A demonstration of farmers and unionists ended in 11 arrests on Sunday. Jordan and Israel might have signed a peace agreement in 1994, but these Jordanians take no heed of it in their protest over fruit and vegetable imports from the Jewish state.
The demonstrators gathered in front of the Ministry for Agriculture and chanted anti-Israeli slogans, brandishing photos of Palestinian children killed during the January offensive in the Gaza Strip. They also called for the dismissal of the minister for agriculture, Said Masri, for failing to protect local products by allowing the import of Israeli products. In response, the minister told state news agency Petra that Jordan had indeed imported 1,930 tonnes of Israeli agricultural products from Israel this year, but that it refused to accept fruit and vegetables from Jewish settlements.
Nevertheless, Israel is benefiting far more from the trade between the two countries. According to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, the state garnered 207 million euros from exports delivered to Jordan, while only 76 million went in the other direction.
“We’re demanding that the origin of a product be displayed clearly in Arabic”
Abdel Hadi Falahat is the president of an agricultural engineers' union. He took part in Sunday's protest.
There are two reasons for not importing from the Zionist state: firstly because Israel occupies Palestinian lands, and secondly because the Israeli farming sector benefits from grants, particularly from the World Bank, far more superior than those allocated here in Jordan. It's not a fair competition.
Jordan exports carrots, potatoes, leeks, cucumbers and olives to Israel, while in return we buy exotic fruits like mangoes and avocados from them. Meanwhile, we could be buying these same fruits from other countries in the Arab world like Sudan or Yemen.
What I'd like to see is the enforcement of a clause that favours imports from Arab countries rather than Israel. However, as part of Jordan and Israel's peace agreement, trade between the countries is supposed to be maintained. So for now we're demanding that the origin of a product be clearly displayed in Arabic.
The Jordanian people refuse to act as Israel's best friend. Some wholesale distributors however, lured by profit, resort to swindling the customer. They take products from their original containers, on which the origin is mentioned, and put them into small boxes with no labels on them, so that they can be sold on to small shopkeepers who believe they're Jordanian products."