WASHINGTON – Several leading progressive U.S. Jewish organizations urged Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to revoke the Trump administration’s policy that determined exports to the U.S. from Israeli settlements must be labeled as “product of Israel” or similar phrasing.
The letter – co-signed by Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, J Street, New Israel Fund, Partners for Progressive Israel, and T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights – calls the move, spearheaded by former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, “inconsistent with current U.S. policy on the status of the occupied territories, requires inaccurate and misleading labelling on the origin of products, and is harmful to essential interests of Israelis and Palestinians alike.”
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Settlement-produced products were prohibited from being marked with Israel as the country of origin since the signing of the Oslo Accords in the mid-1990s, as it was considered misleading for consumers. The change in U.S. policy, however, effectively erases the distinction between goods produced by Israelis on either side of the Green Line.
The groups behind the letter note that the new policy, which was enacted in the final weeks of the Trump administration following Biden’s electoral victory, “runs counter to the Biden administration’s policy of opposing settlement activity and unilateral annexation of territory as harmful to the prospects for the peaceful, just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
The letter was addressed to the Department of Homeland Security rather than the State Department since ultimate jurisdiction for the ruling’s enforcement lies with Customs and Border Protection, which falls under DHS’s purview. While other departments will help make an eventual determination, the matter is Homeland Security practically speaking. The Biden administration has not yet commented on whether this policy has been implemented, though it has until March 23 to implement per the Federal Register Notice, which issued the new policy.
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During the same visit where Pompeo declared the new policy, in December, he also announced the decision to regard as antisemitic organizations that support the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. State Department officials have since told Haaretz that this policy was no longer being pursued, citing U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s comments during his confirmation hearing where he said the administration opposes BDS while respecting Americans’ First Amendment rights.