Dutch firm issuing not-made-in-Israel certificates

JERUSALEM — Dutch-based Philips Electronics has told the Jerusalem Post it is providing "not-made-in-Israel" documentation for purchasers who refuse to buy goods manufactured here.

"If [customers] specifically ask for negative source-of-origin documentation, we will provide it and we have done so in the past," said company spokesman Ben Geerts this week.

Cornelis Boonstra, Philips chairman and president, reportedly said last month that "it is absurd that this happened and I'll investigate the issue."

"We do not like it at all, but this is in line with Dutch government directives," said Geerts, who added the company cannot influence national policy.

However, the suggestion that the Dutch government enforces the provision of such certificates was rejected by a spokeswoman at the Economics Ministry's foreign relations department.

"They are not forbidden from giving such a document, but they are not forced to do so," she said. "There are no directives from this ministry or any other."

In 1985, the Dutch parliament approved legislation aimed at keeping tabs on which domestic companies were supplying negative source-of-origin documentation. However, from Jan. 1, 1997, the law ceased to be in force, as the Dutch opted to follow European Union regulations.

"The E.U. regulations concerning origin are well defined to ensure that documentation explains exactly what the exported goods are," Michael Ryan, the European Commission counselor in Tel Aviv, said Wednesday. "There are a whole range of other possible documents available, which individual countries can decide upon depending on the circumstances. It is up to the exporting country's authorities to do as they wish."

The Philips issue, first revealed by the Dutch Jewish newspaper Nieuw Israelietisch Weekblad, is another sign of a possible renewal of the Arab boycott of companies doing business with Israel, according to a senior Foreign Ministry source.

One example of the type of documentation in question was issued for a company office in Dubai on Nov. 11.

The notice, concerning Philips Domestic Appliances and Personal Care, confirms that certain goods shipped to Africa "are not of Israeli origin, nor do they contain materials of Israeli origin nor constitute part of German reparation goods to Israel."

It is normal practice for companies to issue source-of-origin documentation, but negative documentation is usually linked with diplomatic rather than business affairs.