Photo Credit: screen capture
Mark C. Toner, U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesperson

Things continue to go downhill in the diplomatic world of U.S.-Israel relations. This week the U.S. State Department re-issued a nearly 20 year old regulation – written at a very different time, under very different circumstances – and insists it will “strictly enforce” this ancient rule which requires any goods produced in the disputed territories be designated as place of origin other than “Israel.”

This old-new restriction came up in one of the most unlikely of places, the Cargo Systems Messaging Service, which is part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.


The very short introduction explains that the message was issued in order to “provide guidance to the trade community regarding the country of origin marking requirements for goods that are manufacture in the West Bank.”

This latest message from the Cargo Messaging Service was issued literally in the dead of night – 12:53 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 23. Hmmm.

And the “requirements” to which that message is referring, are ones that require labeling of goods produced in the disputed territories, or as the U.S. likes to call them – despite chastising Israel constantly for “creating facts on the ground” – the West Bank and Gaza but not Israel.

Although the labeling requirements are the very same ones recently at issue when the European Union forbade goods produced in the disputed territories to have Israel as an option and only permit labels such as “Gaza,” “Gaza/West Bank” or “West Bank,” the reason for the 20 year old U.S. regulation has a very different origin.

The U.S. requirements were imposed in the wake of the infamous Oslo Accords – those withered on the vine principles recently rejected in a public statement to the United Nations by acting Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas.

The Accords are referred to in the U.S. Regulations by its formal name, the “Israel-PLO-Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements.” Yeah, that long-dead horse.

And the original, and therefore controlling reason why the U.S. source labeling rule came into play had nothing to do with promoting a boycott of Israel, or even, as some now claim, a “truth in advertising” initiative.

The situation that was understood to need correction back in the 1990’s had to do with fair trade agreements. The U.S. and Israel had such an agreement, but the U.S. could not have an FTA with Gaza or with the now-Palestinian Authority controlled area in the “West Bank” (Judea and Samaria).

In the wake of the Oslo Accords, when peace was threatening to break out all over, the U.S. decided it also made sense to create an FTA between the U.S. and the Palestinian Arab government. And that was an additional impetus for creating new labels for items produced by Palestinian Arabs in Gaza or in the “West Bank.”

In an additional and unintentional point of irony, the Palestinian Authority, back in the 1990’s, urged the State Department, and the State Department acquiesced, to the joint labels of Gaza and West Bank “so as to reaffirm the territorial unity of the two areas.”

What a joke.

During Thursday’s daily press briefing, Deputy State Department Spokeperson Mark C. Toner assured journalists the matter was “simply a restatement of previous requirements” which “in no way supersedes prior rulings or regulations, nor does it impose additional requirements with respect to merchandise imported from the West Bank, Gaza Strip, or Israel.”

Toner emphasized, with respect to the resistance of the old requirements: “there’s nothing new. This is simply a reissuance of guidance.”

The basis for the original regulation – the one everyone insists is all that is in play – was the Oslo Accords and the creation of a new state – one that remains stillborn – and the wrongly anticipated unification of Gaza and the Palestinian Arab governing force in the “West Bank.” Those bases were weak back in 1997, but they are now long-decayed legs upon which to place this labeling requirement.

And that’s the reason the regulations have not been enforced until now. There is no viable Palestinian State. There is no enforceable Oslo Accords. There is no unity Palestinian Arab government.

If that is all true, the new-old regulations should remain null and void.


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Lori Lowenthal Marcus is a contributor to the A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email:


  1. and this is from the same SOB who just said the US is leading a global war against antisemitism (which even a toddler can understand that it really translates into ‘hey jews, vote for my btch hillary…) – what the world need is a global war against HIS lying hypocritical sorryass

  2. I want to buy Israili products. I will not be a part of a government forced ban of these products. I know how Michelle Obama felt in reverse about the United States. I recall how for the first time she was proud of America, I know know how it feels to be ashamed of America.

  3. US is turning against Israel. Big, huge mistake! People used to say before, that America had been blessed because it was protecting Jewish people and Jewish state. US is on decline now, everybody sees it. In a few years it will become one of those suffering and miserable socialistic country.

  4. Very well said, Mila. History has proven continuously that any country that is fair with (The children of) Israel eventually becomes a world power, until they start persecuting them. Then they are gone. And unfortunately USA is heading in that direction unless we wake up.

  5. It would be fair to realize that this did not come about independent of the White House, State Department and Department of Justice. Since Obama micro-manages everything in his Administration, it's more than likely he passed an idea hat around the room on how to apply leverage against Israel but this time look like its just ordinary business. Someone came up with this idea and it took off. There's no doubt the person coming up with this whopper won a $10,000 Quarterly Bonus. Just remember the sincere, emotional looking Obama, yesterday! We are all Jews, meaning him. InsultIng and with his heart it will never Happen!

  6. Search for the following. Barack Obama's Rules for Revolution: The Alinsky Model

    Search for the following. discoverthenetworks obama

    Search for the following. "Learn about Islam. That is the most important thing for people to do. Learn who it is that you are not." – Samuel Lurie

  7. Why would any decent person use terminology of occupation to described the liberated territories.

    For 3000 years the Jewish heartland has been known as Judea and Samaria with the exception of the 19 years between the invasion by foreign Arab armies in 1948 until those occupation forces were expelled by force in 1967. During the occupation the occupiers renamed the occupied land the "West Bank of Jordan."

    Now, nearly 50 years since liberation, what possible reason can there be to continue to use the terminology of the illegal occupation?

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