Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies. Picture: ARNOLD PRONTO
Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies. Picture: ARNOLD PRONTO

PRO-Palestinian lobby groups have called on the government to ban trade with "illegal" Israeli settlements, saying that by trading with the settlements, businesses and states, including South Africa, are undermining fundamental principles of international law.

The lobby groups made the call at the weekend following the announcement by the Department of Trade and Industry that it will gazette a notice regarding the labelling of goods emanating from Israeli settlement areas in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The pro-Palestinian lobby had been calling on government to issue a notice requiring all products made in "illegal" Israeli settlements to be labelled as such. However, after months of consulting with various stakeholders including lobby groups, the department settled for three categories identifying goods coming from Israeli settlement areas.

These are, "West Bank: Israeli Goods", "East Jerusalem: Israeli Goods" and "Gaza: Israeli Goods". The "Product of illegal Israeli Settlement" label pro-Palestinian lobby groups had been calling for was not included.

Lobby group Open Shuhada Street said at the weekend that "now that the South African government has acknowledged these products are not made on Israeli territory because settlements are illegal, (we) call on the government to meet its international legal obligations and ban trade with the settlements".

Open Shuhada Street secretary Jonathan Dockney said: "Assisting, abetting or in any way sustaining illegal settlements and their business enterprises falls foul of South Africa ’s laws including the Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act, the Implementation of the Rome Statute Act and the Geneva Conventions Act. We call on President Jacob Zuma and Minister Rob Davies to immediately advise all companies in South Africa conducting trade with illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank that these settlements are in violation of international law and that doing business with them maintains conflict."

Lobby group Boycott Disinvestment and Sanctions said: "We are calling on all South Africans to join us in the international boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel campaign by boycotting products such as SodaStream, Ahava and all Israeli goods sold in South Africa ."

South African Zionist Federation chairman Avrom Krengel said on Sunday the call by the pro-Palestinian lobby to ban trade with Israel "exposes their real motives for the so-called concern over labelling". He said the "irony" was Israel "relies so little" on South Africa in terms of trade. "This call is meaningless, it will not have an impact. Right now the whole world wants to invest in Israel, calling for a ban is not the way to resolve the issue."

Department of Trade and Industry spokesman Sidwell Medupi said on Sunday they would not comment until they engage with the concerned groups.