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Chinese goods overwhelm West Bank

Yasser Herbawi’s  Hebron factory has had trouble competing with imports from China.

Yasser Herbawi’s Hebron factory has had trouble competing with imports from China.

HEBRON, West Bank — Yasser Herbawi once supplied much of the West Bank and Gaza with black-and-white checkered scarves, the proud emblem of Palestinian identity made famous by the late Yasser Arafat.

But most of his looms now stand idle, his product edged out by cheap imports from the world's newest keffiyeh capital: China.

After a decade of being flooded with Chinese goods, from scarves to toys, the West Bank's largest city is struggling to compete — yet another obstacle to economic independence for Palestinians as they strive for a state of their own.

Two-thirds of Hebron's textile workshops have closed and 6,000 shoe factory workers have lost their jobs in the past eight years, pushing unemployment to 30.5 percent, the highest rate in the West Bank, according to Hebron's chamber of commerce.

It's hard to find an upside to globalization here.

Old industries are being squeezed out, while Israeli restrictions on movement and land development limit the scope for new ventures. Israel's measures to stop suicide bombers make it much harder to get goods into Israel, and West Bank manufacturers can't sell to Gaza, sealed off after the violent Hamas takeover there last year.

Hebron Mayor Khaled Osaily said he doesn't see any quick fixes.

But if Hebron wants to survive the twin pressures of Israeli restrictions and Chinese imports, he said, it must shift to services and information technology.

While change may be tough for this frugal, traditional city, Osaily said, "We cannot continue as usual."

Chinese goods overwhelm West Bank 03/18/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:43am]
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