CFI’s Parliamentary Chairman Rt. Hon. Sir Eric Pickles MP has expressed his opposition to recently announced EU guidelines requiring labelling of Israeli settlement produce, in an interview with the Jerusalem Post during his visit to Israel last week.
Sir Eric emphasised the double standards of the guidelines, stating: “If you’re going to have something about disputed occupation of land, well there’s plenty of other places to look at”.
He continued: “There’s Crimea, there’s parts of the Ukraine, there’s bits of Cyprus, let’s have a degree of reciprocity…We’ve had a system of labelling in the UK of Israeli goods and other goods since 2009. During that period, the amount of trade that we’ve done with Israel has doubled”.
Underlining the Government’s opposition to boycotts, Sir Eric said: “We are totally, and utterly, opposed to a boycott. We’ll be changing our laws to ensure that public bodies cannot engage in a boycott. We’re issuing guidance to public bodies – local authorities – who are quite big investors, that they can’t use that to disinvest in Israel”.
He asserted: “People need to understand that Israel and the United Kingdom have a pretty integrated economy. One out of six of every medical prescription comes from an Israeli patent. We’re doing enormous work on the heart, on diabetes, on Alzheimer’s. It’s not just about trading on arms, it’s about the nature, and Israel is a vital and important ally in Middle East and we should hold her dear”.
Sir Eric, the Post-Holocaust Issues Envoy for the UK, also spoke of his concern about Holocaust victims and their families who are still fighting for the return of their property from Poland and other countries in Europe.
He said that Britain would be raising awareness of this issue, emphasising its importance: “As long as there are items out there that haven’t been restored to their rightful owners, then a little bit of the Holocaust holds on to individuals…It might be the signature on the flyleaf of a book, and that might be the only evidence that a grandchild has of what their grandparent’s signature actually looked like. It might be things that are immensely personal, and I think it would be – as we start to move in that period where people who had direct and personal experience of the Holocaust start to disappear – I think we need to give it a push”.
Sir Eric’s comments follow a letter sent last year by 50 British MPs to then-Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, demanding the passage of a restitution law.