The ban on these goodwill ambassadors, (who were to be guests of the UK-based social enterprise, Zaytoun – zaytoun.org) comes exactly a year after these same farmers became the first olive oil producers in the world to be granted Fairtrade status. They were due to visit schools, Fairtrade supporters and community events during Fairtrade Fortnight, as part of a Co-operative College supported SUSY (solidarityeconomy.eu) speaker tour.
Bassema, from Anza village in the West Bank, produces about 300 litres of organic, Fairtrade olive oil each year, is a member of the Palestinian Fair Trade Association and village council member.
Lamis works in marketing at Canaan Fair Trade – one of the world’s leading producers and exporters of Fairtrade almonds and olive oil. Lamis is also a Board member of Shathaya Theatre – working with people affected by the trauma of living under occupation.
Cathi Pawson, Director of Zaytoun said “At a time when our government has a policy of supporting the development of the Palestinian economy, and Fairtrade olive oil is one of its few success stories to date, this refusal to grant visas is inexplicable, and displays a woeful lack of joined up thinking across departments.”
In October 2016, the British Consul General in Jerusalem, Dr Alastair McPhail, publicised UK support for 36 Palestinian olive-producing communities. This initiative provided £20,000 of harvesting equipment to over 300 Palestinian families.
Dr McPhail said “I’m proud to launch our initiative to support Palestinian olive growers in vulnerable areas of the West Bank, for the second year in a row. I hope that this exciting partnership with the PA Commission Against the Wall and Settlements will provide Palestinian farmers, in some of the most vulnerable areas, with the confidence and resilience to harvest their olives during these difficult times.”
This support is of limited use (or ‘value for money’ in UK government-speak) if the producers are prevented from expanding trade links to promote and sell the products of their labours.
The UK Government remains committed to promoting trade and business ties with Israel; labelling and identification of items produced in ‘Israeli settlements/Occupied Territories’ remains voluntary. UK Government departments need to work together more convincingly if they are to transform government rhetoric about support for the Palestinian economy into reality.
The Huddersfield Palestinian Support Network is holding an event on the afternoon of Saturday 24th June in Helme village. This event is supported by Holmfirth’s Fair Trader (fairtrader.coop). Starting in the village, a one-hour walk will be followed by a Strawberry Tea, and the chance to look at and buy Palestinian products, including Zaytoun foods, cookbooks and Taybeh beer.
Volunteer and Board Member, Fair Trader