Israel overstates Gaza exports to Europe, won’t budge on West Bank ban

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), which regulates the movement of goods into and out of the Gaza Strip, flaunts having allowed limited export of goods from Gaza to Europe. While there is certainly value in the move, Gaza’s economy would be far better served were the ban on similar exports to the West Bank lifted. 

By Gisha

So what exactly are “dolavim?” A type of crate. (In its translation from Hebrew to English, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, or COGAT, inexplicably referred to the containers or crates as “plane trees.” Huh?) Has Gaza started exporting crates? Well, not really. Merchandise is loaded into these crates and once unloaded, they are returned to the Gaza Strip. Like kids who answer “nine and one week” when asked how old they are, COGAT is counting containers. It’s a good thing they don’t count the truck drivers as well.

Incidentally, a few minutes after we posted the newsflash on our Facebook page (Hebrew), COGAT decided to take it down. Lucky we took a screenshot first.

In any case, it’s always wise to read COGAT’s newsflashes very carefully – see below for example.

What is left unexplained? Screenshot of COGAT’s newsflash
What is left unexplained? Screenshot of COGAT’s newsflash

Were 4,100 tons of strawberries really exported from Gaza? No. COGAT is confusing tons and kilograms, just like it did in the earlier newsflash we shared, which stated that 10,320 tons of strawberries had been shipped out of the Gaza Strip. It was likely just a simple mistake, but it does reveal how deceptive numbers can be without context. Who can even appreciate the difference between 4,000 tons and 4,000 kilograms? How many of the people who read the newsflash really wondered how Israel could facilitate the transfer of 1,000 truckloads of strawberries in one day, when only 11 trucks of strawberries left Gaza during the entire month of October, or how tens of thousands of tons of strawberries could be placed on only ten truck beds?

COGAT’s updates can’t be fully understood without referring to what is not included in them. For example, what does the short newsflash in the screenshot leave out? The destination of the goods. If you’ve been following us for a while, you’ve probably already guessed the answer – Europe. This is the sixth year of a project funded by the Dutch government for the export of goods from the Gaza Strip to Europe. On their way to Europe, the goods transit through Israel.

Why is this of interest? Because COGAT is in charge of implementing the ban on the sale of the same goods in Israel and in the West Bank, despite the fact that, as mentioned, they are shipped via Israel in any case. Before this ban was imposed in 2007, most of Gaza’s agricultural products were sold in Israel and in the West Bank.

We are actually glad that COGAT is taking pride in the few goods that are able to transit out of Gaza for export – it’s clear COGAT recognizes the importance of export for Gaza’s economic recovery. But, if you’re going to shine the spotlight on this Dutch-subsidized project, it might be worthwhile to mention what the Dutch representative to the Palestinian Authority said in early December:

The Dutch government has good hope that after several years of exporting cash crops to Europe, the transfer of these goods to the West Bank will be allowed soon. We know that there is a clear demand for these crops in the West Bank, and it would make the Gaza cash crops sector significantly more profitable, allowing for economic growth and employment genexeration in the Gaza Strip. The Dutch government therefore encourages all Palestinian and Israeli stakeholders to do their utmost to make the transit of cash crops from Gaza to the West Bank a reality this season.

It’s one thing to take pride in the achievements of the Gaza farmers and the Dutch government for supporting this project, but COGAT owes the Dutch representative a response, or at the very least, an explanation as to why her request to allow the sale of the same goods in the West Bank continues to be denied.

This post was originally published on Gaza Gateway, a site created by Gisha. Gisha is an Israeli non-profit organization founded in 2005 whose goal is to protect the freedom of movement of Palestinians, especially Gaza residents. Gisha promotes rights guaranteed by international and Israeli law.