Gisha presents: Strawberries for sale

This week, Gisha is launching a campaign to overturn a ban on the sale of strawberries from Gaza in the West Bank during the coming winter season. For the past five years, there has been a sweeping prohibition on marketing of goods from Gaza in Israel and the West Bank, even though the transfer of goods through Israel and the West Bank to Europe and other destinations abroad is permitted.

The strawberry season begins in winter, but farmers in Gaza will need advanced notice that they will be allowed to sell their produce to allow them to plant sufficient quantities in time. The window of opportunity for such notice is narrow – the decision must be made before 31.8.2012.

For the past two years, Israel’s government, including the prime minister himself, as well as top security officials have repeatedly talked about how important economic recovery in Gaza is for Israel’s security. The Ministry of Agriculture has said it does not object to the sale of strawberries from Gaza in the West Bank, and so has the Vegetable Growers Association (for a full list of supporters and their statements, click here). Frankly, given the widespread support, we don’t really understand who is blocking the removal of the ban.

Before the imposition of the closure on Gaza in June 2007, 85% of the goods sold outside the Strip were marketed in the West Bank and Israel. Because access to these lucrative markets is banned, commerce out of Gaza has all but ground to a halt and months can go by without a single truck leaving the Strip. The restrictions play a major role in the fact that the manufacturing sectors in Gaza are paralyzed, that the rate of unemployment is 31.5% and that 70% of the population receives humanitarian aid.

It's important to note that the removal of the prohibition on marketing strawberries will not be enough to improve the economic situation as a whole. Yet it could open the door for a renewal of the extensive commercial relations between Gaza and the West Bank and Israel and in other agricultural and industrial sectors.

As part of the campaign, we've produced a short animated clip pointing out the widespread support among Israeli officials for allowing strawberries from Gaza to be sold in the West Bank. Over the coming week, we will be asking Israelis to send a letter to a different person each day – from the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories to the minister of defense. Enough letters, enough public pressure, and we stand a real chance of advancing a policy change that would be good for everyone.

Links:
To the campaign page and the animated clip
To a graph with weekly statistics on export from Gaza