Highest court in France refers landmark case on Israeli product labeling to the European Court of Justice

Press Release
June 6, 2018

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Nathan Miller or Hannah DeWit
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David Krikler
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The French Conseil d’État (Council of State) decided last week to refer to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) a landmark case brought by an Israeli winery and The Lawfare Project, a U.S.-based think tank and litigation fund that files cases against anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli discrimination around the world. The case was brought by Psâgot Winery Ltd., an Israeli wine producer and exporter, and The Lawfare Project to challenge discriminatory practices in the labeling of Israeli goods.

The case challenged an opinion published by the French Minister of Economics and Finance in November 2016. The Minister’s opinion stated that products from the Golan Heights or West Bank have to be labeled as coming from Israeli settlements ("colonies Israéliennes”) or equivalent terms.

Psâgot challenged the Minister’s opinion on several grounds, including that it represents a double standard, applying only to Israeli companies but not to companies operating in other territories with disputed borders. Furthermore, Psâgot argued, the regulations cited in the Minister’s opinion are designed to protect consumers on health and safety grounds but in this instance have been politicized.

The situation regarding the Golan Heights and West Bank is far from unique. Other examples of territorial disputes include the states of Jammu and Kashmir disputed between India and Pakistan; Western Sahara disputed between Morocco, Algeria, and Mauritania; Nagorno-Karabakh disputed by Azerbaijan and Armenia; and Northern Cyprus occupied by Turkey. Yet it is only produce from Israeli exporters that is subjected to these labeling requirements.

In its judgement dated May 30th, the Conseil d’État ruled that the case will be referred to the ECJ in a process that should last around 15 months and that will have Europe-wide implications for the labeling of Israeli products.

Brooke Goldstein, Executive Director of The Lawfare Project, said:

"The double standard applied to the labeling of Israeli products is so obvious that the Conseil d’État could easily have ruled against it. The French court has instead referred the issue to the European Court of Justice, which will now have an opportunity to end this discriminatory practice and set a European-wide precedent against politicized labeling."

François-Henri Briard, attorney before the French Supreme Courts and counsel for Psâgot, said:

"Does EU law require or even permit a Member State to designate products from disputed territories with political terms such as 'colony'? The answer will now be given by the Luxembourg Court, which will have the last word. This solution has two major advantages: firstly, the interpretation adopted will be definitive and incontestable. Secondly, the chosen solution will be uniformed and harmonized across every EU country."

About the Lawfare Project: Headquartered in New York, The Lawfare Project, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is a legal think tank and litigation fund committed to protecting the civil and human rights of Jewish communities around the world. To learn more, please visit https://www.thelawfareproject.org.