JERUSALEM, Israel – The US State Department announced Thursday that it will now allow all products from Israeli settlement communities to have the label “Made in Israel,” representing a major change in US policy.
Most Israeli settlement communities are located in the West Bank – biblical Judea and Samaria. The international community considers this land, which Israel captured during the 1967 war, to be disputed territory whose status should ultimately be determined through a negotiated agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. Most of the international community, therefore, considers Israeli settlements a violation of international law. The European Union prohibits member states from labeling products that come from these territories.
The State Department’s announcement came shortly after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo became the first top US diplomat to visit an Israeli West Bank settlement community. The department said the change in its labeling policy is “consistent with our reality-based foreign policy approach.”
Pompeo also announced that the US had determined the Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel as anti-Semitic and would ban any groups who participate in it from federal funding.
“We will regard the global, anti-Israel BDS campaign as anti-Semitic,” Pompeo said.
“We will immediately take steps to identify organizations that engage in hateful BDS conduct and withdraw US government support for such groups," he said.
The BDS movement released a statement in response, challenging the US decision to brand it as anti-Semitic.
“The BDS movement for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality, stands with all those struggling for a more dignified, just and beautiful world," it said. "With our many partners, we shall resist these McCarthyite attempts to intimidate and bully Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights defenders into accepting Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism as fate.”
Israel views the BDS movement as a threat to its very existence. The movement has received limited success throughout the years and it is unclear which organizations will be affected by Pompeo’s announcement.
Speaking at a press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Pompeo lauded the “unprecedented heights” the Israeli-US alliance has reached during President Donald Trump’s time in office.
Netanyahu thanked the Trump administration for moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, changing the US position on settlements, and putting immense pressure on Israel’s arch-enemy: Iran.