US lawmakers slam EU to defend Israeli settlements

More than 3,000 people have already signed the US Campaign’s petition urging lawmakers to oppose Rep. Nita Lowey’s resolution in support of Israeli settlements.

It’s not often that members of Congress publicly disagree with, much less condemn, the European Union.

But when it comes to protecting Israel’s illegal settlements on Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank, dozens of US lawmakers have shown no such compunction in doing so vociferously.

Even before the EU published its November 2015 guidelines requiring Israeli settlement products to be labeled as such, members of Congress went on the offensive in a preemptive bid to squash the EU initiative.

In no less than three separate letters to the EU’s foreign policy chief and to the US trade representative, members of Congress slammed the EU move as a “de-facto boycott of Israel” and accused it of implementing “restrictive and illegal trade measures.”

Last month, Representative Nita Lowey fired another salvo against the EU guidelines, introducing H.Res.567.

If passed, it would formally place the House of Representatives on record as opposing the EU’s labeling of Israeli settlement products.

Lowey, a New York Democrat and self-described “leading proponent of a strong US-Israel relationship,” is the ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, making her a pivotal figuring in ensuring Israel’s annual earmark of more than $3 billion in taxpayer-funded weapons.

To date, the resolution has been co-sponsored by eight representatives.

Action alert

The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation issued an action alert last week urging people to contact their representatives to oppose H.Res.567.

So far more than 3,000 people have done so.

In a press release “denouncing” the EU move, Lowey made outlandish claims about the impact of the EU guidelines, which flew in the face of both the EU’s stated policy and the Palestinian BDS National Committee’s response to it.

Lowey counterintuitively claimed that labeling Israeli settlement products would “encourage and prompt consumers to boycott all Israeli goods,” even though in its guidelines, the EU explicitly renounced support for “any form of boycott or sanctions against Israel” and emphatically did not ban the actual importation of Israeli settlement goods.

Backlash

Lowey also situated her resolution squarely within the mounting legislative backlash against the Palestinian civil society-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, a coordinated initiative at the local, state and federal levels to falsely stigmatize BDS activists as anti-Semites and impose costs on individuals, institutions and corporations which either support BDS or accede to the demands made by BDS campaigners.

She maintained that the EU’s decision “contributes to the deeply misguided anti-Israel” BDS movement, an assertion which Omar Barghouti, the cofounder of the BDS movement, found risible.

“Labeling the illegal products of Israeli colonies instead of banning them,” he wrote in Politico, “is seen by Palestinians as yet another EU failure to uphold European and international law.”

Out of sync

Perhaps even more extraordinary than Lowey’s claims about the impact of the EU’s guidelines is the degree to which H.Res.567 is out of sync even with US policy regarding Israeli settlement products.

For more than twenty years, it has been illegal for exporters of Israeli settlement goods to market their products to US consumers under the false pretense of being “Made in Israel.”

In April 1995, the US Customs Service issued a notice of policy proclaiming that settlement products “shall not” be labeled as having originated in Israel.

Customs also held that a failure by exporters of Israeli settlement products to label their goods as coming from the “West Bank” or “Gaza” (Israel dismantled its illegal settlements in the Gaza Strip ten years after this policy was introduced) would result in a 10 percent duty being imposed.

In other words, exporters of Israeli settlement products who try pass off their wares as being “Made in Israel” are supposed to be ineligible for duty-free entry to the US otherwise provided to Israeli products under the US-Israel Free Trade Agreement.

With US guidelines on Israeli settlement products being so similar to the recently adopted EU guidelines, apparently Lowey believes that what is good for the goose is not necessarily so for the gander.

Desperate

Why would a member of Congress feel emboldened to condemn the EU for adopting a policy comparable to that of the United States?

Lowey’s office repeatedly did not answer this or other questions about her resolution for this article.

Lowey’s determination to exert pressure on the EU to reverse its labeling of Israeli settlement products – part of the spate of anti-BDS legislation that is sweeping the nation – bespeaks a certain desperation on the part of Israel’s supporters to squelch the BDS movement and the goals it is pursuing.

Legislators may believe they can arrest the grassroots BDS movement with top-down legislative fixes, but they are swimming against the historical tide.

Today’s press release from United Methodist Kairos Response, announcing the United Methodist Church’s divestment from Israeli banks, is an indication that the BDS movement will not be deterred by policy elites’ efforts to silence it.

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Comments

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We need to know who the co sponsors of this bill are so we can contact them as well to express our displeasure with this legislation.

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Thanks to "Maggie" who is always on the ball!

Complete information is always , always needed including action
(committee), Senate corresponding legislation etc.

This can be obtained from the Congressional Internet itself:

www.Thomas.gov

Be sure to punch number as you will need number of the bill.

I couldn't get it this time so thanks also to John Ruebner of US
Campaign.

At his alert I immediately wrote my Congressperson (at DC office)
to oppose HR 567. The cruel fact is that no one in
this state (Massachusetts) can get elected dogcatcher if
opposed by AIPAC and their ilk. In my email I did not
even touch the real truth---the meaning for the BDS movement.

Instead, I mentioned the boycott and not so nonviolent
opposition to Britain when in the city he represents (Boston)
some guys dumped lots of tea into the Boston harbor. I tried
to find something he could relate to.

Result: His name is NOT among the (current)co-sponsors.

Footnote: Mike Capuano has been an excellent Rep on
most issues. I voted for him last time. On issues about
Israel-Palestine he has failed and I won't be voting
for him again. I refuse to sell those who are dying, who
are being repressed dailey down the river (a US
saying).

Mr. Ruebner, what button did I fail to push to get
co-sponsors??? Once there you can get texts etc.

The House Committee on Foreign Affairs is not
known as a sourcer of sympathetic decisions on
our issues to say the least.

There are now only 5 co-sponsors. Continue to
contact YOUR Rep (make it short) so the list
does not grow. It will take you a few seconds.
(You must put your "prefix" (Mr. Ms. etc.)
and you can only email the representative of YOUR OWN
district. (Other contact can be by mail but
you will need a stamp etc. for that and it is
usually less effective). Avoid "district offices".
Keep writing. I included my Rep's colleagues.
We all must work together.

----Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

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Thank you so much, Peter Loeb, for that post. It is vitally important that we keep pressure on our Members of Congress and that we do it respectfully and factually. As a NYer I have Senator Schumer to contend with on issues focused on the Middle East. Senator Schumer is liberal in most aspects but is irresponsible in his support of Israel's abhorrent behavior.

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When getting information from the Congressional Internet always
make certain---ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN!!!--- that all information
is included and that the numbered of the bill is correct.

In this I failed. I was in too much of a hurry.

(Incorrect number I used by mistake was "HR 567".)

THE CORRECT NUMBER IS:

H. RES. 567. (Unsure if you need all those periods....)

(House Resolution 567)

Care will give you not only co-sponsors but
also text etc. which you may/may not want.

So..www.Thomas.gov (etc.) and use correct number.

---Best of Luck for all future info in future.
Sorry for the inconvenience.

---Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

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As of today there are 12 (TWELVE) Cosponsors
of H. Res. 567. The co-sponsors are continually
updated ON THE CONGRESSIONAL INTERNET
(along with dates the Reps became sponsors).

Text of the resolution is also availaable on the
Congressional internet. (As for ever bill.)

Please contact your OWN Representative
whether a co-sponsor or not at this time.
Thanks.

Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

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As of today there are 12 (TWELVE) Cosponsors
of H. Res. 567. The co-sponsors are continually
updated ON THE CONGRESSIONAL INTERNET
(along with dates the Reps became sponsors).

Text of the resolution is also availaable on the
Congressional internet. (As for ever bill.)

Please contact your OWN Representative
whether a co-sponsor or not at this time.
Thanks.

Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

Josh Ruebner

Josh Ruebner's picture

Josh Ruebner is Policy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and author of Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace. His forthcoming book is tentatively entitled Israel: Democracy or Apartheid State? He is a former Analyst in Middle East Affairs at Congressional Research Service.