Maher Abukhater
The Los Angeles Times (Blog)
July 6, 2010 - 12:00am

Hundreds of Palestinian dairy and meat producers demonstrated Monday outside the Palestinian Authority prime minister’s office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, demanding that Israel cancel an order banning the sale of their products in East Jerusalem markets.

The demonstration took place only hours before Prime Minister Salam Fayyad of the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority was scheduled to meet Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Jerusalem to discuss such matters and many more that directly affect Palestinian living conditions.

The producers demanded that the Palestinian Authority respond by banning Israeli dairy and meat products from the Palestinian areas. Although Palestinians sell about $2.5 million worth of their dairy and meat products in East Jerusalem markets a month, Israel sells six times this quantity, or $15 million, a month in the Palestinian areas.

Israel has been allowing Palestinian producers to sell a small percentage of their products in the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, which it occupied and unilaterally annexed in 1967. Palestinian producers have not been allowed to sell anything inside Israel proper.

But as of July 1, even the Arab markets of East Jerusalem have been closed to Palestinian products, increasing fears of further isolation of the Arab section of the city and its more than 300,000 Palestinian residents from their West Bank surroundings. The first step in this isolation policy was the annexation of the city and granting its Palestinian citizens residency rights but not citizenship.

The second step was preventing West Bank residents from entering or working in the city without Israeli army-issued permits. The third and latest step was building a 20-foot-high concrete wall around the city, thus making entry and exit from the city to its West Bank environs possible only through Israeli army-controlled checkpoints.

Although there was no explanation for the new Israeli ban on Palestinian products in East Jerusalem, Palestinians believe the decision came in light of the Palestinian drive to boycott products made in Israeli settlements that are mushrooming all over the West Bank and the ban on Palestinian workers from working in these settlements. The Palestinian Authority hopes that by the end of this year it would have "cleaned" the Palestinian markets of products made in the settlements.

Israel did not take this Palestinian decision lightly and officials have voiced strong opposition to it, threatening to take action against the Palestinian Authority. Apparently the action has come with the ban on the sale of Palestinian products in East Jerusalem.


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