By Doron Peskin, Ynet News – 26 Apr 2009
Execution office, Rafah style: Egyptian authorities invite local merchants to participate in auctions of goods confiscated before being smuggled into Gaza. Palestinians furious as they are paying for merchandise they will never receive
Egyptian authorities have come up with a new and creative way to add funds to country’s treasury: Every week, the Rafah police invite large merchants, wholesalers and slaughterhouse owners to an auction of goods seized on Egyptian territory on their way to the Palestinian side of the border.
This bargain pleases the Egyptian merchants in light of the relatively cheap prices for which the goods are sold on their way to the smuggling tunnels.
Sometimes, these merchants are the source of the smuggled goods, and the ones who lose are the merchants on the Palestinian side, who pay for merchandise which they will never receive.
The revenues are relatively small, but this intense activity has already caused Gazans to wonder whether Rafah is a border crossing point or “an auction arena”.
This criticism comes in addition to existing criticism on the part of Hamas over the fact that Egypt does not allow free passage of goods and passengers through the crossing. The criticism over the auctions has been reported by several Palestinian news websites.
Last Monday, butchers and owners of slaughterhouses were summoned to Rafah for an auction of 560 sheep seized several days earlier before being sent into tunnels in the Rafah area. Some 50 heating gas tanks were also offered for sale.
The auctions offer a wide variety of products. For example, last month the authorities invited Egyptian merchants interested in purchasing 30 tons of rice, 1,400 plastic chairs and 5,800 cellular phone chargers.
Egyptian business sources reported that most of the products offered in the auctions are food products, led by the rice, biscuits, beans, candy and salt. They are followed by household utensils and electrical appliances, including computer equipment.
It should be noted that explosives seized by the Egyptian security officials are not being offered for sale.
Doron Peskin is head of research at Info-Prod Research (Middle East) Ltd