Home > Uncategorized > Palestinians struggle to impose settlements boycott

Palestinians struggle to impose settlements boycott

March 20th, 2010

   by Hossam Ezzedine and Yoav Lemmer

   RAMALLAH, West Bank, March 18, 2010 (AFP) – Palestinian customs agents are hanging banners, setting up checkpoints and raiding shops across the West Bank in a campaign to rid the territory of products made in Israeli settlements.
   But the difficulty in detecting settlement products, the dependency of many Palestinians on the communities for work and supplies, and the wider market for settler produce in Israel and abroad threaten the process.
   In a storage area next to his office, Palestinian customs officer Fadi Abu al-Qurn shows off crates of wine, olive oil and food confiscated by his forces, all settler-made goods bound for Palestinian markets.
   “We are carrying out our duty to monitor and seize any goods originating in the settlements in accordance with the cabinet decision,” he says, referring to the order from prime minister Salam Fayyad’s government.

   “This work is certainly draining the settlements, because so far we have confiscated hundreds of tonnes of goods,” he adds.
   The Palestinian Authority has hung banners at the entrances to Ramallah reading: “Don’t destroy the refugee camps to build the settlements.” It has also launched a website in Arabic and English with descriptions of banned products.
   Dozens of Palestinian-run shops that sell such goods have been raided.
   Abu al-Qurn says the traders initially resisted his forces, “but after a while they came to understand why the goods are being targeted.”
   Nearly half a million Israelis live in more than 120 settlements scattered across the West Bank including east Jerusalem, many of which are full-fledged towns with built-up residential areas and industrial zones.
   The Palestinians fear the settlements will make it impossible to establish an independent state in the occupied territories and have refused to relaunch US-led direct negotiations with Israel without a complete settlement freeze.
   Fayyad launched the campaign as part of a larger project to build the institutions of a Palestinian state by mid-2011 and in January participated in the burning of settlement products in the West Bank town of Salfit.

               — ‘I’m happy about what they’re doing’ –

   But it’s unclear what impact if any the boycott is having on the settlements, which mostly market their products in Israel and abroad.
   The European Union excludes settlement goods from its free trade agreement with Israel but customs authorities have said it is virtually impossible to distinguish them from goods made inside the country.
   Anwar Ali Ramal, the Druze owner of a furniture factory in the Barkan industrial zone, a settlement near Salfit, said the boycott mainly affected his Palestinian distributor.
   “Today he doesn’t take anything from the factory, not a single chair, and he and his workers are staying at home. It will take them some time, because they will have to find a new partner inside Israel,” he said.
   “The boycott isn’t going to put pressure on the settlements, but the Palestinians in the West Bank, especially the ones who work on the settlements,” he says.
   Thousands of Palestinians work on the settlements, mostly in construction and industry, because the wages are often more than twice as high as elsewhere in the territory. Tens of thousands work inside Israel for similar reasons.
   At least one settler leader has labelled the ban “economic terrorism” and called for a counter-boycott of Palestinian goods and labour.
   “The state of Israel cannot accept this,” says Uri Ariel, an Israeli lawmaker from the far-right National Union party.
   “The Palestinians must decide. If they don’t want a relationship with Israel in commerce and economics then there won’t be one.”
   In the meantime, Abu al-Qurn’s men continue to halt trucks at the main entrances to Ramallah, sometimes surprising drivers who were previously only stopped at Israeli army checkpoints.
   One day, customs agents stopped a truck carrying several crates of Finlandia vodka and Carlsberg beer. The driver, Sobhi Saafan, looked on as agents searched through the back of the truck.
   “I’m happy about what they are doing,” he said, adding that all of his products originated abroad.
   After thoroughly checking the vehicle, the agents went to another part of town, keeping the checkpoint mobile in their bid to foil smugglers.
   There they stopped Fadi Abu al-Zalf, who was on his way to the West Bank town of Qalqiliya with a shipment of food for a supermarket.
   “It’s good what they are doing, especially because they are seizing goods that are corrupt,” he said. “I think they should ban all Israeli goods and not just those that originate in the settlements.”

Be Sociable, Share!


  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

To prove you're a person (not a spam script), type the security word shown in the picture.
Anti-Spam Image

Powered by WP Hashcash