Time for senators to pick a side

Unless SB 2489 passes into law, products made in the Jewish-populated area of the West Bank will still be labeled as “Product of the West Bank” or with similar language.

U.S. Capitol. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
U.S. Capitol. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Naomi Grant. Credit: Courtesy.
Naomi Grant
Naomi Grant is a writer in Washington, D.C. She holds a master’s in international relations from Johns Hopkins University.

Senate Bill 2489, introduced on July 27 as the “Anti-BDS Labeling Act,” will require that all U.S. imports produced in “Area C” of the West Bank are labeled as products of Israel and not the West Bank.

Sponsored by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and co-sponsored by Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), this is a victory for recognition of the sovereignty of the sole Jewish state and against the BDS movement. The passage of this bill will force those who tepidly claim to “support” Israel—just not the building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank—to finally pick a side.

“Area C” is the designation by the Israeli government of the West Bank area that is fully governed by Israel and is not a constituency of the Palestinian Authority. Unless SB 2489 passes into law, products made in the Jewish-populated area of the West Bank will still be labeled as “Product of the West Bank” or with similar language.

While unlikely to pass, due to all-Republican sponsorship in a Democratic-majority Congress, this bill is a small step in the right direction. It recognizes Israel’s sovereignty in the Jewish areas of the West Bank, making them indistinguishable from “Israel proper,” and more importantly, the bill states that this would be in force “until the law is repealed,” meaning it wouldn’t be easy to simply undo.

By watching which senators vote for and against the Anti-BDS Labeling Act, it will be easy to decipher who believes Israel’s sovereignty must be respected and those who refuse to recognize Israel’s authority over “Area C” in the West Bank. No senator who votes against something with “anti-BDS” in the name can truly purport to stand against BDS and support Israel.

In the last few years, BDS has become a litmus test for progressive politics. It singles out Israel in attempts to isolate it from the rest of the world and also harms Israeli Arabs along the way, as many of them work in Israel “proper” or in the West Bank for Israeli-owned companies. Luckily, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol put a roadblock in the way of on-the-fence BDS supporters when they issued their new guidelines for labeling products from “Area C” of the West Bank back in December.

Those on the left who claim that they support Israel might say something along the lines of, “I support Israel’s right to exist; however, I do not support the building of Israeli settlements in the West Bank,” and choose to boycott only products from the West Bank, either not realizing or not caring that Palestinians often lose their jobs over these mass boycotts.

Now that products from “Area C” will be labeled as products of Israel rather than of the West Bank, tepid supporters like the aforementioned theoretical one will be forced to choose: Should I boycott all products from Israel, given that some come from “Area C” of the West Bank? But then I can’t easily claim to support Israel. Should I only boycott products from the West Bank? But then I’m specifically boycotting products from the Palestinian areas.

Left-leaning Congress members are experts at saying one thing about Israel and then doing something else. Even if this bill doesn’t pass the Senate—an unfortunately likely outcome, given the Senate’s current makeup—it will allow the public to see senators’ true colors regarding support for Israel.

No legislation should be an alternative for Jews to counter BDS and other forms of anti-Semitism. Still, the potential passage of this legislation would illuminate who is with us and who is against us.

Naomi Grant is the director of communications at the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET).

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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