Two ways Canadians can help keep the Palestinian economy “afloat” in the face of the twin challenges of COVID and the Israeli occupation

Israel is triumphant. Dominant militarily, diplomatically and economically. The West Bank economy has been decimated. Unemployment is soaring. Tourism – long a main source of income, especially in towns like Bethlehem, has been almost completely shut down. And with it, the possibility of selling handicrafts to tourists. Here are a couple of ways Canadians can act to help keep the Palestinian economy afloat in the West Bank until this devastating pandemic is under control. Read more…

Option 1 – “Save Tourism” – an initiative of the Siraj Centre, in Beit Sahour, Palestine

Since 2004, Siraj Center has managed all of the OFIP tours to Israel/Palestine. It works with the local community to improve their hospitality skills, so as to enhance the experience of visitors to Palestine and has widened the number of beneficiaries from tourism through exploring new markets such as hiking, biking, home stay, students exchange, and other experiential tourism activities.

Unfortunately, this has made increased their dependency on tourism income, making them vulnerable now to the lack of tourism caused by the pandemic and Israeli policies.

“Local families which work with us have not had any income since the first week of March,” notes Michel Awad, Siraj’s Executive Director. “They currently require urgent financial aid. To patch those needs, Siraj has decided to launch the Save Tourism initiative to enable international consumers to buy local products from those same artisan families to help them survive until tourism is back.”

Siraj has built a new website aimed at allowing Canadians and other colleagues, partners, friends and supporters to easily find a way to help by ordering Palestinian handicrafts, such as embroidery work, handmade soap, textile and leather-made products and olive wood carvings.  

“We invite Canadian friends to visit us at,” continues Michel Awad. “Check out our products and order on-line”. According to the Savetourism website, shipments are sent to North America twice a week and take 30 to 45 days to get here. Just in time for Christmas.

Option 2 – Zatoun – a Palestinian Canadian initiative

Zatoun is a Toronto-based grassroots project offering fair trade extra virgin olive oil and other products from Palestine to connect people in North America to the history, culture and challenges faced by Palestinians in their struggle for a free Palestine.  Started in 2004, Zatoun uses symbolic and cultural products to engage everyday Canadians directly with Palestine and to advocate in Canada for a just peace in Palestine-Israel.

You are invited to shop and share wonderful fair trade products selected for their meaning and attachment to values of justice and peace. Likewise you are invited to care for the people and the land of Palestine by contributing directly to planting olive trees and recreational programs for refugee youth,” notes Zatoun founder, Robert Massoud.  Massoud is originally from Jerusalem.

Canadians can check out the many products offered by Zatoun, and order directly on their website.  Orders are delivered promptly via Canada Post.  Zatoun olive oil makes a great gift for all occasions.  Instead of wine bring olive oil.

Whether you order direct from Palestine or through a Canadian outlet – remember Christmas and the Holiday Season are coming, so don’t delay!!


Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.

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  1. Peter,
    You wrote “Israel is triumphant. Dominant militarily, diplomatically and economically.” More accurately, “Israel, working with many allies and other supporter, is triumphant…”. Israel gets incredible military and economic support from the US and other allies. In addition to funds, which can be used to buy the most modern and expensive weapons, it gets other kinds of support. Major foreign firms have large laboratory and development plants in Israel. Israeli Scientists and Engineers have access to classified laboratories in the US. Many of them got their degrees at foreign universities. Israeli Universities get huge donations from abroad. . In contrast, Palestine’s allies are themselves poor, often under sanctions and under US pressure to cooperate with Israel. Palestinian Scientists have severe travel limitations, are often jailed, and work in under equipped classrooms and laboratories. What they do manage to build is often attacked and damaged by Israeli soldiers and settlers.

    OFIP supporters cannot compete with the massive support supplied to Israel by their own governments but we should do what we can.

    1. It would seem that corporations want to deal with states whose governments they can trust to honor the rule of law. They want to deal with states that have a liberal democratic government that respect individual rights.

      On the other hand, corporations do not want to, on the most part, want to deal with authoritarian regimes wherein there is no rule of law.

      Go figure.

      1. Hey Mr. Sigman,
        I don’t see any such pattern. Canadian corporations appear to be quite willing to deal with any regime if they think they can make money doing so. Individual rights do not appear to be a big preoccupation.

      2. Sigman, I don’t understand your point
        Importers from the West Bank are dealing with Israeli custom officers, Israeli transportation and mostly with Israeli banks to transfer the funds

        All of the tourism to the West Bank is coming through Israeli border crossing, most of it from Ben Gurion airport

        I know for a fact that Robert is using an Israeli exporter for Zatoun

        I often wondered if you are pro Israeli or anti Palestinian, if you are objecting to an economical relief to the West Bank you are clearly anti Palestinian and not pro Israeli at all

      3. Mr. Sigman,

        Since governments make their laws, “rule of law” is nearly meaningless. Corporations, Individuals, and other governments prefer countries whose laws they like; usually that means laws that favour them. Israel’s laws are openly biased, protecting some individuals more than others; they protect foreign corporations because Israel needs them.

        “Democratic” too is a vague term because there are so many systems that call themselves democratic. In some the system usually leaves special groups without representation. Others guarantee representation to certain groups. Israel controls the lives of many people who have absolutely no representation and the representatives of certain minority groups are ostracized so that they have no influence in government.

        When it comes to foreign investment, corporations do not seem to care about full representation or the fairness of laws as long as their rights and interests are protected.

  2. It appears that the Green Party elected the candidate who supports the Palestinian Arabs the least over the best Palestinian Arab supporter who has made antisemitic remarks and is supported by Peter Larson. And who says anti-Zionism isn’t related to antisemitism?

    1. Mr. Sigman,
      In your one sentence you made 3 affirmations. One of them is correct. One is an unproven allegation bordering on slander, and one is demonstrably erroneous. (I don’t know whether due to ignorance or conscious misrepresentation.)
      1. Annamie Paul did win the GPC leadership, and she was very quiet about her views on the Israel/Palestine issue. (CORRECT)
      2. Dimitri Lascaris was very vocal in his support of Palestinians and he came second. However, I am not aware of any anti-Semitic remarks that are attributable to him – unless criticism of Israel is, for you, proof of anti-Semitism. Few Canadians would agree with you on that. (ALLEGATION UNPROVEN).
      3. Neither I, nor CTIP endorsed Lascaris’ candidacy for GPC leadership. CTIP did report on a survey done by CJPME/IJV/UNJPPI that found that he was the candidate who had the strongest position on Palestinian human rights. (ERRONEOUS AFFIRMATION BY YOU).

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