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A Tag and a Price

Binyamin Rose

New European Union labeling guidelines mean that Israel may face economic isolation and boycott threats like no other nation with “disputed territories.” The Europeans call it a technicality. Others call it unprecedented political pressure. Who will pay the price?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The new European Union labeling requirement that brands Israeli products originating in “occupied territories” with the Mark of Cain may only affect a tiny fraction of the Jewish state’s exports, but that is no consolation whatsoever to Chanan Pasternak. For most of his 40 years as a farmer,Pasternak exported 80 percent of his peppers, dates, grapes, and eggplants to Europe from his farmland on Moshav Netiv Hagedud, about 12 miles north of Jericho. He is a pioneer in the Jordan Valley, where farmers labored to convert the salty, chemical-rich earth of this region just north of the Dead Sea into a fertile crescent. Annual agricultural exports now total NIS 700 million, or about $180 million. It’s been a challenging year forPasternak, who is still reeling from two major blows. Terrorists killed his business partner, Avi Ben Zion, when they ambushed him at a junction in Samaria, stole his car, and ran him over with it. Then, flooding wiped out 50 percent of his main crop, green peppers. The latest blow is the ill wind emanating from the EU’s labeling requirement, which might force a portion of his crops to rot on the vine unless he can find new markets fast. His only remaining customer is Russia, where demand is currently weak. Standing tall amid the rows of green peppers as big as a man’s two fists, his mood was clearly somber. “I can’t change professions at my age,”Pasternak says. “But if I have to shut my operation, I’ll still survive financially.” Yet he can’t say the same for the 100 Palestinian workers he employs, some of whom cried at the grave of his martyred partner afterBenZion was buried. “Most of them have no other employment option. They’re the ones who are going to starve.”

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