Arieh O'Sullivan

November 5, 2010 - 12:00am

The Palestinian Authority has filed its first indictment against a Palestinian for dealing in products manufactured in Jewish communities located on land Israel acquired in the 1967 war.

The test of the new law, which was passed in May, is scheduled to take place at a Bethlehem court where the charges were filed against a man suspected of smuggling in goods made in one of the Jewish communities. The unidentified man was reportedly caught entering Bethlehem with banned wood products. He was detained until his trial, according to the Ma’an News Agency.

Palestinian custom officials reached by The Media Line said they were checking the report.

As part of its non-violent campaign to end Israeli control and dependency, PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has called for the Palestinian market to be free of goods produced by Jewish communities located in post-1967 territories since they were “symbols of the Israeli occupation.”

Palestinians had been urging a boycott all goods and services emanating from companies or communities located on land Israel acquired in the 1967 war – land that the Palestinians claim for a Palestinian state.

Initially, the campaign was voluntary, but the PA later passed tough laws to enforce the boycott. Shopkeepers found selling settler goods faced prison sentences of up to five years and fines of some $15,000. Anyone caught smuggling goods can be jailed for up to six months and fined $3,000.

Organized by Al-Karameh (“Dignity”) National Empowerment Fund, a joint initiative of the Palestinian Authority and private businesses, tens of thousands of pamphlets have been distributed across the West Bank. Shops found free of any settlement goods are given tags to display which reads: “Your conscience, your choice.”

“It’s crucial for every Palestinian citizen and anyone around the world who believes in human rights to understand settlement products are illegal no matter how good they are since they are produced by illegitimate entities created in violation of international law,” the pamphlet says.

While Palestinians have called goods from the Jewish communities an “invasion,” the actual scope of the goods is negligible. As it is, produce made in the Jewish communities in the post 1967-territories comprise only about 2% or 3% of the $44 billion in goods Israel exports. Of this, only a tiny percentage ended up in the Palestinian market.

This boycott has made almost no dent on the Israeli economy, whose gross domestic product is some 50 times greater than the Palestinians per capita. So why are many Israelis so upset about this?

“On one level, the damage is indeed negligible and meaningless,” Naftali Bennett, director-general of the Yesha settlers’ council, told The Media Line. “However, the fact is that Salam Fayyad’s goal is not to hurt Israel but to sabotage peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Judea and Samaria,” he said, using the biblical names of the area.

About 280,000 Israelis live in communities throughout the West Bank, not including east Jerusalem. Palestinians have cited these communities as a key obstacle to a peace deal since they sit on land the Palestinians want for their future state.

The Palestinian Authority has also called on Palestinians to quit their jobs with Israeli communities and has set up a $50 million fund to help them find new jobs in Palestinians areas. An estimated 25,000 Palestinians are employed by Israeli entities in these areas and their salaries support about 20% of the Palestinian population.

“The main victim of the boycott is the Palestinian people. While their leaders are rolling in dough, the Palestinian people need jobs and commerce with Israel. It’s unfortunate that Fayyad is trying to sabotage their welfare in pursuit of a political agenda,” Bennett said.

The list of some 500 products banned in Palestinian shops was translated by the Yesha council into Hebrew and disseminated across Israel. Ironically, it sparked an increase in sales by “solidarity purchases,” officials in the communities said.


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