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The challenges of Palestinian mail and online shopping

Jerusalem24 – Online shopping had jumped in 2020, while it has been available for years the ease of access via smart phones and better internet connections all over the world have made online shopping even more accessible. This situation was no different in Palestine, as Palestinians living in the West Bank have been shopping online more than any other time. However, online shopping still requires postal services on the ground for the passage of goods.

In the 1990s, the Palestinian National Authority established post offices throughout the territories that it had administrative control. In the year 2000 the PNA had issued its first stamp booklets. The Palestinian Post Service has faced its own challenges, with Israel impeding Palestinian mail entering and exiting the Occupied Palestinian territories due to the latter’s policy. In 2002, the Israeli military had destroyed Palestinian post offices in the Gaza Strip.

For a long time then Palestinian Authority has been working to join the Universal Postal Union, facing several obstacles and even a rejection of Palestine’s application to the Union in September 2019. However, all that was about to change. In late 2020 the Palestinian post began contacting different online shops around the world with an important update.

At PALPOST we are very proud of what we service and provides to the Palestinian people.

In the last two years 2019, 2020, the Palestinian Post has distributed more than a million an a half postal items that referred to your company “Cainiao.”

Palestinian citizens have been good access to your online website and applications.

However, we must inform you that all of the items “small packages” that arrived in the “PALPOST” State of Palestine were via open transit coming from Israel Post without any terminal dues and we are investigating the reason.

During the reviews of the Ali Express Website and Application, unfortunately it does not ship to Palestine, and this is a matter discussed in our country now.

Also, Palestinian citizens continue to shop and choose their address for delivery, “Israel”, which will not be available after January 1, 2021. Therefore, we invite you to discuss the next steps for cooperation and to adopt a bilateral agreement to distribute your items in Palestine.

Otherwise, we apologize for returning all items belong to your company logo and tracking numbers that do not comply with UPU standard S10.

Finally, I would like to thank your understanding and cooperation, thus our organization will be very kind to cooperate with you for better future and proving good quality for both of our services.

The letter from the Palestinian Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology.

A letter that had been posted on social media expressed the Palestinian Post contacting the Chinese company, “Cainiao”, requesting the Chinese company to discuss future cooperation with the Palestinians. Warning the company that the Palestinian Post will begin returning packages coming from the company into the Occupied Palestinian territories. The Palestinian Post also declared in the letter that after January 1, 2021, “Israel” will not be available to Palestinians ordering goods online.

Jerusalem24 contacted Imad Itmeizeh, international relations officer at the Palestinian Post, to discuss the recent decision to remove Israel from Palestinian addresses. In the phone call, Itmeizeh spoke of the Palestinian Post’s work. “Registering the Palestinian Post in the Universal Post Union was an achievement that will facilitate  our work,” spoke Itemiezeh, he also added that “One of the advantages that we now have is our ability to track packages addressed to the Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian territories.” He stressed the challenges that the Palestinian Post used to face before, as Israel impeded and even lost Palestinian mail and packages. Other times, the Israelis simply refused to allow Palestinian mail into the West Bank. In 2018, for example, Palestinian mail that was being held up since 2010 was finally allowed into the West Bank. The 10 tonnes of mail included traditional mail, packages and even a wheelchair intended for Palestinians living in the West Bank. It took the Palestinian Post two weeks to sort through the mail and distribute it.

Palestinian postal workers sifted through undelivered mail dating as far back as 2010 at the post office in Jericho. The mail had been blocked by Israel. (Credit:Abbas Momani/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

However, this does not solve all of the problems that the Palestinians suffer from when it comes to their mail. Many online services provide discounts as well as free shipping and handling for Israelis, including Israeli settlers living in illegal settlements in the West Bank, while excluding Palestinians from services or charging them extra shipping and handling costs. Online shipping giant Amazon, owned by Jeff Bezos was one such companies. While Amazon has allowed free shipping many items on Amazon are still not shipped into the Occupied Palestinian territories. In response to that, “we are contacting different companies to provide equal services to the Palestinians that the Israelis receive.”

Regardless of the difficulties many Palestinians still make purchases from online stores. A lot of Palestinians make purchases through local vendors who order the goods for them, others make the purchases themselves directly from the online shops. “local vendors that deliver overcharge the items,” says Ya’ara, an online shopper, “They even add delivery costs even if the item ordered is several weeks late” she added. Ya’ara prefers to purchase her items directly from the online shops. She told Jerusalem24 “I buy my items from online shops, it is cheaper especially when I purchase from brand names.” To get around some of the difficulties when receiving items in the mail she requests the items be delivered to her families’ P.O. Box in Jerusalem. Jerusalem’s mail is handled by Israel and faces less obstacles to reach its destination. According to her, “It is cheaper for me this way, and I guarantee that I will receive the package, and that it will be received on time.”

While the Palestinian Ministry of Telecoms and Information Technologies is celebrating the Palestinian Post’s new status within the Universal Post Union, there are Palestinian citizens that are angry and even confused regarding the new developments. Fadi Arouri, a Palestinian journalist stated that the Palestinian Post’s decision is a rushed mistake. “They have no control over any borders, they have no seaports or airports. How do they expect to implement this decision on the ground?” The Palestinian National Authority does not have any jurisdiction over any of the Palestinian territories’ entry points, as they are under Israeli control. “While registering a the Palestinian Post in the international union is a good step, more needs to be done,” Says Arouri. He continues “sending letters is not enough to change the reality of the postal service in Palestine. We need more organized efforts. We need to lobby the governments of the countries where these companies are located.”

Mohammad Hamayel

Ramallah based journalist, Mohammad graduated from Al-Quds University with a B.A. in Media and Television. He has covered the 2015 Jerusalem Intifada as well as the Great March of Return for international media outlets. currently an editor/presenter at Jerusalem24. A UN alumni and a follower of global events and politics, especially American affairs.

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