Imported strawberries from the Gaza Strip to be sold in Israel.
(photo credit: AGRICULTURE MINISTRY)
Ministry of Agriculture Central Unit supervisors, in conjunction with the Israeli Police, uncovered strawberries that had been brought to Israel from the Gaza Strip in four stalls of Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda Market.
Together, the four stalls held 80 cartons of strawberries, weighing close to 600 pounds total, that were meant to be sold to the Israeli market. The suspects, residents of Jerusalem, were arrested and are set to stand trial in the coming weeks. The strawberries have been transferred to a separate location to be destroyed.
Israel's Agricultural Products Marketing Law demands that harvested products sold to the public be regulated and approved under government law. This means, specifically, that the product must be inspected to determine that it possesses an acceptable level of pesticide residue and that proper irrigation practices were being implemented, including the use of clean water.
"On the face of it, the strawberries look like the rest of the strawberries that are allowed to be marketed and are in the refrigerators of our homes," said an Agriculture Ministry statement. "But it is important to understand that there is a clear danger to anyone eating fruits and vegetables that are not under our supervision. The Ministry's inspectors work to ensure that the source of the fruits and vegetables sold in Israel are supervised. We will continue to act vigilantly to prevent such attempts."
However, this is not the only reason why the strawberries were declared illegal. The blockade of the Gaza Strip, imposed by Israel and Egypt in 2007, restricts the import, sale and distribution of any product coming in or out of the Hamas-controlled region - as well as the traffic of people entering or leaving.
Before 2007, Israel and the West Bank were major contributors to the economy in Gaza, with 85% of all Gazan goods being sold to these areas. In retrospect, the isolation of this market played a major contribution to the economic collapse of Gaza.
In late 2014, the Knesset passed legislation permitting certain types of goods to be sold in Israel and the West Bank that were originally produced in Gaza. Specific types of agricultural, wood and textile products were approved for sale in the territories of Israel and the West Bank.
Strawberries were one of the crops originally approved through the initial bill and in 2016 seven-hundred and fifty tons of strawberries were imported into Israel and West Bank from Gaza.
However, not everyone is happy with how the legislation has panned out for the Gazan farmers.
According to the non-profit Palestinian advocacy group Gisha, the Ministry of Agriculture holds the right to issue or revoke permissions on these sales at any time, in addition to shutting down unsupervised or illegal transactions, therefore the amount of strawberries brought in each year can severely vary, causing rifts with the local Gaza farmers. In 2015 ninety-four tons of strawberries were permitted sale into Israel where in 2016 the seven-hundred and fifty tons of strawberries were allowed, close to an 800% increase.
Other issues of concern include restrictions placed on the Kerem Border Crossing by the Ministry of Transportation as well as uncertainty and fluctuation of sales from season to season due to Israeli government regulations and legislation.Israel and Egypt have enforced this blockade on the Gaza Strip since Hamas took control of the coastal enclave in 2007
, limiting the movement of people and goods. Whereas, the legislation in passed through the Knesset in recent years, lifting and easing regulations on specific markets in Gaza and allowing the sale and production of these goods in Israel and the West Bank seems to be making a turn towards stronger cohesion between the markets, and such cohesion would produce much upside for the Gazan economy and community as a whole.Seth J. Frantzman contributed to this report.
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