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By Ali Harb, MEE With just two months left before the Biden administration takes office, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a slew of announcements on Thursday that blur the line between “Israel” and the Palestinian territories that it occupies.

After a visit to an illegal West Bank settlement, the top US diplomat issued a directive to identify organizations that boycott companies doing "business in ‘Israel’ or in any territory controlled by ‘Israel’".

He said the State Department would ensure that no government funds went to such groups – a move that would disadvantage NGOs that do not operate in the settlements, in accordance with international law.

In a separate decree, Pompeo said exported products from parts of the occupied West Bank must be labelled as “Made in ‘Israel’”.

The latest effort, critics say, is a push to dissolve the Palestinian quest for statehood and cement the reality of total “Israeli” rule over the lands and peoples between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River – regardless of “Israel's” plans to officially annex parts of the West Bank.

Here are three key takeaways from Pompeo's announcements: Penalizing boycott of settlements The outgoing administration of President Donald Trump has long voiced opposition to the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions [BDS] movement and tried to conflate criticism of “Israel” with antisemitism.

On Thursday, Pompeo issued an actionable order to that effect – one that will not only punish groups that boycott “Israel”, but also those that discourage business with settlements.

Pompeo directed the State Department's special envoy to combat antisemitism to identify organizations that oppose trade "with ‘Israel’ or persons doing business in Israel or in any territory controlled by ‘Israel’".

"To ensure that Department funds are not spent in a manner that is inconsistent with our government’s commitment to combat anti-Semitism, the State Department will review the use of its funds to confirm that they are not supporting the Global BDS Campaign," read a statement by the State Department.

"Further, the State Department will conduct a review of options consistent with applicable law to ensure that its foreign assistance funding is not provided to foreign organizations engaged in anti-Semitic BDS activities." Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace [FMEP], said the move was unprecedented in US policy.

"This is brand new ground.

There's nothing comparable to it." Friedman told MEE that most organizations would not be able to certify that they don't distinguish between settlements and “Israel”.

"There are global NGOs that work around the world – and consistent with international law, with EU policy, with the values of human rights and civil rights, they differentiate between ‘Israel’ and settlements," she said.

"If this policy is implemented as it's articulated by the State Department, it means that those organizations will not be able to be partners with the US anywhere in the world." Jonathan Kuttab, a Palestinian-American attorney specializing in international law, called the push a "deliberate effort" to prevent non-violent opposition to the occupation.

"They want to make the occupation so standard, so legal, so legitimate that those who question the legality of the settlements become themselves under attack; they become themselves criminal; they're called antisemitic; their activity is called hate speech," Kuttab told MEE "It's a way of turning international law on its head."  “Made in ‘Israel’” In keeping with the effort to obscure the distinction between “Israel” and the Palestinian territories that it controls, Pompeo said the labelling of exports from the West Bank will adhere to the US administration's "reality-based foreign policy approach".

Not all settlement products will be made in “Israel”, but all exports from the West Bank's Area C – whether made by Palestinians or “Israelis” – will be branded as such.

The Oslo Accords split the West Bank into three parts, with Area C – which makes up about 60 percent of the territory – being under almost total “Israeli” control, with the promise of gradual transfer of power to the Palestinian Authority.

But in the years since the pact was signed in 1995, “Israel” only tightened its grip on the area and transferred greater numbers of its civilian population to the occupied territory in violation of international law.

Kuttab said choosing Area C was not accidental – it is the section with the most land and the fewest Palestinians, whereas Areas A and B have "too many non-Jews" in them according to US and “Israeli” rationale.

"Labeling the products of Area C as being part of ‘Israel’ is almost the last nail in the coffin of the opposition to annexation," Kuttab added.

He stressed that the annexation efforts are a major threat to the post World War II global order, which was founded partly on the principle that states cannot acquire others' land by force.

"Iraq cannot annex Kuwait; Russia cannot annex parts of Ukraine.

The only exception seems to be that ‘Israel’ and the United States want to be above international law." Friedman said Pompeo's statement, in effect, annexes both the land and the people who live in Area C "This is essentially the US recognizing ‘Israeli’ sovereignty and Area C – all of it." She added that the move exposes the two competing positions of pro-‘Israel’ advocates in the US who don't meaningfully oppose annexation as they hold on to the two-state solution and vehemently push back against the idea of a single state with equal rights.

"Palestinians living in Area C do not enjoy the same rights as Jewish ‘Israelis’ in Area C – let alone ‘Israelis’ inside ‘Israel’.

Full stop.

They live under a different legal regime.

That is apartheid," Friedman said.

"I mean it's the strangest thing: We actually have unprecedented clarity from the US administration in terms of seeing the West Bank as permanently part of ‘Israel’ and saying it.

"At the same time, we still have a position which says: If you are someone who believes in one state from the river to the sea with equal rights for ‘Israelis’ and Palestinians, you're an antisemite and you're anti-‘Israel’."

Original Article Source: Al Ahed News | Published on Friday, 20 November 2020 13:34 (about 12 days ago)