The hard life and times of COGAT’s spokesperson

Trucks don’t bloom in Gaza come winter time and Gaza’s merchants don’t spring from the ground after the first rainfall.

Trucks don’t bloom in Gaza come winter time and Gaza’s merchants don’t spring from the ground after the first rainfall.

“The export season begins each year at the beginning of winter and ends toward the onset of spring”.

Sometimes the news releases put out by the spokesperson for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) reveal, unintentionally, how tough his job must be. We didn’t come up with the sentence quoted above, nor is it taken from an introductory course on meteorology or an economics textbook. This is how it appeared in COGAT’s news release on the “export from Gaza of date snacks” and it clearly demonstrates the constant, Sisyphean effort to breathe life and vitality into an outdated policy.

There’s no such thing as an “export season”. Trucks don’t bloom in Gaza come winter time and Gaza’s merchants don’t spring from the ground after the first rainfall. Export from Gaza begins in the winter and ends in the spring simply because most of Gaza’s export consists of winter produce destined for Europe which exits in the framework of a Dutch government-funded project. Other products are exported from the Gaza Strip as well, but the quantities are negligible because of the ban on the sale of Gaza-made products in the West Bank and Israel1.

It’s not COGAT who has decided to maintain the ban on sale of goods from Gaza in the West Bank and Israel but rather the government2. All COGAT can do is implement the policy on the ground and try to make it look good. How do you do that? By describing the policy as if it’s a force of nature and taking pride in the fact that, “The export and marketing of date snacks in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] is carried out each year”, despite the fact that it only began this year, 2012.

This isn’t the first time COGAT has tried to spruce up the image of Gaza’s meager export. It is, however, a positive sign and indicates that COGAT understands the importance of sale of goods outside the Strip to Gaza’s economy and implicitly recognizes the damage the unnecessary restrictions cause Israel. Rather than have COGAT’s spokesperson try justify an unjustifiable policy, the body that is responsible for it – the government – should explain why these restrictions are still in place. It is not the COGAT spokesperson’s job to explain the policy and it looks like even his creativity has its limits.

  1. two semi-exceptions to this ban are the date snacks and school furniture that were shipped to the West Bank earlier this year. In neither case can it really be called allowing sale because both were projects funded with public money. Date snacks and furniture from Gaza are still banned for sale in the West Bank outside the framework of such projects []
  2. COGAT Spokesperson Guy Inbar has said so himself, here []
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