Various kinds of Israeli-made snacks, juices, soft drinks and biscuits were accumulated on the shelves and in large refrigerators at Metro mall and other supermarkets allover the Gaza Strip, while in the West Bank, the Palestinians had decided to boycott these products.
Activists in the Palestinian committee to boycott Israeli products were surprised this week after the Gaza-based ministry of national economy gave permission to Gaza Strip merchants and businessmen to import products made in Israel. Such products used to be banned in Gaza for many years.
The ministry of national economy in Gaza said it decided to let importers to bring Israeli-made products of foods and drinks to the impoverished coastal enclave because “local industry and factories in the Gaza Strip are unable to produce these kinds of products.”
The products recently allowed in the Gaza Strip are biscuits, chips, snacks, chocolates, juices, diary products, coffee and soft drinks. These products were banned in the enclave since Hamas movement violently took over the place in the summer of 2007.
The Hamas-led government used to depend on getting all these kinds of products from Egypt through the underground tunnels dug underneath the borders with Gaza.
After last summer’s Israeli military operation in Gaza, most of the local factories were destroyed or damaged, while Israel kept banning the needed raw-materials for producing local food and drinks products. All tunnels between Gaza and Egypt were also destroyed following the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2011.
Hamas members argued that in order to meet the people’s needs in Gaza, there was no choice other than allowing Israeli products in Gaza.
Abdul Fattah Zrei’e, one of the directors in the ministry of economy, told Xinhua in Gaza that importing Israeli-made products was “temporary,” and didn’t mean that “we encourage the Israeli products or we look for replacing Israeli products to our products.”
But this policy was slammed by officials and activists in the West Bank. Tayseer Amro, director general of the Palestinian ministry of economy in the West Bank city of Ramallah, slammed the decision of his counterpart in Gaza.
He told Xinhua that “it is a strange decision and not understandable,” adding that “the policy of our ministry is based on encouraging Palestinian-made food and drink products and we encourage the local markets in Gaza and the West Bank to strengthen our economy.”
Although a Palestinian unity government was formed in June last year, Gaza and the West Bank were still separately governed by different authorities.
The disagreement of policies towards Israeli products between the two authorities showed that there was still a long way for national reconciliation.
The official Palestinian committee to boycott Israel’s products in the West Bank recommended last month that all kinds of products made by big commercial Israeli food companies must be boycotted as part of a Palestinian strategy to peacefully resist the Israeli policy of expanding settlements.
Head of the committee, Mahmoud Aloul, also a senior member in President Mahmoud Abbas Fatah Party, said last month that the new Palestinian attitude aimed at adopting the strategy permanently. The Palestinian decision was a response to Israel’s withholding of Palestinian tax revenue dues.
However, he stated that boycotting Israeli products might be eased if Israel releases the Palestinian tax dues and stops any other future action against the Palestinians.
“Resuming the import of Israeli products to Gaza after all these years of boycott contradicts with our strategy which considers boycotting the Israeli products an essential part of resisting the Israeli occupation and its policies,” said Nabil Diab, member of a West Bank campaign to boycott Israeli products.
Diab said that “the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip should express a stricter position and immediately stop importing Israeli products because this certainly leaves a negative impact to our peaceful resistance against Israel and its settlements.”
According to official figures, Palestinians pay around 4 billion U.S. dollars every year for products made in Israel. Diab and other activists said “while the campaign to boycott Israeli products succeeds in the West Bank, people buy Israeli products in Gaza.”
In 2009, the Palestinian National Authority launched its first large campaign of boycotting products manufactured in Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories.