Postal Service apologizes for Israel mail flap

The U.S. Postal Service on Thursday apologized to customers who were wrongly told that the conflict in Gaza prevented mail from being sent to Israel, after complaints from a prominent Jewish group.

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In a statement, the agency said it did not temporarily suspend mail delivery to Israel on July 22 and 23, when the Federal Aviation Administration had implemented a flight ban to the country.

But a USPS spokeswoman also acknowledged that not all local branches might have understood its policy last month for sending mail to Israel.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said this week that it was still getting reports from across the country, including Massachusetts, Michigan and New Jersey, that customers trying to send mail to Israel had been turned away because of the fighting in Gaza.

“Any post office that might have turned away customers tendering mail addressed to Israel and dispatched by the U.S. Postal Service during this time did so in error, and we apologize to any customers for any inconvenience they might have experienced as a result,” said the USPS spokeswoman, Darlene Casey.

Casey said that the Postal Service was able to send letters and packages to Israel through cargo flights and other means even as other flights into Tel Aviv were suspended. The USPS did acknowledge that mail carried by FedEx Express, which was subject to the flight ban, could have been delayed.

But even as the Postal Service apologized to customers, the agency and the ADL weren’t on the same page about whether local post offices were still refusing to accept letters to Israel or even if there was a temporary suspension of deliveries to the country.

Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director, said in a statement on Wednesday that the league was still getting reports that local post offices weren’t accepting anything addressed to Israel.

“The postal employees have told these individuals that current USPS policy says that mail to Israel cannot be accepted because of the current crisis,” Foxman said in the statement. “Only once employees sought clarification from supervisors in Washington did these post offices accept packages and letters to Israel.”

Foxman called on Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe to ensure that post offices around the country knew that the USPS was delivering to Israel.

While the service says it continued to dispatch mail and packages to Israel during the flight ban, Foxman said it was his understanding that mail to the country was suspended for 36 hours in July. He added that the ADL believed some local post offices thought that temporary suspension of mail delivery to Israel last month was actually permanent, leading to the current confusion.

The ADL explained the confusion, telling The Hill that it heard from customers that there had been a temporary suspension. The organization said the USPS had now told them there was no suspension of mail to Israel.

—This story was updated at 6:38 p.m.