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US restates labeling rules on occupied West Bank products

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US State Department spokesman Mark Toner

The United States has warned Israel that products imported from the occupied West Bank should not be erroneously labeled as “made in Israel.”

The guidelines were reissued last week by US Customs authorities in response to repeated Israeli mislabeling of West Bank products.

US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said on Thursday the decision to reissue the policy had been taken after mislabeling complaints.

"US Customs and Border Protection reissued guidance on their marking requirements," he told reporters in Washington, DC. "It in no way supersedes prior rulings or regulations.”

"And nor does it impose additional requirements with respect to merchandise imported from the West Bank, Gaza Strip or Israel,” he added.

"Our understanding is that there were allegations of mislabeling, around nine or ten complaints," Toner said.

The European Union recently acted to prevent such violations by Israel. The European Commission in November last year adopted new guidelines on labeling of products from the settlements illegally constructed by Israel on the occupied Palestinian territories. 

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) welcomed the EU rules. PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat referred to the decision as a "significant move toward a total boycott of Israeli settlements, which are built illegally on occupied Palestinian lands."

The Israeli Foreign Ministry called the labeling “a politically motivated and unusual and discriminatory step, that [the European Union] learned from the world of boycotts,” referring to the international movement of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel, known as BDS.

The BDS campaign against Israel over its apartheid policies toward the Palestinians has gained momentum globally in recent years. The movement seeks to end the Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands and respect the right of return of Palestinian refugees.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his subordinates have called the BDS campaign a new form of terrorism to delegitimize Israel.

Supporters of the movement, including a growing number of American Jews, have called such criticism a fearmongering and divisive tactic meant to prevent legitimate debate about the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.

A Palestinian man watches Israeli heavy machinery as they demolish apartment blocs in the occupied West Bank settlement of Beit El near Ramallah on July 29, 2015. (Reuters photo)
The campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel has gained momentum in recent years.

The presence and continued expansion of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine has created a major obstacle for the efforts to establish peace in the Middle East.

More than half a million Israelis live in over 120 illegal settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East al-Quds.

The United Nations, the United States and most countries regard the Israeli settlements as illegal because the territories were captured by Israel in a war in 1967 and are hence subject to the Geneva Conventions, which forbids construction on occupied lands.

High-ranking US officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, have repeatedly said that all Israeli settlements on the occupied Palestinian territories are illegal.

"As you know, US guidelines don't differentiate between products produced in settlements or anywhere else in the West Bank," the State Department spokesman said on Thursday.

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