New company helps Palestinians overcome restrictions, access global market

Founded by two women, the business provides a wide range of E-commerce solutions.

Palestinian women walk past a money changer in the West Bank city of Ramallah February 16, 2010. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman/File Photo (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)
Palestinian women walk past a money changer in the West Bank city of Ramallah February 16, 2010. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman/File Photo
A new Ramallah-based company is about to make life easier for millions of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Taiseer, which means "facilitation" in Arabic, has developed customized services that allow the average Palestinian to overcome the obstacles faced each day due to Israeli restrictions and the underdeveloped infrastructure in Palestinian-governed territories.
Taiseer is the brainchild of two businesswomen, American-Sudanese Huda Al-Jack and Israeli-Arab Rola Surouji, who recognized the need for citizens that lack the know-how and the right connections to gain access to broader opportunities. To this end, the company currently offers online E-commerce solutions ranging from mail service to digital archiving.
"Users can rent an official address in Israel or the US in order to receive shipments from all over the world," Al-Jack explained to The Media Line, pointedly acknowledging that such has not been the case up to now. "Between countries there are regulations in the mail charges," she noted, "and any mail to Palestine is very expensive as the Palestinian addresses are not recognized globally."
Having an American address, by contrast, will allow Palestinian users to order goods and services as if they were locals, including from companies that do not ship outside the US
"The Israeli address will help Palestinians save time by shipping to Israel under their names rather to a Palestinian address where it will take a lot of time to arrive," Surouji added. "After we receive the shipments, users have two options; either pick them up from our offices in Ramallah or we deliver it to locations they provide in Palestine."
Basem Ruslan, a Palestinian entrepreneur, stressed to The Media Line the importance of such a development, "as it will open up doors for Palestinians to the global marketplace."
The need for digital archiving has become imperative after a law was passed in Israel requiring customs authorities to switch from a paper-based system to an online format. Thereafter, all importers were required to digitally archive all documents related to shipments—ranging from invoices to bills of lading—so that they could be accessed by officials any time over a seven year period.
"Israeli importers were issued a magnetic card, like an electronic signature, that allowed them to digitally save their documents in a database," Surouji explained, "but that option was not given to Palestinians importers."
As a result, Palestinian importers were forced to use companies for all of their shipping needs, including digital archiving, even if they only wanted the latter service.
This changed with the establishment this year of Taiseer, which has an exclusive deal with international companies to provide Palestinians with the ability to archive their import documents in compliance with Israeli law—while allowing them to maintain control over all other aspects of their operation.
"Taiseer will digitally archive the importer's records and provide it to Israeli customs any time they ask for it," Surouji said, thereby placing them on an equal footing with their Israeli counterparts.
"It's a great opportunity as it will save us time and effort," Nizar Abd Almuhsen, a Palestinian importer, contended to The Media Line.
"As a Palestinian I wish I could deal with Palestinian customs instead of Israel's," he continued, "but such a service will make my life much easier. It's convenient and not expensive and it comes as a separate service."
On the micro level, Taiseer is facilitating, through its billing service, for example, such mundane tasks as paying a parking ticket, which, for a Palestinian, is not as easy as one would think. "It is very important to pay on time," Al-Jack asserted, "most people don’t know that if they don’t pay their Israeli traffic ticket within 60 days it will increase by fifty percent."
For her part, Surouji revealed to The Media Line that if a Palestinian fails to pay a ticket bu the due date they could be flagged by the Israeli security establishment and possibly even be banned from entering Israel or receiving Israeli-issued documents.
"I didn’t know where to pay my ticket so I hired a lawyer when I first received it,” Reem Yousef, a West Bank resident, explained to The Media Line. "And even though I know where to pay now it's hard to get to Israeli police stations located near or in settlements and prisons. The lawyer told me that I could receive a security ban and I freaked out."
When asked if she would, in future, use Taiseer to pay traffic tickets on her behalf, Yousef exclaimed, “that is exactly what we need and it's a great idea.”
Notably, Taiseer is dedicated to empowering women and thus has, to date, hired only female employees. "They are smart, hard-working, able to multi-task and have great taste," Surouji affirmed.
Both she and Al-Jack told The Media Line that the sky is the limit as their company is planning to roll out other "huge services" that are currently pending Israeli approval.
"The impact of Taiseer is extremely positive on the Palestinian economy and society," Al-Jack concluded, "as many Palestinians have not been exposed to a lot of things in life because of the limitations imposed around them.
"We want Palestinians to make a mark in the global market and also to learn how to be informed. Our goal is to educate, facilitate and connect our clients to the world."