In the coming days every Palestinian home in the West Bank will receive a detailed list of 500 products the Palestinian Authority has decided to boycott. The campaign against Israeli products, set to be launched Tuesday, is backed by a recently passed law entailing prison sentences and fines.
The new law states that anyone who deals in products produced in settlements will be imprisoned for two to five years and pay a fine of up to $15,000. Those who import settlement products into the Palestinian territories are threatened with three to six years, fines of up to $3,000, and the confiscation of their licenses and vehicles.
The campaign, which sees itself as spearheading the PA's non-violent resistance, plans to administer brochures to each home in an attempt to educate Palestinians on which products are no longer allowed.
Heitham Kilani, the leader of the campaign, said its aim was to double the demand for Palestinian products in the West Bank. "Settlement products are a serious obstacle to the development of our various industries and economy," he said.
"We purchase $200 million worth of goods annually and we would prefer to see this money go to Palestinians in order to strengthen the local economy."
Kilani said the campaign, dubbed 'You and Your Conscience', appeals to Palestinian sentiment, as it recognizes that the law may not be enough to prevent blockade runners from smuggling the prohibited goods in.
Sharif Muhammad Khaled, a farmer and member of the committee for defense of Palestinian villages, was not optimistic about the attempt. "People have become accustomed to Israeli products that mortally wound us, and prefer them to Palestinian products, even if they are always more expensive and for the most part of a lesser quality," he said.
"We need to do what Ghandi did in India. The Indians boycotted British products and this sped up their withdrawal from there," Khaled said. However he added that some members of the Palestinian agriculture ministry were skeptical about their farmers' ability to fulfill the people's needs.
Abdullah Lahluh, of the agriculture ministry, said that currently Israeli produce makes up 80% of the fruit and vegetable market. "We cannot accept that products produced in the West Bank compete with our products and lower their prices with sheer bulk," he said.
Kilani added that Israeli claims that Palestinians would lose their jobs were hypocritical. "The Israelis enlisted 200,000 Palestinian workers. If they are so concerned for their livelihood, let them bring them back to work in Israel," he said.
He added that the money earned by Palestinian markets would go towards building the future Palestinian state's economy, strengthening its society, and creating new jobs to balance out any possible loss of employment at settlements.