Dutch Activists Threatened with Lawsuit for Palestinian AdvocacyPublished on Wed Apr 14 2021 - modified on Thu Apr 15 2021
In February 2020, docP, a Dutch organization representing BDS Netherlands began a campaign to get the Israeli Products Centre (IPC), based in Nijkerk, The Netherlands, to correctly label products that were made in illegal Israeli settlements and to stop their import and sale in The Netherlands. In response to the campaign, the IPC threatened docP with a defamation lawsuit in order to silence their advocacy for Palestinian rights. In April 2021, the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) fined the IPC for the intentional mislabeling of settlement products, recognizing the rightful claims of docP.
As part of the campaign, docP called on individuals to submit a complaint to the NVWA to investigate the IPC for possible mislabeling of products, particularly wine and cosmetics containing Dead Sea salt. The IPC, an initiative of the Dutch Christians for Israeli foundation, which aims to encourage trade with Israel, has previously promoted the sale of mislabeled settlement products. The docP campaign highlighted that, following the 2019 Psagot judgement of the Court of Justice of the EU, products within the EU common market originating from the oPt are required to be labelled as being made in an “occupied territory” and an “Israeli settlement”. Without such labelling, products may evade import taxes as products made in the illegal Israeli settlements fall outside of preferential trade agreements concluded by the EU and Israel.
Following the campaign led by docP, the IPC was investigated by Dutch authorities who acknowledged that their labelling did not meet the legal requirements. Consequently, the IPC revised labels on the products from Israeli settlements in the oPt to state the products were “coming from an Israeli village in Judea and Samaria”. DocP continued their campaign to ensure the products were correctly labelled as originating from an Israeli settlement in occupied territory in accordance with Dutch and EU law.
The ELSC assisted in the present case after the IPC threatened to sue docP for defamation due to their campaign advocacy work, claiming that their products were correctly labelled in accordance with Dutch law. With the assistance of the ELSC, docP sent a letter to the NVWA and Fiscal Intelligence and Investigation Service (FIOD) to clarify the legal basis for the accusation of mislabeling and that the evasion of import duties was a suspicion, not a fact. In response, lawyers for the IPC stated that they were considering legal action, however, no further action was taken. In April 2021, the NVWA issued a fine of €2100 to the IPC for the intentional mislabeling of settlement products. This fine confirms the arguments put forward by docP and the ELSC as to the intentional mislabeling of products and reflects the success of this campaign as important step in ensuring consumers and tax authorities can clearly identify products originating from illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.