Half a dozen pro-Israel groups on Wednesday sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas urging the Biden administration to “review and revoke” a Trump-era directive requiring products made in illegal Jewish-only settler colonies in the occupied Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem to be labeled “Made in Israel.”
The six groups—Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, J Street, the New Israel Fund, Partners for Progressive Israel, and T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights—wrote that the previous administration’s order “is inconsistent with current U.S. policy on the status of the occupied territories, requires inaccurate and misleading labeling on the origin of products, and is harmful to the essential interests of Israelis and Palestinians alike.”
For decades, the U.S. nominally opposed Israeli settlement construction and expansion while tacitly approving such actions. A 1978 State Department legal opinion (pdf)—which held until the Trump administration officially repudiated it last year—stated that as a “belligerent occupant,” Israel had no right to establish such settlements.
The Jewish groups’ letter further stated that the Trump-era directive, which was issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, “attempts to reverse decades of U.S. policy that makes a firm distinction between Israel and the West Bank” and “runs counter to the Biden administration’s policy of opposing settlement activity and unilateral annexation of territory as harmful to the prospects for the peaceful, just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
HuffPost, which first reported the groups’ letter, called it “a powerful symbolic move,” noting that the Palestinian Authority condemned the former administration’s “Made in Israel” directive as a “war crime.”
While many Palestinians welcomed the departure of former President Donald Trump—whose administration touted itself as the “most pro-Israel” in history—others have noted that President Joe Biden has said that fundamentally, nothing would change regarding U.S. support for Israel. That support includes billions of dollars in annual aid and unfailing diplomatic backing.
On the campaign trail last year, vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris told a group of Jewish donors that a Biden administration would not place any conditions on U.S. aid to Israel, and that it would continue the “unprecedented” military and intelligence cooperation with the Jewish state the country received from the Obama administration. Biden’s presidential campaign also said it “firmly rejects” the peaceful international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian human rights.