Palestinian Authority blocks sale of goods made at Israeli settlements

The Palestinian Authority has embarked on a series of measures aimed at ending what one official has called the “cancer” of Palestinian economic dependence on Israel’s West Bank settlements.

This week Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas signed legislation banning the sale of Israeli settlement-made products in the Palestinian West Bank.

The ban would make selling and importing settlement-made goods illegal with violators subject to fines and imprisonment.

Hassan al-Ouri, an Abbas legal adviser, argued that Palestinian purchases of settler-manufactured products served only to enlarge the settlements and give them legitimacy.

Speaking to the Palestinian Authority controlled WAFA news agency, al-Ouri likened the settlements to a “cancer of the Palestinian body” that needed to be fought “by all means necessary.”

Some 300,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements on land seized from Jordan in the 1967 war. Israeli settlements are one of the primary sources of tension in the decades old Israeli-Palestinian conflict with each side asserting historical rights to the land.

The Palestinian Ministry of Economy estimates that settlement products sold in the West Bank account for at least $200 million a year.

Palestinian police have already started enforcing the law with over $5 million worth of goods already confiscated. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad recently presided over a symbolic bonfire of seized goods.

Speaking with CNN last month about the possibility of the ban being officially implemented, Fayyad said, “If we regard settlements as illegal under international law which they are… it stands to reason therefore at a time when we expect settlement products to be boycotted, for our people not to contribute in any way, any shape or form to economic activities in those settlements.”

Israel’s Minister for Regional Cooperation Silvan Shalom blasted the law saying it would harm Palestinians working in the settlements and “sabotages the chances for economic and political peace.”

The ban comes amid a separate Palestinian government initiative to prohibit Palestinians residents of the West Bank from working inside Israeli settlements. It is estimated that over 20,000 Palestinian laborers make their living in settlements.

Palestinians employed in the settlements say they would rather work elsewhere but have little choice.

“We work as slaves so we can feed our children. There is no alternative,” 58-year-old Nefez, a settlement worker with nine children told CNN. “The person who works in the Palestinian Authority can live, but the average worker is left out in the cold.”

Palestinian officials have publicly conceded that enforcement of such a measure would be difficult and it would be necessary to find alternative sources of income for affected workers.

Settlements have not been the only target of the Palestinian campaign to sever some of the economic ties with Israel. On Wednesday, the Palestinian minister of communications, Dr. Mashour Abu-Daqqa, announced a ban on the sale of Israeli SIM and prepaid cards for cellular telephones from the Palestinian cellular market.

The ministry said Israeli cellular companies made up 12 percent of the Palestinian market yet pay no taxes or licensing fees to the Palestinian Authority and that the government has not allowed for the development third generations networks for Palestinians

“There is a direct link between the private sector in Israel and the occupation — the occupation is their arm to make their profits. This is the classical imperialism, the luxury occupation,” Abu-Daqqa said in a statement.

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