Note: The campaign to legitimize Israeli settlements – through U.S. legislation conflating settlements and Israel – continues. In tandem with this campaign is a steady stream of reports about U.S. policy vis-à-vis settlements and the West Bank since 1967. Many of these reports – either out of incompetence or a deliberate effort to mislead – misrepresent the facts (to say the least). In response to the latest round of factually incorrect reports, on 2/16 APN published: Setting the Record Straight (again) on U.S. Labeling Policy – which includes both analysis and links to all the relevant U.S. government original source documents.
On February 24th, Congress sent HR 644, known as the “Customs Bill,” to President Obama's desk. As we has been reporting for the past year, this bill includes a provision that, while ostensibly about countering the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS) against Israel, is in truth about legitimizing settlements and for the first time in history legislating U.S. support for and defense of Israel's settlement enterprise and the occupation that enables it. The provision achieves this by conflating Israel and the occupied territories, in effect requiring the U.S. to treat both as sovereign Israel.
As long predicted by APN, when President Obama signed HR 644 into law shortly after it reached his desk, he issued a signing statement observing (correctly) that the conflation of Israel and settlements contradicts longstanding U.S. foreign policy and violates the Executive's constitutional foreign policy prerogative, and declaring that this conflation would not be implemented.
Yesterday, Israeli media reported on a blockbuster report alleging that the Obama Administration is lying when it says U.S. policy regarding the labeling of products from West Bank settlements hasn't changed since 1995, and alleging that the policy reiterated last month in a statement issued by the U.S. Customs Service (CBP), in fact, represents a change in U.S. policy.
These allegations rest on a “smoking gun,” unearthed by the intrepid researchers at a right-wing Israeli non-governmental organization called the Legal Forum for Israel, in the form of a 1995 document issued by CBP. The Legal Forum for Israel alleges that the document proves that U.S. labeling policy since 1995, according to which exports from the West Bank cannot be labeled as made in Israel, applied only to those areas of the West Bank under Palestinian self-rule in 1995. The NGO insists that the “reminder” of the policy issued by CBP in January 2016, which stated that labeling rules apply to the entire West Bank, thus clearly represents a (stealth) shift in U.S. policy.
Is this document, in fact, a smoking gun? Not in the slightest.
Note: This week, APN issued an Action Alert opposing legislation in both the House and Senate that seeks to legitimize settlements by conflating settlements with Israel. That action alert, “Tell Congress: Pro-Settlements is NOT Pro-Israel,” is here.
"Cotton’s bill aimed at settlements policy"
This week, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) introduced S. 2474, purportedly in order to ensure “fair” treatment by the United States of Israel and Israeli products. In truth, this bill has nothing to do with Israel or products made in Israel. It is about one thing only: reversing nearly five decades of unbroken U.S. policy opposing settlements built by Israel in territories it occupied in the 1967 war.
Cotton’s bill is just the latest salvo in a broader campaign, taking place both in Washington and in state capitals, to exploit concerns about BDS (boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel), in order to legitimize settlements.
(published 2/1/16 at LobeLog)
Attention is finally focusing on a bill pending in Congress that would make it U.S. policy to defend and support Israeli settlements. Known as the Customs Bill, this legislation regulates U.S. trade relations with foreign countries and includes the pro-settlement language in a provision that, ostensibly, is about defending the state of Israel against boycotts. It is part of a broader campaign, waged in Washington and in state capitals across the country, that seeks to undermine growing grassroots support for the boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and reverse Washington’s longstanding opposition to settlements in the occupied territories.
Back in July, Congress passed a similar provision as part of the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill. The State Department responded with a statement rejecting the pro-settlements language, noting that “[e]very U.S. administration since 1967—Democrat and Republican alike—has opposed Israeli settlement activity beyond the 1967 lines.” The administration’s rejection provoked a harsh critique by one Washington Post blogger who writes on both legal issues and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The blogger, Eugene Kontorovich, testified on the BDS movement and ways to combat it before the Subcommittee on National Security of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform last July. Now, with the Customs Bill in the spotlight and likely to soon come before President Obama, the arguments presented in his critique—which apply equally to the settlements-related provision in the Customs Bill—bear close scrutiny.