14:35 GMT29 November 2020
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    On Monday, a group of Republican senators urged Donald Trump to change ‘misguided’ Clinton and Obama-era guidelines in customs policy to brand products produced in the Palestinian West Bank as ‘Made in Israel’. Praising Trump’s pro-Israel policies, the lawmakers accused Democrats and the United Nations of supporting an anti-Israel agenda.

    The United States will withdraw financial support for groups promoting the economic boycott of Israel, and formally recognise the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as “anti-Semitic”, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced.

    “We will regard the global BDS campaign as anti-Semitic,” Pompeo said, speaking to reporters alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Thursday.

    “We will immediately take steps to identify organisations that engage in hateful BDS conduct and withdraw US government support for such groups. The time is right,” Pompeo added. “We want to join all the other nations that recognise BDS for the cancer that it is, and we’re committed to combating it. Our record speaks for itself. Under the Trump administration, America stands with Israel like never before,” he stressed.

    Responding to the announcement, Netanyahu called the State Department’s decision “simply wonderful”.

    In his remarks, Pompeo also promised that Washington’s “iron-clad commitment” to Tel Aviv will continue, including as far as protecting Israel from “the regime in Tehran”, which he dubbed “the foremost state sponsor of terrorism in all the world”.

    Pompeo also reiterated the administration’s commitment to escalating sanctions pressure on Iran, including via new sanctions announced Wednesday, which saw the imposition of restrictions against several Iranian entities, including a charitable foundation said to be controlled by Iran’s Supreme Leader.

    Netanyahu thanked President Trump for his “unwavering support” of Israel over the past four years, including for his decision to recognise Israeli ‘sovereignty’ over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, tearing up the Iran nuclear deal, killing Iranian Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, and crafting “the first truly realistic plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians” via the so-called Trump peace plan. Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas denounced the latter proposal and suggested that it belongs in “the garbage can of history”.

    BDS Controversy

    Over two dozen US states have passed legislation against BDS, a Palestinian-led organisation created in 2005 promoting economic penalties against Israel aimed at ending Tel Aviv’s occupation of territories in the Six-Day War of 1967, as well as full equality for Arab-Palestinian Israeli citizens, and protections for Palestinian refugees.

    The movement, based on the old Anti-Apartheid Movement in South Africa, has been accused of anti-Semitism and of seeking the destruction of Israel. Its supporters have dismissed these allegations, suggesting that opposing Israel is not the same as hating Jews, pointing out that the Palestinians are also Semites, and saying that BDS’s opposition to Zionism is not the same as opposition to Israeli Jews.

    Earlier this week, a group of senior Republican senators lobbied Trump to reverse a 25-year-old US customs policy to label products made in the West Bank as “Made in Israel”.

    The senators accused prominent Democrats and the United Nations of seeking to “isolate and damage Israel economically” through support for BDS. However, both Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris have expressed their opposition to the movement, describing themselves as “lifelong supporters” of Israel and “vehement opponents of anti-Semitism”.

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