U.S. Embassy Under Fire for ‘Boycotting’ Israeli Goods

Obama administration regrets gifting Jewish products made in area deemed a settlement

A Palestinian shepherd follows a herd near the Mishor Adumim industrial zone with the Jewish West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim in the background
A Palestinian shepherd follows a herd near the Mishor Adumim industrial zone with the Jewish West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim in the background / AP
September 20, 2016

The Obama administration is coming under fire for supporting boycotts of Israel after issuing an apology for sending its "key contacts" a gift basket that included Israeli-made wine produced in an area deemed a settlement, according to information obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv recently sent its "key contacts and partners" a gift basket to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Included in this gift basket was a bottle of wine made in an Israeli settlement.

Supporters of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, or BDS—which aims to wage economic warfare on the Jewish state—criticized the embassy for purchasing this product, prompting an official apology from U.S. officials.

The apology quickly sparked outrage in the pro-Israel community among those who viewed it as tacit support for the BDS movement and its goal of isolating Jewish businesses operating in these contested parts of Israel.

A State Department official familiar with the matter told the Free Beacon on Tuesday that the administration views Israeli settlements as "illegitimate" and only included the wine in its gift basket due to an "oversight." The official said this type of thing would not happen again.

"Every year the Embassy purchases gift baskets to send Rosh Hashanah greetings to some of our key contacts and partners," the official said. "The contents of the basket are arranged by the vendor." 

"Obviously," the official continued, "this was an oversight on our part. We don’t expect it will be repeated."

The administration does not believe that Israeli settlements are legitimate, the official made clear.

 "The longstanding position of the United States on Israeli settlements remains unchanged: settlements are illegitimate and are harmful to prospects for peace and to Israel’s long-term security," the official said.

The official declined to answer further questions about the administration’s exact stance on boycotts and why officials feel they made a mistake by purchasing this particular wine.

Pro-Israel officials familiar with the situation described the administration’s behavior as support for the BDS movement, telling the Free Beacon that the administration is helping to legitimize the view that these Jewish-made products are not to be purchased.

"This is pathetic. The Obama administration can’t admit what it’s really after, which is pressuring Israel to make even more concessions to the dysfunctional Palestinians, because the American people and Congress overwhelmingly reject that kind of foreign policy," said one senior official with a pro-Israel organization who would only speak on background. "So they end up tying themselves into knots over gift baskets."

Noah Pollak, executive director of the Emergency Committee for Israel, an organization that fights against boycotts, told the Free Beacon that the Obama administration’s statement raises serious concerns about its stance on the BDS movement.

"If the embassy had not adopted a boycott, its spokesmen would say so. But it has, or else the embassy wouldn’t have apologized for gifting wine made by Jews who live somewhere the embassy apparently believes Jews should not live," Pollak said. "The policy itself is a disgrace—and the refusal to own up to it is cowardly."

The wine in question was produced in Mishor Adumim, an area outside of Jerusalem that is widely viewed as a Jewish settlement.

Left-leaning organizations that received the administration’s gift basket were unhappy about receiving a wine produced in this area and made their objections known to the administration.

The BDS movement recently caused controversy on Capitol Hill, when it attempted to host a congressionally sponsored event in an official office. The event was cancelled after the Free Beacon exposed the event organizer’s ties to the BDS movement, which is viewed as anti-Semitic in nature.

Published under: Israel , State Department