BDS movement forcing Brits to pay more for medicines?

Anti-Israeli activists are once again lobbying against Israeli industry. This time to the detriment of European citizens too

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"Thanks, but no thanks"
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Hadar Sela
On 31 July 2012 14:42

In the economic climate currently plaguing Europe, one would expect elected officials (and perhaps in particular, members of the Labour Party) to be among the first to support an initiative which has the potential to contribute to easing the strain both on government budgets and the purses of ordinary citizens – especially those with lower incomes. 

However, it seems that for some UK MEPs, political posturing is far more important than the well-being of their constituents.

The European Union – Israel Agreement on Conformity, Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAA) was approved by the European Council of Ministers in March 2010 and then sent on to the European Parliament for ratification. The European Parliament has delayed that process for over two years – supposedly as a reaction to the May 2010 flotilla incident in which nine Turkish political activists were killed after having attacked Israeli soldiers.

As the wheels of that process begin to turn again, anti-Israel activists are once more trying to scupper the ACAA; among them Labour Party member and Scottish MEP David Martin, who spoke against the agreement in the European Parliament, had a letter of objection published in the Guardian and wrote about the subject on his blog.

If ratified and enacted, the ACAA will mean that European pharmaceutical companies will be able to purchase Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) and medicines from Israeli companies at lower costs as the need for additional testing in Europe will in many cases be significantly reduced or even no longer exist.

That of course will bring about lower manufacturing costs for European drug companies, ultimately resulting in savings for the European governments which provide their citizens with healthcare, as well as cheaper  medications for European citizens paying for certain products out of their own pockets .

In addition, as the Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the EU move closer towards putting into place legislation that would require APIs from non-EU countries to be certified as guaranteed to conform to EU Good Manufacting Practice (GMP) standards, some of the EU's current main suppliers (for example in China) are likely to have difficulties in meeting EU standards immediately and could require significant time and investment to adjust.

In such a situation, a cheap and reliable supply of APIs which already conform to EU standards – such as those found in Israel – could be vital both for the guarantee of an uninterrupted supply of medications to European patients and the safeguarding of jobs within the European pharmaceutical industries.

None of that appears to be of any interest to the members of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which has been lobbying MEPs to vote against the ACAA.

But the PSC's lack of respect for the right of European citizens to effective and reasonably priced healthcare appears to be of no concern to quite a few British MEPs, including David Martin, with the PSC claiming that no fewer than 23 of them are against the agreement. Unsurprisingly, several of the same names have also publicly endorsed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

The objections raised by MEPs have no relevant professional basis of any kind: they are not about standards within the Israeli pharmaceutical industry.

Instead, those MEPs who do object to the ratification of the ACAA do so as a means of promoting their own anti-Israel agendas and in some cases, their attempts to harm Israel should be viewed against the backdrop of their collaboration with extremist Hamas-connected organisations.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign and its European umbrella organisation, the ECCP, have both lobbied MEPs for considerable time on the ACAA issue. Existing links between MEPs and the PSC of course make that job much easier.

Thus, the appearance of names such as Jean Lambert (Green, London) and Michael Cashman (Labour, West Midlands) on the PSC's list of MEPs intending to vote against the ACAA is hardly surprising.

Neither does it come as much of a shock to see on the list the names of MEPs such as Alyn Smith (SNP, Scotland) and Jill Evans (Plaid Cymru, Wales) who recently went on  a trip to Gaza. 

The January 2010 trip in which Smith and Evans took part was organised by the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza (ECESG) which is an umbrella organisation established in 2007 by the Muslim Brotherhood's European arm and one of the bodies behind the various flotillas – including that of May 2010.

The ECESG is connected to (and shares London offices with) the Hamas-linked Palestinian Return Centre (PRC), with ECESG founder and chair Arafat Madi Shukri also acting as operations director for the PRC.

The PRC also organises Middle East trips for UK and EU parliamentarians, such as the one to Lebanon in 2011 during which Derek Vaughan MEP (Labour, Wales) and others met with representatives of the PFLP-GC and Osama Hamdan of Hamas (both of which are designated by the EU as terrorist organisations).

The parliamentarians were accompanied by Majed al Zeer of the PRC and the above mentioned Arafat Madi Shukri – who is also the head of the Hamas-linked lobbying group named the Council for European Palestinian Relations(CEPR) which co-organised the trip.

The CEPR also organises similar trips independently and MEPs such as David Martin (Labour, Scotland) and Keith Taylor (Green, South East) have availed themselves of this lobbying group's services. In March 2011 Derek Vaughan participated in a CEPR delegation to Switzerland. As may be expected, the CEPR is also active in the campaign against the ACAA.

In his letter to the Guardian, David Martin claimed – falsely– that ratification of the ACAA would be 'especially galling' in light of supposed shortages of medications in the Gaza Strip.

The British citizens whose interests these MEPs are supposed to represent may well find the fact that, in a time of economic crisis, they will continue – if Mr Martin and his colleagues have their way - to pay unnecessarily high prices for medicines, either directly or through their taxes, no less 'galling'.

EDITOR'S NOTE: See this petition in support of ACAA and visit www.passacaa.com for more information

Hadar Sela is an Anglo-Israeli writer and blogger living in Israel

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