Along one of the roads in the city of Ariha in the north of the occupied West Bank, merchants Khaldoun and Hassan regularly receive 30 tons of dates produced in the neighbouring Israeli agricultural settlements, in preparation for their transfer to one of the packaging factories built on the outskirts of the city, Anadolu news agency reported.
Inside the factory, about 13 miners are working on “screening” the dates and repackaging them in bags that read “dates of the Holy Land” in both Arabic and English and “Made in Palestine” in order to market them locally, in the Arab states and in Europe.
This is what one of the farms that is owned by Israeli settlers does in order to market its produce of dates to customers of European Union countries after the enforcement of a decision earlier this year to boycott any products of settlements in the West Bank.
Anadolu cited a statement issued by the Palestinian national economy minister saying that members of the ministry have found dozens of tons of produce coming from the settlements in this way, on its way to either the local market or to the packaging factories in the city of Ariha and the neighbouring villages.
Merchant Khaldoun, 45 years, told Anadolu’s reporter, “We do trade in dates of the settlements, which we buy at prices that are 40 per cent lower than the market price. And in order to be able to market the dates, we clean and re-package them and choose the best in preparation for selling them in the local market, as well as the Arab and European markets.”
He added that the annual volume of his seasonal sales of dates is nearly 350 tons, pointing out that other merchants who work in this field and in other varieties of vegetables and fruits, such as citrus fruits, nuts, and medical herbs have similar practices.
His fellow trader Hassan said that he has a licensed company that is registered officially. The export process takes place after the official bodies check the quality and specifications of the product, ensuring the product’s conformity with European specifications and international standards. It is then exported under the “Made in Palestine” label.
The minister of economy said in its statement that any truck carrying dates must also be carrying a transfer permit to move the dates from inside the farm of production to the factory that will process the packaging, noting that it has begun to take stricter steps over the trade of dates through listing the names of the farmers who grow dates, the number of trees they own and their annual average production.
Palestine enjoys customs exemptions and export-related facilities in trade with the countries of the European Union, so the Israeli companies cooperate with Palestinian merchants to export the dates produced in the settlements illegally established in the West Bank to the European Union, while benefiting from such exemptions.
In the beginning of 2014, the European Union announced its decision to boycott economic, scientific and academic relations with institutions, factories and farms that have any investments or presence in the Israeli settlements established in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Earlier, the ministry of economy confiscated more than 20 tons of corrupt and damaged dates coming from the Israeli settlements while on their way to one of the factories for repackaging to later sell them as a product of Palestine.