Friday, July 12, 2013

Palestine Postage Stamp Conflict Escalates

Commemorative block just issued by Palestine Authority reads "State of Palestine."

I've written before about the postage stamps of Palestine. The competing Palestinian governments in the West Bank and Gaza have both now been issuing stamps for years based on the Oslo Accords, which created the Palestinian Authority and provided for certain advances in Palestinian civil government despite overall Israeli occupation. 

The stamps issued in Gaza by the Hamas-controlled wing of the PA have been overwhelmingly "militant" in theme and completely untolerated by Israeli authorities. The stamps issued by the Fatah-controlled West Bank wing, however, have generally followed a condition dictated by Israel to be on "peaceful" subjects, and to not explicitly challenge Israeli authority or be overly suggestive of an independent Palestinian entity. Thus, Israeli authorities have confiscated, delayed, suppressed, or complained about certain stamp issues, or ultimately refused to transmit mail bearing stamps it deems offensive or improper. Palestine Authority stamps are generally used on mail from the West Bank to the rest of the world with no problem, since the Fatah government generally pursues a policy of nonconfrontation.

While several sets of stamps have been issued by the West Bank Palestinian Authority this year with the usual pacific subject matter (animals of Palestine, and firefighters, for example) and the standard "Palestinian Authority" inscription, Palestinian postal authorities have surprised the world with an unannounced commemorative block just issued, inscribed "State of Palestine." A revision of a similar, football ("soccer") themed block issued last year, the block marks the recognition by the world Football authority, FIFA, of "the Palestinian national home ground." While this FIFA decision was back in 2008, the willingness of the PA to use "State of Palestine" on the stamp comes in recognition of the "State of Palestine" by a vote at the United Nations last year. Several world bodies and various countries have now recognized the State of Palestine. 

The block, shown above, shows a waving Palestinian flag, a cheering crowd and a soccer ball.

It's not yet known how Israel will react to this postal challenge to Israeli control. According to my sources, some Palestine Authority mail is now routed from the West Bank through Jordan, so Israel may be impotent to do more than verbally challenge the "State of Palestine" inscription. Interestingly, the currency of this issue is switched from "fils" to "mils," switching in effect from Jordanian currency to a virtual Palestinian one.

First Day Cover recently issued in Gaza

Definitely not meeting with Israeli approval, is the most recent stamp issue of the Gaza government. Released in June, a set of stamps and a block mark the "Battle of Shale Stones," or the Israeli assault on Gaza last year. The elaborate block shows the face of Ahmed Jabari, the Hamas military commander assassinated by Israel at the start of their attack. The block is an elaborate montage of explosions, fighters, a waving Palestinian flag, a map of Palestine and a missile bearing Palestinian colors launching out of Gaza. Also featured at the top of the block are the flags of Qatar and Turkey, two regional powers that have been supporters of the Hamas government.

Click on the images to see them in their full colorful glory.

More information on the stamps of Palestine can be found at the comprehensive Zobbel site, "An Introduction to the Philately of Palestine." Thanks to Palestinian stamp dealer Arabian Stamps for images (See Arabian Stamps at Ebay or Delcampe). Another good source of info on recent Palestinian stamps is an English philatelist, Magan Stamps.

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