From Tel Aviv to the Beirut Duty Free: Israeli Products Spotted at Airport

Lighters spotted in Beirut’s Airport bore the logo of James Richardson, the company that has operated the principal duty free license at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel since the 1980s. (Photo: Marwan Tahtah)
Published Saturday, February 9, 2013
Phoenicia-Aer Rianta Management Company (PAM), the operator of the Beirut Duty Free at Beirut International Airport, seems to have imported goods from an Israeli company.
The items in question are lighters. The operator put them on display in the duty free area, after removing all evidence that pointed to their Israeli origin, including Hebrew script on their packaging.
Earlier, when PAM’s management moved the items to its warehouses, the company told its employees that the script was Hindi rather than Hebrew.

The company’s claims notwithstanding, the writing on the packaging was indeed Hebrew. In addition, the lighters bore the logo of James Richardson, the company that has operated the principal duty free license at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel since the 1980s.
In a report aired on Thursday, 7 February 2013, al-Mayadeen TV translated the Hebrew text, revealing that the items were being sold at an airport in Negev, Israel. So how did they make their way to PAM’s stores at the Beirut airport?

Al-Akhbar tried to contact the company a couple of times, only to be met with prevarication and empty promises to return our call.

This matter raises a number of questions: Is this the first time that Israeli goods have entered Lebanon? Did the customs authorities, who are entrusted with verifying the country of origin, do their job properly?

Indeed, a quick examination of the paperwork attached to the boxes reveals that the primary destination was Tel Aviv-Milan. Upon the goods’ arrival in Milan, another form was affixed over the Israeli one, stating that the items were being shipped from Milan to Beirut.

According to these documents, 41 boxes were sent from Milan to Beirut, out of 70 that came out of Israel.

According to Ahmad Merhi, a lawyer who lobbies against economic normalization with Israel, the value of these goods is not what’s important. Merhi stressed that the danger of marketing Israeli goods in Lebanon did not lie in the enemy achieving financial profits, as much as in promoting the acceptance of the idea of having Israeli goods in Lebanon, in preparation for normalization.

It is worth noting that Lebanese law makes dealing with Israeli companies, whether directly or otherwise, an offense punishable by imprisonment for three to 10 years.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

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