Ban on Palestinian Produce Prompts Protest

YERUSHALAYIM -

A ban on the shipment of Palestinian produce from Yehudah and Shomron to Israel was imposed on Sunday, the first such restriction in five years, The Times of Israel reported.

The Israeli government gave no reason for the move, and did not respond to a request for comment.

As a result, there were different opinions offered. An official of Hamoda, one of the Palestinian companies affected by the ban, claimed that it was commercially motivated, to protect Israeli domestic firms from outside competition, the al-Watan news outlet reported.

Amjad Muhtaseb, a marketing employee at al-Juneidi Dairy, told the official Palestinian news agency WAFA that it was due to failure to put Hebrew-language labels on the companies’ products.

An official in the Palestinian Ministry of Economy told Ma’an news agency that his ministry had not been notified of the Israeli decision.

The staff of five Palestinian companies — Hamoda, al-Juneidi Dairy and Food Products, al-Rayyan Dairies, Salwa Foods, and Siniora Food Industries — protested Sunday near Israel’s Ofer Prison outside Ramallah.

It was apparently the first time since 2010 that Israel has prohibited Palestinian Authority goods from entering east Yerushalayim. Israeli authorities at the time explained that the food products concerned did not meet Israeli standards.

The ban was rescinded shortly afterwards, following international pressure, including from the Mideast Quartet and the U.S. government.

Fadi Abu Hilweh, the director of marketing for Hamoda, told Ma’an the new ban could result in the loss of an estimated 1.2 billion shekels ($309.5 million) per year for the companies. Consumers in east Yerushalayim — in addition to Arab Israelis — account for more than 50 percent of the five companies’ sales, he said.