Israeli products: Necessity or choice for Palestinians?

Palestinians flock to purchase goods in Israel after restrictions relaxed for Eid al-Adha holiday

JERUSALEM RESIDENTS walk near Damascus Gate.
Thousands of Palestinians are crossing into Israel to prepare for the Islamic holiday Eid al-Adha, the “Festival of Sacrifice." Despite the freezing of peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, Palestinians of all ages are storming Israeli malls and shops, as well as enjoying the tourist facilities.
A spokesman for the office of the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT)—headed by Druze Arab-Israeli citizen Kamil Abu Rokon—told The Media Line that “Palestinian residents of Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] of all ages will be able to conduct family visits in Israel.” He added that married men over the age of fifty and women over the age of forty would also be able to attend prayers on the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, atop which Al-Aqsa Mosque sits.
“This comes as part of an Israeli policy to improve the life of Palestinians in order to create security and stability,” the spokesperson noted. To this end, “the measures [taken] have been explained to all Israeli forces operating in the area regarding the dates and practices of the Islamic holiday."
Explaining the rush to enter Israel to buy goods, Amneh, a Palestinian citizen from Hebron who asked that only her last name to be used, told The Media Line that “we are not against Palestinian products, but we don’t trust them.” She said that due to a lack of ability on the part of assigned Palestinian officials to monitor the validity of products and their level of quality, Palestinians prefer the Israeli markets.
However, Amneh qualified, “If I find a good Palestinian alternative, I defiantly buy it instead. Unfortunately the Israeli products are better in terms of quality."
Another Palestinian contended to The Media Line, on condition of anonymity, that it did not make any sense to boycott Israeli products while Israel continues to be the Palestinians’ biggest trading partner. “Whether we buy from the West Bank or Israel, it’s the same thing and it won’t make any difference.” Noting that Palestinian shops and markets are filled with Israeli products, the individual elaborated, “I personally buy most of my things from Jordan but I don’t mind buying anything I like in Israel."
Alyssa Rhodes, an American citizen living in the West Bank, expressed a preference for Israeli markets as they carry the brands and products available in the United States. “It’s more expensive, but the quality is better, so I think it’s worth it."
She shared with The Media Line a recent experience of purchasing cosmetics from a shop in Ramallah: “I’ve bought make-up that is branded like something I normally use, but I’m pretty sure it was fake. I have to feel comfortable putting it on my skin, even if that means going all the way to Israel and paying more."
Dina Azouni, a Palestinian life-style blogger, explained to The Media Line that Palestinians generally head to Israeli markets because they want to purchase certain brands that are not available in the West Bank.
“It’s all about the experience of the mall itself, where you can easily enter an area of organized stores in one building, which we don’t have in the West Bank."
Other Palestinians disagreed with the first group of consumers.
“I would never buy any Israeli products even if I had a permit to enter Israel,” Palestinian Khaled Kharajeh stressed to The Media Line. He admitted that he was under a security ban from the Israeli authorities which precluded him from obtaining a permit, however, he claimed that he wouldn’t buy Israeli anyway. “We must support Palestinian products even if they are of lesser quality and less fashionable than the Israeli products."
Another Palestinian, Tamer Abu Nejem, criticized those who shop in Israel and blamed them for harming the Palestinian economy, calling it “mistaken behavior that is contradictory to our international positions.” He highlighted that while Palestinians were urging the world to boycott Israeli products, “we buy products from Israel and revive its economy."
An American economic expert, who asked The Media Line not to publish his name, purported that Israel methodically executes an agenda aimed at preventing Palestinians from reaching the level of economic independence required for statehood. He said that Israel worked hard to “manipulate, move, or cause the Palestinian population and leadership to act as planned by Israel.” Most of the time, he added, “it works as predicted and designed."
The expert claimed that the Israeli government was making it easy for Palestinians to enter Israel during the holiday so they would spend a good percentage of their money in Israel. “This has a small positive effect on Israel’s economy, but it has a major negative effect on the Palestinian economy.” Moreover, he theorized that Israel is seeking to break consumer loyalty to Palestinian brands by trying to get them hooked on Israeli products.
On the other hand, he believes that Palestinians are driven by emotions and lack a long-term strategy to combat this. “They even lack a proper and united leadership."
Nevertheless, the West Bank economy has grown by a remarkable 64% since 2008, whereas the population is still plagued by both high unemployment rates and strict Israeli restrictions on trade. In 2017, the gross domestic product in the West Bank was $8 billion, but living standards remain low with many unable to obtain the funds required to create businesses and workers are lacking the skill sets to fill those jobs that are available.