When the closure was imposed on the Gaza Strip in June 2007, clothes and footwear importers in Gaza found themselves unable to bring goods into the Strip that they had ordered from abroad. For almost three years now, these goods have been sitting in storage containers at Israel’s port in Ashdod or in the West Bank. Each month of storage costs an importer between $300-$500 per container.
Recently, however, it appears that Israeli policy-makers decided that fashion no longer constitutes a security threat to Israel (at least temporarily). In response to a petition to Israel’s High Court (see link to petition (in Hebrew)) by importers in Gaza, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories stated that it had decided “on a one-time basis, and as a goodwill humanitarian gesture, to grant permission to the petitioners to transfer their clothing and footwear products” to Gaza. This transfer was, however, subject to several conditions imposed by Israel, including: that the products were acquired prior to the Hamas takeover of the Strip; that the goods were originally purchased with the intention of being transferred to Gaza, and of course, upon provision of detailed information on the nature of the goods, such as the type of clothing (prompting us to ask whether there can be items of clothing more dangerous than others?).
Since April 4, 2010, Israel has permitted the transfer of clothing and footwear products to Gaza, and to date 110 trucks have entered the Strip, at a rate of 10 trucks per day. However, with each truck that enters, it becomes clear that the celebration over the transfer of new items may have been premature: the clothes and shoes have accumulated moisture in the many months of storage, and many of the products have either rotted completely or been partially damaged by mildew. The losses to the merchants, in addition to the costs of storage, are estimated at 30% of the value of each truck.
Almost 750 more containers of clothes, shoes and other goods, including office equipment and children’s games, are still sitting in Israel or in the West Bank. Due to Israel’s vague and arbitrary policies regarding transfer of goods to Gaza, it’s not clear if and when it will decide to put a stop to this “one-time”, “humanitarian gesture” or when it will again permit the transfer of such items in the future.