James Crawford: The EU May Ban Imports from the West Bank
The Independent has the story:
European governments, including Britain’s, have received legal opinion from a leading international counsel who argues they would be fully within their rights to ban trade with Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The formal opinion from James Crawford, professor of international law at Cambridge University, is likely to inject fresh momentum into campaigns in the United Kingdom and elsewhere for a ban, at a time when some EU member states are examining ways of hardening their position on the imports of settlement produce.
Israeli settlements in the West Bank are considered illegal under international law, a position upheld by all EU member states.
In particular the opinion will be seen as challenging received wisdom in official circles that for a state such as Britain to ban imports of settlement produce, or prohibit banks from financing settlement activity, would contravene European or global trade law. Professor Crawford says in his 60-page opinion, shown to senior officials of EU member states in the past few months and seen by The Independent, that “there do not appear to be any EC laws which could be breached by a member state taking the decision to ban the import of settlement produce on public policy grounds.”
He argues that member states wishing to block the import of produce from settlements could “have recourse” to the EU’s Association Agreement with Israel, which stipulates that the agreement “shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles.” He argues that, by executing such a ban on trade with settlements, the EU would not be in breach of its World Trade Organisation obligations since, “as a matter of international law, the West Bank and Gaza cannot be considered to be Israel’s territory”.
Crawford’s conclusions will no doubt infuriate Israel, which recently described South Africa’s ban on imports from the West Bank labeled “Made in Israel” as having “characteristics of racism.” If Israel believes that requiring it to accurately label settlement products is racist — which, of course, it’s not — I hate to imagine what language it would use to describe a complete ban on settlement products, even those that are accurately labeled.
Crawford’s report can be downloaded here. I was particularly struck by its final paragraph, in which Crawford says the following:
Unfortunately, the present reality of the political situation in Palestine is such that it is unlikely that any adverse legal ramifications will result from States or private entities continuing to engage with the unlawful settlements. As noted by the [ICJ] in its Namibia judgment: “the qualification of a situation as illegal does not by itself put an end to it. It can only be the first, necessary step in an endeavor to bring the illegal situation to an end.” Regrettably, the political will does not seem to exist at present to enforce principles of international law in respect of the settlements.
Wise words. And strong ones — especially coming from a renowned international law scholar who is anything but a radical leftist.