Code Pink is gloating on Twitter.
In his winery nestled in the rocky red hills of the central West Bank, Amichai Lourie prepares a shipment of award-winning vintage destined for the American market. On the labels, which carry Laurie’s signature, the winery clearly states that the product is “Made in Israel.”
In fact, Lourie’s wine comes from territory occupied, but never annexed, by the Jewish state. Nevertheless, “For many people, when you buy wine from Shiloh Winery, you are buying from the heart of Israel,” Lourie explained, alluding to the historic claims many in Israel make for the West Bank. “The reason why I say ‘Made in Israel’ is because it is made in Israel. That is it.”
But that is not how American law sees it.
According to an April 1995 U.S. Customs and Border Protection notification, products made in the West Bank or Gaza “shall be marked as ‘West Bank,’ ‘Gaza,’ or ‘Gaza Strip’… and shall not contain the words ‘Israel,’ ‘Made in Israel,’ ‘Occupied Territories-Israel’ or words of similar meaning.” Moreover, it states, “Failure to mark an article in accordance with the requirements…shall result in the levy of a duty of 10 percent” of the product’s value.
Responsibility for complying with this rule, which stems from a law passed by Congress in 1995, rests with the exporter and with the company importing the goods in question into the United States for distribution.
Yet when asked if he had heard of the American regulations on labeling, Lourie said, “I know nothing about that.” And indeed, when products from Lourie’s Shiloh Winery reach the shelf of a suburban Maryland kosher supermarket some 5,000 miles later, the 2012 chardonnay boasts its Judean Hills origin with a “Product of Israel” label as it rests at the center of the store’s kosher wine aisle.
Even as Israel and many of its supporters decry new European Union rules that require clear labeling for products made in exclusively Jewish West Bank settlements, few are focusing on this American regulation — and for understandable reasons: Though it has been on the books for two decades, the law on which this Customs regulation is based appears to be barely enforced, if at all.
But this may about to change. After 20 years during which the rule rested practically dormant in the Federal Register, Customs, without providing any explanation, issued a reminder on January 23 about it, reiterating the prohibition on marking West Bank products as being made in Israel.
“The purpose of this message is to provide guidance to the trade community,” the Customs note, posted on the agency’s on-line announcement board, states. The note also observes that its reminder “in no way supersedes prior rulings or regulations, nor does it impose additional requirements” on products from the West Bank, Gaza or Israel.