April 19, 2020. In late 2019, for the first time since Israel imposed the closure on Gaza more than 12 years ago, a shipment of chocolate-covered marshmallow wafers made by the Gaza-based factory Sarayo Al Wadiya exited the Strip destined for markets in Gulf countries. In February and March this year, two more companies, Abu Hamid and Badri Wahaniyeh, managed to export shipments of dukkah (a spice blend containing sesame seeds, coriander and other spices), as well as spices and coffee to be sold in Germany and the UAE.
These breakthroughs follow Gisha’s legal and public advocacy. Before Israel tightened the closure on Gaza in the summer of 2007, as much as 80 percent of the processed food manufactured there was sold outside the Strip, mostly in the West Bank and Israel. Gisha’s efforts have aimed to compel Israel to remove its ban on the exit of processed foods from Gaza, a central factor contributing to economic deterioration in the Strip. Despite assertions by the Israeli authorities before the court to take steps to advance the marketing of Gaza-made food products in the West Bank and Israel, no progress has been made on the matter.
The owner of Badri Wahaniyeh told Gisha that to him, being able to market his products outside Gaza would be “a first step toward developing international trade connections,” though the profit margin from exports abroad are small due to high shipping costs. Factory owners and manufacturers from the Strip emphasize the need for Israel to remove restrictions on marketing their goods in the West Bank and Israel so that the processed food sector can fulfill its potential and contribute to the local economy.
In these days of financial and existential uncertainty, policy-makers across the globe are taking action to allow as much economic activity as possible under the necessary social distancing measures. With this in mind, Gisha calls on Israeli decision-makers to remove destructive trade restrictions hindering economic development in the Strip in order to mitigate the impact of the global economic crisis on Gaza’s civilian population. Restoring permission to market Gaza-made processed food products in the West Bank and Israel would protect existing jobs, produce many new ones, and help pave the way for greater economic activity in the Strip.