The United States has begun to enforce a long dormant policy which requires that all products sourced from occupied territories in Palestine be labeled as “West Bank” and or “Gaza Strip,” according to a message released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection Jan. 23.
Israeli entrepreneurs have long mislabeled their products as “Made in Israel”, despite being produced on occupied land in the West Bank and Gaza. This directly contradicts a U.S. Customs and Border Protection law passed in 1995 which states that products manufactured in the West Bank and Gaza, “shall be marked as ‘West Bank’, “Gaza’, or ‘Gaza Strip’…and shall not contain the words ‘Israel’, ‘Made in Israel’, ‘Occupied Territories-Israel’ or words of similar meaning”. The law also holds that failure to abide by these policies will result in a duty of 10 percent on the products.
The 1995 ruling has largely not been enforced. Israeli manufacturers have been getting away with mislabeling their products for years with no consequence. However, the new push for proper labeling is aimed at the promotion of more honest marketing, and has been a hit in European countries, which are pushing for stronger enforcement. The European opposition has been the strongest, especially amongst talks of divestment in Europe, leading Israeli officials to compare the backlash to Holocaust-esque policies.
Israeli officials have taken the enforcement of the policy as an attack on Israeli manufacturers in protest of their settlement policy, which is illegal under international law. In a daily press briefing on Jan. 28, UN Deputy Department Spokesperson Mark Toner refuted these claims, insisting the policy reinforcement is not intended to target Israelis and emphasized, “It in no way represents a boycott or anything like that”. The U.S. State Department also came out in support of Europe, stating that proper label is not synonymous with boycott.
Though Israel may take the enforcement of this policy personally, it is only a minor step in the recognition of the Palestinian population worldwide.