following year, Germany’s powerful Green Party introduced an initiative in the Bundestag that mirrored this legislation.
Henryk M. Broder, a well-known German-Jewish journalist who has testified about modern anti-Semitism in the German parliament, wrote a column in a Swiss weekly, titled “Two Souls, One Thought,” that the NPD and Green parliamentary initiatives to demarcate Israeli products are “at their core identical.”
The EU measure targeting Israel, Broder continued, is grounded in pre-World War II Nazi ideology. The NPD and Green initiatives follow the model of the Third Reich’s boycott of Jewish businesses that began on April 1, 1933, and invoked the slogan: “Germans, defend yourselves. Do not buy from Jews!”
Economic warfare designed to destroy German Jews’ ability to support their families in the 1930s was part and parcel of the buildup to the Holocaust during WWII. The difference today, of course, is that European Jews can emigrate to Israel to escape the resurgent tide of anti-Semitism endemic in many EU member nations.
Unfortunately, there appears to be support among some German diplomats and political parties for punishing Israeli producers. To the credit of the Trump administration, the U.S. vehemently opposes the mandatory labeling of Jewish products. A U.S. official told The Washington Free Beacon: “I think we’ve been clear that we think this is consistent with the BDS movement and we think the BDS movement is antisemitic.”
Clearly, the EU labeling system could provide a huge shot to the extreme anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. In May, the Bundestag voted to classify BDS as an anti-Semitic movement. However, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government apparently has not stopped funding NGOs that support BDS activities in the Federal Republic and across the Middle East. Germany, the most influential country within the EU, could help put an end to the draconian labeling measure.
Merkel, whom the World Zionist Organization honored last month with the prestigious Theodor Herzl Award for “exceptional efforts on behalf of Israel and the Zionist cause,” can prove she deserves such accolades by telling those who oppose Israel that Germany will reject any resurrection of anti-Jewish measures that echo the genocidal Nazis, old or new.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the associate dean and director of Global Social Action for the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Follow on Twitter @simonwiesenthal.
Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @BenWeinthal.