GOP bill would keep settlement products labeled ‘Made in Israel’

Tenney argued that returning to the pre-Pompeo policy would empower those who seek to boycott the Jewish state.

View of the Jewish settlement of Eli, in the West Bank on January 17, 2021. (photo credit: SRAYA DIAMANT/FLASH90)
View of the Jewish settlement of Eli, in the West Bank on January 17, 2021.
(photo credit: SRAYA DIAMANT/FLASH90)

New legislation by Republicans in the US House of Representatives seeks to reinforce the Trump-era instruction to label products of Judea and Samaria “Made in Israel.”

Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-New York), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was set to introduce what she called the Anti-BDS Labeling Act on Thursday, meant to stop the Biden administration from reversing the instruction from former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo in the final months of the Trump administration.

 Rep. Claudia Tenney speaks when U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on The Biden Administration's Priorities for US Foreign Policy on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, US, March 10, 2021. (credit: KEN CEDENO/POOL VIA REUTERS) Rep. Claudia Tenney speaks when U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on The Biden Administration's Priorities for US Foreign Policy on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, US, March 10, 2021. (credit: KEN CEDENO/POOL VIA REUTERS)

Pompeo’s November 2020 decision reversed a guideline from the Clinton administration in 1995 that settlement goods must be labeled “Made in the West Bank.” That was not enforced until 2016, when the Obama administration republished those guidelines, warning that violators could incur fines.

US law states that every article of foreign origin imported into the US must be marked with its country of origin unless an exception is provided by law. Though decisions about settlement labeling have been made by the executive branch in recent decades, Congress has the authority to pass laws regarding foreign commerce.

Tenney argued that returning to the pre-Pompeo policy would empower those who seek to boycott Israel. Labeling Israeli products from Judea and Samaria differently from other products makes it easier to seek them out for boycott.

“The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement is fueling antisemitism in the United States and around the world,” she stated. “The United States must remain steadfast in our support for Israel, which is why I introduced this bill. My legislation defends the integrity of the Jewish state and prohibits the Biden administration from targeting specific goods made in Israel by banning ‘Made in Israel’ country-of-origin labels.”

Earlier this year, The National, based in Abu Dhabi, reported on a leaked memo of the Biden administration’s plans in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which included reversing the labeling decision, but they have yet to announce any changes. The US Embassy in Israel’s spokesperson said, “We have no changes to announce to the current guidelines on country of origin markings.”

Tenney accused the Biden administration of not being able to “stand firm against radical activists.”

She submitted her bill just days after the House Democratic leadership removed funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system from a bill, because the party’s Left flank refused to support the legislation otherwise. House Democrats introduced a new bill just to fund Iron Dome batteries, which is expected to go to a vote on Thursday.

The Democrats have a majority in Congress, and as such, the anti-BDS bill is unlikely to pass.

The bill’s cosponsors are Republican representatives Lee Zeldin of New York, Ronny Jackson of Texas, Brian Mast of Florida and Joe Wilson of South Carolina, all of whom are members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Senators Tom Cotton and John Boozman of Arkansas, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio of Florida, Bill Haggerty and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Ted Cruz of Texas and Thom Tillis of North Carolina were to introduce a companion bill.

Jackson said that were the Biden administration to return to labeling settlement products as “Made in the West Bank,” it would be an antisemitic policy.

Zeldin expressed concern about a “growing embrace of the BDS movement against Israel and attempted normalization of antisemitic and anti-Israel ideals by private companies, institutions of higher education and political activists.”

“This legislation takes important steps to combat anti-Israel and antisemitic boycotts by protecting American companies from being roped into international boycotts targeting Israel and other US allies, and firmly establishing Congress’ position in opposition to the BDS movement,” he stated.

The recent decision by ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s to boycott settlements by opting out of renewing its contract with its Israeli licensee has led a number of US states – New Jersey, Florida, Arizona and Texas – to move toward divesting from its parent company Unilever.