Israel is constantly inventing new ways of making life in the occupied Palestinian territories ever more difficult and humiliating and several companies in the Nablus region have recently been subject to one of these policies. ISM Nablus visited but one of the affected companies – a small enterprise started in 1995, employing only three people.
They receive tenders from various private and public medical institutions in Nablus, and import supplies directly from abroad – mainly from Turkey, Italy and China. The majority of their shipments are based on inquiry and most items are low-cost such as syringes, casts, stethoscopes, gloves and IV-bags. Occasionally, larger and more expensive items such as infant incubators and electrically powered beds are needed and imported. In the past year, the price to import and process shipments has drastically risen, although it is only recently that companies in Nablus have been affected. One particular order got stuck in Israeli customs for more than 2 months and the company was forced to pay an additional import fee of 25,000 NIS (about $5,000 dollars) to access the order.
The fee was officially required for covering the cost of a so-called CB (Certification Body) Test Report. The CB scheme originated in Europe, where nations were moving toward adopting a common set of International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards. It was originally intended to provide a common test format to be used by all participating certifying agencies, but manufacturers are increasingly using the CB test report as final proof of compliance to a specific international standard. Although the goal of the CB scheme is to provide a harmonized international environment, manufacturers must still comply with local electrical installation codes and practices. This creates deviations for many countries, which greatly decreases the value of the scheme.
Despite these difficulties, Israeli authorities claim that these new fees are designed to ensure quality. It is, however, clear that the addition of these fees to the regular costs of foreign imports, has a prohibitive effect on small companies such as that described above. On average, this new policy means that each item will be 10 times more expensive to import.
The only way to circumvent the CBTR and related costs, is to buy directly from Israel. By adding these fees for foreign imports, Israel is in fact forcing Palestinian companies to buy Israeli. This is, apart from politically unappealing, also much more expensive than importing directly from foreign manufacturers.
The interviewed company and its client institutions are not the only ones to suffer from this unprecedented offensive on foreign imports. The proprietor of one Nablus company was unable to meet the costs and consequently had to send back a large shipment to China and buy the same items from Israel. Several other company owners are now, reluctantly, considering doing the same.