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Date posted: May 22, 2010
By MIFTAH

On May 18th, approximately 3,000 volunteers went door to door in several areas of the West Bank handing out a list of boycotted settlement products. The volunteers also urged citizens to sign the "Karama" pledge, which stipulates that they would no longer buy any products made in West Bank Jewish settlements. The campaign is part of the overall campaign first instigated years ago by grassroots organizations here and abroad, and then adopted by PA Prime Minister Salam Fayayd at the beginning of the year.

With settlement products being boycotted, banned and blocked from entry into Palestinian territories, illegal Israeli companies in the West Bank say they are feeling the crunch. According to a Washington Post article published on May 16, several factories in Jewish settlements have been forced to shut down because of the Palestinian boycott. This has not sat well with the Israelis. In a statement released on May 18, the settlement umbrella organization, the Yesha Council said, "This is an act of hostility with all intents and purposes on the part of the Palestinian Authority and its leaders, and it must be answered immediately and decisively just like any other act of hostility", claiming it is in violation of the Paris Protocol. Palestinians insist it is nothing of the sort, given that West Bank settlements are illegal and the protocol revolves around trade relations between Israel and the Palestinians. They also accused Fayyad of leading a campaign of "economic terror."

Calls from among Israeli circles have revolved around halting negotiations with the Palestinians, withholding funds and closing ports to Palestinian imports. Regardless, the Palestinians are moving full speed ahead with the campaign, considered part of the overall nonviolent resistance against the occupation. The boycott comes just as the second round of proximity talks came to a close on May 20. US Envoy, George Mitchell, who will reportedly come to the region every two weeks, described the talks as "constructive" saying he was cautiously optimistic. On the ground, however, there is not much to be optimistic about. On May 20, Israel radio quoted Israeli Deputy PM Minister Moshe Yaalon who said Israel would renew its settlement activities in the West Bank as soon as the moratorium on settlement construction expires in September. Yaalon also promised that Israel would never "uproot Jews from any place in the Land of Israel."

Israel is not doing itself any favors lately in terms of its image. On May 16, Israeli border personnel turned back renowned linguist and intellectual Noam Chomsky from the Allenby Bridge between Jordan and Jericho after a four-hour interrogation session.

While Israel later said it was a 'misunderstanding' and they would reconsider the ban, Chomsky, who is openly critical of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians, said the interrogators claimed that Israel didn't "like what he wrote." They also didn't like the fact that Chomsky was scheduled to speak at Birzeit University but had no plans to visit an Israeli university.

On May 21, 15 members of the European Parliament also expressed outrage at Israel for refusing them access into Gaza. In a statement, the members said a portion of the group would enter via Rafah instead of the Erez Crossing.

Also in Gaza, the Hamas-led authority there has been severely criticized for demolishing several homes in a Rafah area it says was slated for the construction of a religious center. Hamas says the land is owned by the government and funds were given to it from an outside organization to build the center. However, there are now approximately 150 people who have been made homeless because of the demolitions, many said to have built their homes in that area after Israel demolished their original houses.

On May 21, two Palestinian teens were shot and killed after allegedly trying to infiltrate the border into Israel to find work. An Israeli army spokesperson says soldiers exchanged fire while Palestinian medics say the teens were unarmed. Also on May 21, Israeli airplanes bombed several areas of the Strip in what Israel claims was retaliation for Qassam rockets earlier this week. Three underground tunnels were struck in the raids.

Finally, Hamas lawmaker Mohammed Abu Teir was banned from his home in Jerusalem on May 20 just hours after being released from an Israeli prison. Abu Teir was arrested in 2006 shortly after Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was captured. According to Abu Teir, Israeli authorities have given him until June 19 to leave Jerusalem, claiming that he lost his residency rights in the city after participation in Palestinian general elections in 2006.

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