Palestinians say Mike Pompeo’s visit to settlement helps Israel cement its control of occupied Palestinian territories.
The United States will label the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, which seeks to isolate Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians, as “anti-Semitic”, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, calling the movement “a cancer”.
Washington “will regard the global anti-Israel BDS campaign as anti-Semitic … We want to stand with all other nations that recognise the BDS movement for the cancer that it is,” Pompeo said in a joint appearance with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Thursday.
The BDS campaign is a non-violent people-led movement that aims to economically pressure Israel into providing equal rights and a right of return to Palestinians.
Modelled on the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, it has inspired people from around the world to boycott businesses and academic and cultural institutions that have either a direct or indirect affiliation with Israel.
This includes companies associated with illegal Jewish settlements, those that provide services to the occupation, companies exploiting natural resources from Palestinian land and those that use Palestinians as cheap labour.
The UN human rights office has identified more than 200 companies linked directly or indirectly to illegal settlements, mostly from Israel and the US but also Germany and the Netherlands.
They include banking and tourism companies, as well as construction and technology firms.
Pompeo, who is in Israel as part of his last Middle East tour as US secretary of state, also visited the Golan Heights, a territory Israel captured from Syria and occupied in the 1967 war.
“You can’t stand here and stare out at what’s across the border and deny the central thing that President Donald Trump recognised, what the previous presidents have refused to do,” Pompeo said. “This is a part of Israel,” he added.
In March last year, Trump recognised the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights when he signed a decree alongside Netanyahu at the White House.
The move was condemned by the international community, which does not recognise the land grab, while Syria called it a “blatant attack” on its sovereignty.
Pompeo’s visit came after he became the first US secretary of state ever to visit an Israeli settlement in the illegally occupied West Bank on Thursday.
The Psagot winery is part of a sprawling network of Israeli settlements that are considered illegal under international law and a major obstacle in peace negotiations.
But the US broke from the international community consensus and announced that it no longer considers the settlements as unlawful.
Dozens of Palestinians demonstrated outside the settlement and Israeli soldiers responded with tear gas.