Palestinian seek to impose settlement boycott


source: Palestine Telegrap

Date Published: March 18, 2010

Palestinian customs agents are hanging banners, setting up checkpoints and raiding shops across the Israeli-occupied Palestinian West Bank in a campaign to rid the territory of products made illegally in Israeli settlements.

But the difficulty in detecting illegal Jewish settlement products threatens 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 illegal 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.”

All Jewish settlements are illegal under international law because they are built on Arab land (mainly Palestinian), illegally occupied by Israel since 1967.

Around 200,000 illegal Jewish settlers are estimated to have moved into the dozen or so Israeli settlements in Palestinian East Jerusalem.

There are about 300,000 more illegal Jewish settlers currently living in settlements the Palestinian West Bank.

The settlers adhere to radical ideologies and are extremely violent to almost-defenceless Palestinians.

The Palestinians also fear the illegal Jewish settlements will make it impossible to establish an independent state – outside Israeli military control – 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.

The Israeli occupation made Palestinians at the mercy of their occupiers economically.

Thousands of Palestinians work on the settlements, mostly in construction and industry, to survive the economic hardships resulting from living under Israeli occupation and control.

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, not in illegal Israeli settelmets.

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.”

Sourc: Middle East Online

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