Israel has been imposing a sweeping ban on the sale of Gaza-made furniture in the West Bank for over a month, since May 4. No official announcement was made by the Israeli authorities but media reports (Hebrew) suggest that Israel imposed the ban following a particular incident in which Israeli authorities intercepted a shipment of furniture allegedly containing weapons inside and being transported from Gaza to the West Bank.
This sweeping ban severely harms Gaza’s furniture industry and the thousands of traders and workers working in the sector. According to early estimates by the Wood and Furniture Industries Union in Gaza, losses reached hundreds of thousands of shekels in less than a month, and if the ban continues, many workers will be in danger of losing their jobs, affecting their and their families’ livelihoods.
The furniture industry, a staple of Gaza’s economy, is still recovering from the seven years (2007-2014) during which Israel blocked all sales of Gaza-made furniture outside the Strip. Even before the new ban was imposed, the industry suffered multiple challenges arising from Israeli-imposed restrictions on the entry of raw materials into the Strip as well as restrictions on movement of people working in the sector.
On May 28, Gisha sent a letter (Hebrew) to the Minister of Defense and COGAT on behalf of the Wood and Furniture Industries Union in Gaza, demanding the blanket ban be lifted. In the letter, Gisha noted that Israel’s decision to ban the sale of Gaza furniture constitutes illegal collective punishment: “The ban is disproportionate and exceeds what may be considered reasonable. This sweeping measure cannot be justified, particularly since it is based on a single and specific case that has no connection to other suppliers and shippers (…) The measure deliberately harms Gaza’s economy and its residents. It is an abdication of the duty to respect and maintain normal life for the civilian population in the Gaza Strip.”