America’s Quiet Boycott of Judea and Samaria

The European Union’s call to label Israeli products coming from Judea and Samaria has received well deserved media attention and widespread criticism.

The hypocrisy of the move is well known. After all, Europe labels products coming from Western Sahara, a territory Europe itself considers occupied by Morocco since 1975 and with numerous Moroccan settlements, as “Made in Morocco”. The labelling of products coming from parts of the Jewish State might therefore hide a much deeper contempt for the Jewish people, and is reminiscent of the times in which Jews were themselves labelled with yellow stars on the European continent.

However, while the world’s attention is turned to the worrying declarations made by the European Union, many forget that policies of discrimination against the Jews living in Judea and Samaria have been in place for far longer. I believe they have been in place for far too long.

The United State’s Boycott of Judea and Samaria

On this front, one country’s actions, which is meant to be Israel’s greatest ally, are especially offensive. A close look at the policy implement by the State Department of the United States shows a constant pattern not of labeling products from Judea and Samaria, but rather implementing a complete boycott of Israelis in this region. This has been done under the radar, with very little media attention since 1967, with only little attention being given to this discriminatory policy from 1985.

Indeed, in 1985, the late Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina questioned the Second Reagan Administration about its allocation of funds for Israel:

“It is my understanding that when foreign assistance funds are disbursed to Israel, the U.S. Government requires Israel to sign a stipulation that none of the funds will be used for settlements on the West Bank. Is that correct?”

The State Department answered bluntly: “The stipulation requiring that foreign assistance funds provided to Israel only to be used in the geographic areas which were subject to the Government of Israel’s administration prior to June 5,1967, has been the policy of every Administration since 1967.”

It is important to note some further things to fully understand how outrageous these statements are. America provides humanitarian assistance to many areas in the world, including the West Bank and Gaza (Judea, Samaria and Gaza). However, the assistance given to Judea and Samaria is given only to the Palestinian residents and not to the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria. One example, the State Department’s Middle East Partnership Initiative turned down a grant proposal to provide support services to Jewish women living in Samaria whose loved ones were killed in terrorist attacks during the second Intifada. Those and other proposals are denied because the grantee was an Israeli community, institution or organization.

Also important to note is that groups that tried getting funding for projects encouraging co-existence and cooperation between Jews and Arabs in Judea and Samaria were rejected. Some might argue that the reason for rejecting such projects is that they would lead to normalization, and turn what they wish to be an temporary “occupation” into a permanent presence of Israel in Judea and Samaria. However, even then, one cannot deny that the bottom line remains that the result of this policy is that as soon as Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria are a part of these projects, it become impossible to get funds for that project. In the past there have been a number of attempts to get the US State Department to fund what are often called ‘mom, flag and apple pie’ coexistence and empowerment projects. For example, the Arab town of Salfit, roughly the same size as its neighbor Ariel, had no water sewage treatment facility. With the help of a US Agency for International Development grant, Ariel University would have developed the means to hook Salfit to the city of Ariel’s sophisticated water sewage treatment facility. It would have been a win-win. However, the request was rejected. Whether the goal is to oppose the so-called occupation and its normalization, or whether the motivation for such actions is elsewhere, the result is the same: an outright boycott of all Jews living in a certain geographical area by an official American body.

In 2015, Barack Obama proudly signed a bill against the Boycott of Israel, as an amendment to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The amendment was to specifically mention “politically motivated actions to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel” because of its policies in “Israeli ­controlled territories.” However, the State Department refused this language claiming it “runs counter to longstanding US policy” toward Judea and Samaria. Spokesman John Kirby explained that the US policy has consistently opposed settlements and therefore “does not pursue policies or activities that would legitimize them.” In other- less politically correct -words, Kirby admitted that the US has no problem with the outright boycott of parts of Israel.

Standing Up for Our Rights

The foundation for this boycott of Judea and Samaria is a misplaced belief that Israel’s presence in these areas is illegal and that the areas are under occupation. While most of the international community has accepted the Palestinian narrative as to the occupation of Judea and Samaria, Israel has constantly refused it and has argued for a different, and in my opinion more precise, reading of the law. This reading makes a case for Israel’s right to the entire Land of Israel, including Judea and Samaria.

The last legally binding document relating to this area of the world is the British Mandate, which clearly states this area is meant for a Jewish state.

In international law, in order to understand who a land belongs to, we must look at the last legally significant event which occurred there.

The last legally binding document relating to this area of the world is the British Mandate, which clearly states this area is meant for a Jewish state.

No other binding document was ever drafted: The Partition Plan accepted in the United Nations was unbinding, and rejected by the Palestinians.

The Armistice Line of 1949 was never recognized by the world. Judea and Samaria, in legal terms, lay there waiting for the British Mandate to be applied and for this area to be part of the Jewish state, the State of Israel. The Jordanians themselves insisted that language be included in the Rhodes Agreement that the armistice line should not be considered a future political border.

In purely legal terms, therefore, in 1967 Israel did not occupy a foreign land, but rather liberated Judea and Samaria from Jordanian occupation.

Allies Must Stand Together

As Israel is being attacked with threats of Boycott worldwide, the time has come for the United States to right a historical wrong and to give a clear message to the BDS movement: “The more you try to hurt Israel, the stronger it will get”.

It is specifically in a time where the BDS movement is pushing for a boycott of Israel that the United States’ State Department should cancel its historic boycott of Judea and Samaria and embrace a more just policy of recognition of Israel’s historical and legal rights to these areas.

About the Author
Dan Illouz is a member of the Jerusalem City Council with the Hitorerut movement.
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