US Customs passed recently issued a reminder notice to importers in the US to not label products that come from the West Bank as "Made in Israel" and made it clear that those who do not comply would be sanctioned, according to a Channel 1 News report.But if you look at the actual 1995 regulation, it is clear that the intent was to only label goods that were produced under the Palestinian Authority after Oslo, because they had a new and different tariff system and it no longer made sense to label Palestinian Arab products as "made in Israel" as had been done before 1995.
This is not a new guideline, but rather a reissuing of one from 1995 - which is a byproduct of the Paris Agreement and the Oslo Accords - that set different customs regulations for Israel and the West Bank. Human rights groups complained to US Customs that it was not enforcing its own guidelines, so that products from the settlements are sold in the United States under label "Made in Israel".
US Customs issued a message last week to all US importers under the title "West Bank Country of Origin Marking Requirements. The message reads: "The purpose of this message is to provide guidance to the trade community regarding the country of origin marking requirements for goods that are manufactured in the West Bank.
Per Treasury Decisions goods produced in the West Bank or Gaza Strip shall be marked as originating from ‘‘West Bank,’’ ‘‘Gaza,’’ ‘‘Gaza Strip,’’ ‘‘West Bank/Gaza,’’ ‘‘West Bank/Gaza Strip,’’ ‘‘West Bank and Gaza,’’ or ‘‘West Bank and Gaza Strip.’’ It is not acceptable to mark the aforementioned goods with the words ‘‘Israel,’’ ‘‘Made in Israel,’’ ‘‘Occupied Territories-Israel,’’ or any variation thereof. Goods that are erroneously marked as products of Israel will be subject to an enforcement action carried out by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Goods entering the United States must conform to the U.S. marking statute and regulations promulgated thereunder.
It is obvious that anything produced outside of areas that were under Palestinian Authority control were not meant to be included in this regulation. Unfortunately, that exception was not explicitly stated, because in 1995 it was assumed that a peace agreement was coming soon where Israeli-controlled areas would no longer be referred to as "West Bank."
This regulation was not ignored up until now - it was enforced in the way it was meant to be, to give recognition to the PA as the effective governing body in Areas A and B.
This re-issuance of the guideline is therefore not simply a repeat of a forgotten policy. It is a deliberate re-interpretation of a guideline meant separate the PA-ruled areas from Israeli-ruled areas into a new anti-Israel
To claim that this is simply a restatement of existing policy is deceptive. It is a new policy by the Obama administration dressed up as a legacy regulation that was meant to encourage Palestinian autonomy, not to penalize Jewish settlements.
This is pure politics.
UPDATE: Another indication that settlement goods were not intended to fall under this program comes from this memo released a few weeks earlier than the 1995 guideline in the same US Customs Cargo Systems Messaging Service:
5086071 MARCH 27, 1995 CATEGORY: GSP CO:TP LAC TO : DISTRICT DIRECTORS FROM : DIRECTOR TRADE PROGRAMS DIVISION RE : PRESIDENTIAL PROCLAMATION 6788, DESIGNATING WEST BANK AND GAZA STRIP AS A BENEFICIARY OF THE GENERALIZED SYSTEM OF PREFERENCES PASS TO: IMPORT SPECIALISTS, INSPECTORS AND OTHER INTERESTED PARTIES SUCH AS BROKERS AND IMPORTERS ON MARCH 17, 1995, PRESIDENT CLINTON SIGNED PRESIDENTIAL PROCLAMATION 6788 (60 FEDERAL REGISTER 15455), DESIGNATING THE WEST BANK AND GAZA STRIP AS A BENEFICIARY OF THE GENERALIZED SYSTEM OF PREFERENCES (GSP). ACTION: 1. EFFECTIVE WITH RESPECT TO ARTICLES ENTERED OR WITHDRAWN FROM WAREHOUSE FOR CONSUMPTION ON OR AFTER APRIL 7, 1995, GENERAL NOTE 4(A) TO THE HTS IS MODIFIED BY INSERTING "WEST BANK AND GAZA STRIP" IN ALPHABETICAL SEQUENCE IN THE ENUMERATION OF NON-INDEPENDENT COUNTRIES AND TERRITORIES. NOTE THAT THE WEST BANK AND THE GAZA STRIP ARE TREATED AS ONE ENTITY FOR PURPOSES OF THE GSP. 2. THE EXTENSION OF THE GENERALIZED SYSTEM OF PREFERENCES PROGRAM TO THE WEST BANK AND GAZA STRIP PURSUANT TO THIS PROCLAMATION APPLIES ONLY TO GOODS PRODUCED IN THE AREAS FOR WHICH ARRANGEMENTS ARE BEING ESTABLISHED FOR PALESTINIAN INTERIM SELF-GOVERNMENT, AS SET FORTH IN ARTICLES I, III, AND IV OF THE DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES ON INTERIM SELF- GOVERNMENT ARRANGEMENTS.
This is not specific to the labeling regulations but it shows what the intended scope of those regulations were.
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