Palestinians declare war on Jewish settlements’ products
RAMALLAH, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) — The Palestinian National Authority (PNA), who has launched last month a campaign to boycott products made in Israeli settlements, said it would compensate the Palestinian merchants who obey the government’s instruction.
PNA Minister of Economy Hassan Abu Lebda said Saturday the Fund of National Dignity, inaugurated by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to fight products made in Israeli settlements, would be able to compensate Palestinian merchants and distributors for the loss they get from not dealing with products made in Israeli settlements.
Fayyad and the PNA had decided that by the end of 2010, the West Bank will not deal with any product made in the settlements. Since the decision was made, PNA customs officers have carried out daily campaigns of searching into shops, stores, groceries and supermarkets for products made in Israeli settlements, and confiscated and destroyed them.
Abu Lebda said that "since the beginning of the campaign last month, the PNA confiscated and destroyed settlements products and goods in the West Bank that equal 1.5 million U.S. dollars."
He also added that the only PNA punishment against merchants who deal with Israeli settlements’ products is "to confiscate and destroy the products and goods," adding "the PNA will carry out in the future more punishing measures against those who violate the instructions."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu considered the PNA decision as "an incitement against Israel.
An economy treaty reached in Paris between Israel and the Palestinians in 1994 stipulated that the PNA has to purchase products made in Israel, without referring to products made in Israeli settlements.
Fayyad hinted to amend the treaty soon, adding that "this treaty is unfair."
The PNA campaign was accompanied by an international campaign to boycott any product made in Israeli settlements that the PNA considers illegal.
PNA officials said the campaign succeeded in several European countries, mainly Britain, which has asked Israel to write the source of the product, in order to exclude those made in Israeli settlements from free customs offered to Israeli products according to a commerce treaty between Israel and Europe.
Two weeks ago, in a symbolic step, Fayyad personally joined a campaign of burning products made in Israeli settlements. Images of Fayyad throwing boxes of goods and products into burned loads of goods had angered Israel.
Fayyad had then inaugurated the Fund of National Dignity. "The year 2010 will be a decisive year to clean up the Palestinian markets from products made in the Jewish settlements," Fayyad saidin a statement on Jan. 7.
The Palestinian private sector has also joined the PNA government’s campaign, in a bid to encourage the Palestinians consuming and purchasing the national Palestinian products instead of depending on products made in the Israeli settlements.
The private sector paid 1.5 million U.S. dollars to the Fund of National Dignity, while the PNA contributed with the same sum and vowed to increase this contribution in the future.
The private sector’s representatives and the civil society call on the public not only to boycott the products made in Israeli settlements, but also any product made in Israel.
Ahmed Masrouji, chairman of the Palestinian Businessmen Association, who represents the private sector in the campaign, said "the government is committed to the economy treaty reached with Israel, but the private sector and the Palestinian public are not committed to this poor agreement."
Palestinian observers believe that the PNA would be challenged by lots of difficulties to clean up the Palestinian markets from Israeli settlements’ products, mainly the geographical intervention between the West Bank and the settlements and the Palestinian labor force who work in the settlements.
In the West Bank, there are 151 Israeli settlements, which accommodate some 300,000 settlers, in addition to another 26 settlements that surround the occupied East Jerusalem, which contain another 190,000 settlers.
According to the Palestinian Statistic Bureau (PSB), the number of Palestinians who work in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem has reached 14.5 percent of the total Palestinian labor force in the West Bank.
The PSB report, published in the last quarter of 2009, showed that the labor force in West Bank is 529,900, adding that 76,000 of them work in Israeli settlements.