On November 25, 2018, Gisha filed a High Court petition (Hebrew) against the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration (CLA) and the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), demanding that they institute and publish clear procedures for marketing agricultural produce from Gaza in the West Bank, Israel and abroad. The petition was filed on behalf of a Gaza farmer who wishes to sell his grapes, guavas and olives in markets outside the Strip.

Gisha was named as party to the petition as well. The petition describes Gisha’s efforts over the years to receive procedures and information pertaining to the sale of Gaza produce from the military and the Ministry of Agriculture.

Hundreds of guidelines, protocols and procedures issued by Israeli authorities shape the lives of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, dictating the extent to which basic human rights can be exercised. Over the years, as a result of Gisha’s legal work, COGAT was compelled to publish many of the procedures that regulate numerous aspects of life in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The petition filed in November 2018 delineates the attempts made by Gisha, primarily through Freedom of Information applications, to obtain clear information and the formal procedures pertaining to the process of marketing Gaza-grown agricultural produce outside the Strip, to no avail. The few responses Gisha received over the years indicate that COGAT has never taken action to regulate this process and publish formal guidelines for Gaza farmers. As a result, farmers have no detailed information at their disposal about what types of produce can exit the Strip to be marketed elsewhere, and about the coordination process for obtaining a permit to market produce outside the Strip. In fact, the only information gleaned from Israeli authorities regarding this issue is a list of a small number of fruits and vegetables that Israel ostensibly allows to be marketed outside the Strip. COGAT has never made it clear whether there is a distinction between types of produce that can be shipped abroad as opposed to types that can only be marketed in Israel or the West Bank, nor has Gisha received any information about the actual coordination procedure. Responses provided by the MoA in response to Freedom of Information requests by Gisha were similarly incomplete and irrelevant.

Though in theory there is no prohibition on selling agricultural produce outside Gaza, and indeed, tiny quantities of limited types of Gaza produce are sold in the West Bank, in Israel, and abroad, in practice, it is next to impossible to coordinate shipment of produce out of Gaza. The lack of transparent and accessible information on the procedure for marketing agricultural produce outside the Strip has created a chilling effect, discouraging many Gaza producers from trying to sell their products outside the Strip in the first place.

In early 2018, Gisha contacted the Gaza CLA, COGAT’s operative arm, and the MoA asking, in the absence of general provisions, for specific instructions with regards to the process of marketing Gaza-grown guavas, grapes and olives outside the Strip. Many months later, we received a partial response (Hebrew), by email, from the MoA, including lists of types of produce that Israel prohibits and allows to be marketed outside the Strip, without any clarifications on how to obtain a permit to sell this produce or who should be contacted in order to do so.

COGAT and the Gaza CLA have not yet responded to our query. In the time that has passed since we contacted the CLA, the farmer on whose behalf we petitioned the court was forced to sell his produce inside Gaza, at a loss. The goal of the petition is to make it possible for Gaza farmers to sell their produce wherever they chose to and reap the benefits of their hard work, as well as to contribute to Gaza’s overall economic development.

A hearing on the petition was scheduled for May 5, 2019. To read about the hearing and the outcome of the case, see here.

Additional documents related to the petition (all Hebrew):

Gisha’s 2015 Freedom of Information application regarding sale of produce in Israel

Ministry of Agriculture’s response to Gisha’s 2015 Freedom of Information application

COGAT’s response to Gisha’s 2015 Freedom of Information application

Working Protocol – Import of Vegetables during Shmita Year for Proper Shmita Observers: Customs Exempt Import until the end of 2015

Gisha’s request to COGAT 2017

Gisha’s appeal to Ministry of Agriculture 2017

Contradictory responses regarding sale of produce abroad: First response, second response, third response