U.S. Customs Issues 'Reminder,' Says West Bank Products Cannot Be Marked as 'Made in Israel'

Statement follows efforts by pro-Palestinian groups to raise awareness to 1995 legislation, which was meant to aid Palestinian economy after Oslo Accords.

An Israeli settler prepares olive oil containers at the Achia Olive press factory in the Jewish settlement of Shilo, West Bank, November 12, 2015.
An Israeli settler prepares olive oil containers at the Achia Olive press factory in the Jewish settlement of Shilo, West Bank, November 12, 2015. AFP

U.S. Customs recently released a statement reminding American importers that goods produced in the West Bank must be labeled as such, and not as products of Israel. 

"…goods produced in the West Bank or Gaza Strip shall be marked as originating from 'West Bank,' 'Gaza,' 'Gaza Strip,' 'West Bank/Gaza,' 'West Bank/Gaza Strip,' 'West Bank and Gaza,' or 'West Bank and Gaza Strip.'," the statement said, adding that "it is not acceptable" to mark such goods with the words "Israel," "Made in Israel," "Occupied Territories-Israel," or any variations thereof.

The statement was released on January 23, and was a reminder of an existing regulation dating back from 1995, which states that failure to mark such products "shall result in the levy of a duty of 10 percent of the product’s value," the Forward reported.

U.S. Customs statement on marking West Bank products.
U.S. Customs website

However, the law is barely enforced, if at all, said the Forward. 

According to The Forward, the reminder could be a result of recent interest in the 1995 regulation expressed by a major human rights report, several advocacy organizations and the press. It is not clear, however, if it will be followed by stricter enforcement of the rule.

According to the Forward, contrary to the European Union action to label products from the settlements, the 1995 legislation was meant to aid the fledgling Palestinian economy in the wake of the Oslo Accords. 

Several pro-Palestinian organizations have recently been making efforts to have the regulation enforced, including The U.S. Campaign to End Israeli Occupation and CODEPINK, which runs a campaign targeting the Israeli cosmetics company Ahava Dead Sea.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) told the Forward it doesn't object to the 1995 legislation. According to the group, the policy doesn't stigmatize Israeli products, contrary to the EU labeling initiative, but facilitates duty free access to the U.S. market for Palestinian goods.  

The EU adopted legislation in November that requires the labeling of all goods outside of Israel's 1967 borders as coming from the West Bank, Gaza or the Golan Heights. In addition, products made by Israelis in West Bank settlements will be labeled as such under the legislation.

Earlier in January, Europe's foreign ministers also concluded in a resolution that "All agreements between the European Union and Israel must “unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967."

Israel launched a diplomatic front in opposition to the resolution, diplomats emerged with a small victory only, softening the language of the final draft.