The Trump administration is preparing to go toe-to-toe with the European Union over the latter's recent decision to mandate that Jewish-made goods produced in contested areas of Israel carry consumer warning labels, a decision critics have described as reminiscent of Nazi-era boycotts, according to senior U.S. officials who briefed the Washington Free Beacon.
The European Court of Justice affirmed on Tuesday new laws mandating that Jewish-made products originating in disputed territories be labeled as coming from "settlements" and "Israeli colonies." Observers viewed the decision as a major win for the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. The labels are not being applied to Palestinian goods produced in the same areas, a point emphasized by legal experts who described the decision as part of a larger global effort to delegitimize Israel and penalize Jewish manufacturers.
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The E.U.'s decision comes as Israel faces down a renewed wave of violence from Palestinian terrorists and a spillover of jihadist violence from surrounding Arab countries. Senior Trump administration officials told the Free Beacon in their first public comments on the matter that the administration is gearing up to fight the E.U.'s decision and protect its Middle Eastern ally from threats both physical and legal.
The officials said efforts to delegitimize Israel will not be taken lightly by the Trump administration and will be met with counteraction.
Combatting the E.U. labeling mandate is a "top priority for us," one senior administration official working on the matter told the Free Beacon. "We strongly condemn it."
The Trump administration considers the E.U.'s legal moves an endorsement of the BDS movement, which aims to wage economic warfare on Israel and its citizens. The decision also undermines U.S. efforts to foster peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, officials said.
"This is BDS, plain and simple," the official said, discussing the ongoing matter only on background. "The administration strongly opposes the decision. It will not have the intended effect. These efforts have never brought peace, only more divisions."
"I think we've been clear that we think this is consistent with the BDS movement and we think the BDS movement is anti-Semitic," the official added in some of the clearest comments on the administration's view of the movement.
Trump administration officials were especially offended by the E.U.'s decision given renewed violence in Israel, where Palestinian terrorists have fired hundreds of rockets at Jewish civilians during the past several days.
"The decision to announce this as Israel is defending a civilian population against hundreds of rockets is particularly tone deaf and demonstrates how poorly the E.U. understands the ramifications of these actions," the official said.
U.S. officials and legal experts who spoke to the Free Beacon further said the E.U.'s ruling is likely to trigger a series of American anti-boycott laws that were enacted in large part to undermine the BDS movement and protect Israel from discrimination.
A group of leading lawmakers in Congress warned the E.U. earlier this week that any decision to single out Jewish-made goods would be met with an aggressive response by the United States. The Trump administration says that it is more than willing to work with its partners in Congress to bolster any action they may take in the coming weeks.
"Historically, the U.S. has had a good track record in anti-boycott laws and certainly the admin would be interested in working with Congress on it additionally, and I think we would enjoy broad bipartisan support," the senior administration official said.
Experts anticipate the E.U.'s decision will strain its economic relationship with the United States. "The decision will no doubt affect US-EU trade relations, as so many U.S. officials have already warned," Brooke Goldstein, executive director of the Lawfare Project, said in a statement to the Free Beacon. "It will likely trigger anti-boycott laws and ‘create policy tensions,' as [Democratic New Jersey senator Bob] Menendez put it. EU countries that choose to enforce this decision will also be in violation of their WTO obligations. This will end up hurting the EU much more than it will hurt Israel."
The Trump administration is particularly concerned about the precedent the ruling sets for other countries and individuals to pursue consumer labels for products produced in politically sensitive areas.
"This is a slippery slope towards all sorts of boycotts that may on the surface be motivated by good intentions but have horrible unintended consequences," the administration official said. "This administration has been perfectly clear, we think Israel is what's right with the Middle East, not wrong with it. To do this kind of punitive action at this moment doesn't recognize this reality."
The State Department also expressed concern over the decision.
"The United States is deeply concerned by the E.U. requirement identified in the decision issued yesterday by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in the Psagot Case," State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said, referring to the Israeli winery that originally brought the case challenging a French law requiring it to label its products as originating in "settlements."
"The circumstances surrounding the labeling requirement in the specific facts presented to the Court are suggestive of anti-Israel bias," Ortagus said in the statement. "This requirement serves only to encourage, facilitate, and promote boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. The United States unequivocally opposes any effort to engage in BDS, or to otherwise economically pressure, isolate, or otherwise delegitimize Israel. The path toward resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict is through direct negotiations. America stands with Israel against efforts to economically pressure, isolate, or delegitimize it."