JERUSALEM (NYTIMES, AFP) – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday (Nov 19) that the Trump administration now viewed an international campaign to boycott, divest from and impose sanctions on Israel, or the BDS movement, as anti-Semitic and will deny government support to groups that participate in it.
“We want to stand with all other nations that recognise the BDS movement for the cancer that it is,” Mr Pompeo said on the second day of a visit to Israel as he stood alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called the decision “simply wonderful.”
Separately, Mr Pompeo also said the US will label exports from Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank as Israeli, in Washington’s latest move backing Israel’s control of the Palestinian territory.
“All producers within areas where Israel exercises the relevant authorities… will be required to mark goods as ‘Israel’, ‘Product of Israel’, or ‘Made in Israel’ when exporting to the United States,” Mr Pompeo said in a statement.
He said the new guidelines apply “most notably” to Area C, the large part of the West Bank where Israel retains full civil and military control and where much of the settler population lives.
The announcement on the BDS movement came on a whirlwind day of what the Trump administration is portraying as victory laps on its policy toward Israel and the Palestinians – and of photo ops that could be highly useful for Mr Pompeo, particularly with the evangelical Christian voters he has long courted, if he were to seek the Republican nomination for president in 2024.
“The people of the book have not had a better friend,” Mr Netanyahu told him.
Mr Pompeo noted that on Wednesday night he had walked through the City of David, an archaeological site just south of the Old City in a neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, which most of the world considers illegally occupied territory and the Palestinians want as the capital of a future state.
From Jerusalem on Thursday, he was scheduled to stop for lunch at a winery in a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, becoming the highest-ranking US official to make such a visit to the territory.
Outside the United States, Jewish settlements in the West Bank are widely considered a violation of international law, but a year ago Mr Pompeo rescinded a decades-old State Department memorandum to that effect.
On Thursday afternoon, Pompeo plans another first for a US secretary of state: He is to helicopter up to the long-disputed Golan Heights, along Israel’s frontier with Syria.
Israel annexed the territory in 1981, a move that the United Nations Security Council rejected in a resolution based on the principle that “the acquisition of territory by force is inadmissible.”
But President Donald Trump recognised Israel’s authority over the Golan in March 2019.
It was not immediately clear what, if any, practical effect the new policy might have on the BDS movement in the waning days of the Trump administration.
Its supporters include some large American church groups and a variety of liberal advocacy groups.
Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian leader in the West Bank who for years has advocated a boycott of Israel, assailed Mr Pompeo’s announcement.
It was, he said, the latest in a series of Trump administration attempts to throw obstructions into the path of President-elect Joe Biden – “obstacles that they think are reversible.”
“BDS is a peaceful, nonviolent movement,” Mr Barghouti said. “It is not against Israeli or Jewish people – it is against the policy of occupation and apartheid.”
“Calling it anti-Semitic is another way of suppressing people’s rights of freedom of expression and freedom of choice,” Mr Barghouti said, “and also a harassment of the American people who have the right to choose whether to participate in it or not participate in it.”