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Friday, November 10, 2017
Reconciliation spells cheaper
prices for Gaza consumers
Unity deal ends Hamas surcharge on imports from Israel
— Reuters
GAZA: Gaza’s merchants and
consumers are reaping early
rewards from reconciliation
moves by Hamas and the
Western-backed Palestinian
Authority (PA).
Israeli border restrictions, including a
nearly blanket ban on exports from Gaza,
and three wars since 2008 have imposed
severe hardship in the territory. Israel says
its rules are driven by security concerns,
accusing Hamas of having used imported
material to build weapons including rock-
ets that have been fired at its cities.
Since Hamas ceded Gaza’s border cross-
ings with Israel — the main gateway for
commercial imports — to the Authority
on Nov. 1 under an Egyptian-brokered
unity deal, many prices in the territory
have dropped.
The main reason for the decrease: the
Authority has canceled surcharges, some-
times as high as 25 percent, that Hamas
collected in cash from merchants in Gaza.
Businesses, in turn, have passed on
some of those savings to customers: a 2017
Kia Picanto compact car, for example, now
sells for $20,000 instead of $22,500, and a
kilo of beef costs 40 shekels ($11), down
from 50 ($15).
And this week, the PA, which takes its
own tax in an arrangement agreed with
Israel, allowed the import of cigarettes
costing eight shekels a pack compared
with the usual 21 shekels for other brands,
through Israel’s Kerem Shalom commer-
cial crossing for the first time.
Cigarettes used to come in only via
smuggling tunnels under the Egyptian
border but the PA is seeking understand-
ings with Hamas and Cairo to choke off
that channel.
“(Hamas’s fees) led to a weakening of
sales power because the people in Gaza
live under bad economic conditions and
because of the Israeli blockade and the
loss of jobs,” said Tareq Al-Saqqa, who
owns an electrical goods company in Gaza,
where unemployment tops 40 percent.
Citing security concerns, Israel and
Egypt maintain tight restrictions at their
Gaza borders. Hamas, regarded by the West
as a terrorist group, seized the enclave in
fighting in 2007 against forces loyal to
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Israel’s limits on Gaza’s import of so-
called “dual use” material, such as steel and
cement, that it fears could be used by Hamas
to make weapons or fortifications are unlike-
ly to change soon. But hundreds of truck-
loads of food and a wide variety of consumer
goods move into Gaza daily via Israel.
Hamas, which handed administrative
control of Gaza to the Authority under the
reconciliation agreement signed in Cairo
on Oct. 12, has spurned Israel’s demand it
“Israel said it would deal with the new
administration in Gaza but in the way that
would not allow Hamas and other factions
to develop their military capabilities,
which means it will continue to ban essen-
tial materials,” said Mohammed Abu
Jayyab, a Gaza economist.
Economic revival
He and other local economic experts
cautioned against any hopes of a rapid
revival of Gaza’s economy unless Israel’s
restrictions were fully removed.
Responsibility for security in still an
open issue in Gaza, where Hamas, which is
still policing the territory, has what ana-
lysts say are at least 25,000 well-equipped
fighters. Further unity talks are scheduled
for Nov. 21 in Cairo.
Keeping pressure on Hamas, Abbas has
yet to lift economic sanctions he imposed
in Gaza in June that included a cut in
salaries the Authority paid to 60,000 civil
servants. Abbas recently sent nearly 15,000
of them into early retirement.
A Palestinianman picks pineapples during a harvest onThursday at a farm in KhanYunis, Southern Gaza Strip. (AFP)
Palestinians mark 13 years since
Arafat’s death
GAZA CITY: Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and
the occupied West Bank on Thursday held ral-
lies to mark the 13th anniversary of the death
of revered former leader Yasser Arafat.
This year’s events came as rival Palestinian
factions Fatah and Hamas seek to carry out a
landmark reconciliation deal signed last month
that aims to end their 10-year rift.
Arafat, who died on Nov. 11, 2004 at a hospi-
tal near Paris from unknown causes at the age
of 75, remains a towering figure among
Former senior Fatah party official
Mohammed Dahlan, who lives in exile in the
UAE, organized a rally in Gaza.
A few thousand Dahlan supporters raised
pictures of Arafat and Palestinian flags, while
on the stage there were large portraits of Arafat
and Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder of
Hamas who was assassinated by Israel in 2004.
Dahlan was not in attendance but a
speech was delivered on his behalf.
He was once one of Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas’s top officials in Gaza but fell
out with him and was later kicked out of his
Fatah party. Since then he has become closer to
rivals Hamas, the movement that has run Gaza
since 2007.
Year of reconciliation
In a separate event in the West Bank city of
Ramallah on Thursday, dozens of Palestinians
gathered to commemorate Arafat’s death.
“We really wanted to come this year because
this is the year for reconciliation between here
and Gaza,” said rally participant Sanaa Al-Rifai.
“We hope this reconciliation will be a good
start and the soul of the martyr (Arafat) will be
more at peace when he sees the Palestinian
people more united.”
Arafat rose to become the leader of the
Palestinian movement after the creation of
Israel, leading an armed struggle in which
thousands died.
Decades later he disavowed violence and
famously shook hands with Israeli prime min-
ister Yitzhak Rabin on the White House lawn,
although the peace the Oslo accords were sup-
posed to bring never materialized.
The Palestinians have long accused Israel of
poisoning him, charges the Israeli government
firmly denies. His body was exhumed in 2012
for tests but a subsequent French investigation
found no proof of poisoning.
Last month, Hamas signed an Egyptian-
brokered reconciliation agreement with Fatah
that is supposed to see the Palestinian Authority
reclaim control of the Gaza Strip by Dec. 1.
Hamas handed over the borders to Fatah on
November 1 in a first key test of the agreement
but there have been signs of tensions in recent
days over security control of the Gaza Strip.
Palestinians mark the 13th anniversary of President Yasser Arafat’s death
on Thursday in Ramallah. (AP)
again in
graft probe
— AF
JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu was ques
tioned by police on Thursday eve-
ning in connection with two sepa-
rate investigations into alleged
corruption, Israeli public radio
said. It said that detectives arrived
at Netanyahu’s official residence
in Jerusalem shortly before 5.00
p.m. (15:00 GMT).
Police refused to confirm th
reports. Netanyahu has previousl
been questioned four times as par
of the investigations.
He is suspected to have received
luxury gifts from wealthy support-
ers, including Israeli businessma
and Hollywood producer Arno
Milchan, a longtime friend wh
reportedly sent boxes of expensive
cigars and other items with a
value of tens of thousands of dol
Milchan was again questioned
in September.
The second affair over which
Netanyahu has faced police
questioning involves suspicion
he sought a secret deal for favor
able coverage with the publisher
of top-selling daily Yediot
The alleged deal, not believed to
have been finalized, would have
seen Netanyahu receive positiv
coverage in return for helping curb
Yediot’s competitor, the pro-Netan-
yahu freesheet Israel Hayom.
Cambridge crackdown on Palestine
event part of ‘worrying trend’
LONDON: More than 350 people, includ-
ing lecturers from leading UK universi-
ties, have signed an open letter protesting
“an intolerable violation of academic
freedom” after Cambridge University
officials threatened to shut down a
Palestine Society event on Wednesday.
Lecturers from Cambridge, SOAS and
LSE were among those who condemned
the decision to intervene in a panel
event hosted by the student-run
Cambridge University Palestine Society
University officials contacted orga-
nizers hours before the “BDS (boycott,
divestment, sanctions) and the global-
ized struggle for Palestinian rights”
event was due to begin, insisting that its
director of communications Paul
Mylrea replace SOAS academic Ruba
Salih as the panel’s chair.
Organizers agreed after being told
the event would be canceled if they
refused to comply.
Jamie Woodcock, a fellow at LSE, told
Arab News that Cambridge University’s
decision is part of a “broader worrying
“Time and time again we are seeing
managers move in to control events, or
shut them down all together, under the
cover of ‘security concerns’ or ‘impartiality.’
In fact what we are seeing is an undermin-
ing of civil liberties, academic freedom, and
the right to free political expression.”
In a press release, PalSoc criticized
the “heavy-handed, authoritarian
intervention by university management
in the panel on human rights.
“Their replacement of a Palestinian
woman with a white male member of
university management, with no sub-
stantiation of their claim that the for-
mer was incapable of neutrality other
than racialized insinuation, sends deep-
ly disturbing signals about the preva-
lence of institutionalized discrimina-
tion at Cambridge.
“Similar events at LSE ... raise the
same concerns.”
The Cambridge University panel
included pro-Palestinian speakers
including Omar Barghouti and former
NUS President Malia Bouattia.
Describing the university’s decision
as “a form of censorship as well as an
undermining of academic freedom,”
Bouattia said that “one is left wonder-
ing if the same would have happened if
the event was chaired by a white man,
or organized by another group than the
Palestine society.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for
Cambridge University said: “The uni-
versity is fully committed to freedom
of speech and expression. We do
understand that certain events and
issues invoke strong feelings among
people and communities. But we
believe it is important that staff, stu-
dents and visitors to the university can
participate fully in legitimate debate,
partly so that they are able to question
and test controversial ideas.
“We have no reason to believe that
these events are in any way unlawful.
Events will be well-chaired in order to
ensure open, robust and lawful debate.
In this instance, following calls from
the organizers for extra safety mea-
sures, a neutral chair was provided to
ensure that all sides were represented in
what is an important and often emo-
tionally charged debate.”
But the open letter signed by academ-
ics said, “It is disturbing that university
authorities consider appropriate such
censorship, including the forced impo-
sition of an ‘independent chair,’ on an
event designed to raise awareness about
the human rights of Palestinians and
indigenous peoples around the world.
“In doing so, it risks being seen to
side with those who seek to silence the
voices of the marginalized, and raises
questions about the extent of its com-
mitment to free speech.”
Priyamvada Gopal, a lecturer at
Churchill College, Cambridge, was
among the first to sign the open letter.
“This is a manifest violation of aca-
demic freedom. I am also deeply con-
cerned at the implicit racial politics of
such a move which in this case has
involved replacing a respected female
academic of color with a purportedly
‘neutral’ white man,” she said.
“There is no such thing as ‘neutrali-
ty’ in historical and political matters:
All academics are enjoined and able to
conduct robust and open discussions.”
Hundreds sign letter protesting university’s threat to shut down panel discussion
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