The charade of “generous offers” to the Palestinians.I often feel I’m in an Orwellian dystopia when I read news headlines involving Palestine or Israel. Here’s one: “John Kerry Reveals $4 Billion Plan To Boost The Economy . . . For The Palestinians.”
As someone who worked on development in the West Bank and Gaza Strip for several years, I saw immediately how this would harm Palestinians and peace. This persistently inaccurate portrayal of the situation fools well-meaning Americans into supporting occupation and apartheid.
We can all agree on this: at Sunday’s World Economic Forum in Jordan, Secretary of State Kerry met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres. Kerry presented a plan (led by Tony Blair) “potentially worth $4 billion” in foreign investment which he said “could expand the Palestinian economy by up to 50 percent in the next three years” and “could also cut unemployment by almost two-thirds.” But Kerry’s caveat was: “[i]t all depends on parallel progress on peace between Israel and the Palestinians.” [Emphasis added.]
Perhaps he meant further conflict would retard economic growth, but it sounds more like political conditions. Whether good or bad, one thing is clear: few details were offered.
The entire transcript of the speech can be found on the State Department’s website, followed by the main points of contention:
A) Most Palestinians won’t benefit!
If past behavior of the US government, particularly USAID, and large international investment agencies is any guide, we can predict the results of such a plan. The $4 billion would not benefit most Palestinians – primarily just expats working at USAID and similar large IGOs, and secondarily a small class of Ramallah-ites.
Indeed, the plan could force Palestinians into a dependent relationship and prevent self-sufficiency. A common complaint of Palestinians is that their people have been “reduced to beggars.” They live in a big cage and know their country’s economy is subject to the whims of foreign donors.
B) The West Bank economy would become further stratified between the north, central, and south, (not to mention against Gaza), which is what Israeli hawks want (to divide and conquer). â€¨
Kerry’s plan would likely favor those in Ramallah, the central West Bank city where nearly all international development organizations’ offices reside.
Within the West Bank economy, some in Ramallah now are doing quite well while those in the north (Jenin, Qalqilya, Tulkarem) and the south (Hebron and Bethlehem) are really struggling, with unemployment rates in the 20% range. We can expect more of the same from such a plan.
C) “Bigger than Oslo”? Since when is more apartheid a good thing?
Kerry presented this as “a plan for the Palestinian economy that is bigger, bolder and more ambitious than anything proposed since Oslo.”
That sounds like, “If you liked a plan promising independence in 5 years but delivering apartheid and entrenched occupation over 20 years, you’ll love our next idea!”
The 1993 Oslo Accords laid the groundwork for apartheid. This is clear in the bizarre interim arrangement of governing the West Bank with Areas A, B, and C. Area A districts, the only “fully” under Palestinian control, are considered bantustans: they are non-contiguous, separated by Israeli settlements, military bases and checkpoints, and travel between them or into Israel is severely restricted.
If this $4 billion plan were implemented, it would be like the small disaster of Oslo in that desperate Palestinians would be accepting crumbs from their oppressors in exchange for a deepened system of control over their lives. Abbas is desperate to regain credibility with his own people – and to continue receiving US aid over and under the table in exchange for being a puppet leader.
D) At best, Kerry wants others to continue financing whatever the US helps destroy.
$4B is far less than the amount the US gives Israel annually, of which $3B is military aid, used to destroy farmland, install checkpoints, and other economy-destroying practices.
E) This inherent political manipulation in this plan would subvert the democratic will of the Palestinian people.
USAID has consistently used funds for obvious political manipulation, such as its eagerness to prop up the Fatah party and weaken Hamas by withdrawing funds to the Gaza Strip in 2007 (when Hamas took over) and funneling funds into Abbas’ public works.
Despites Kerry’s promises (“This group will make recommendations to the Palestinians. They’re not going to decide anything. The Palestinians will decide that in their normal course of governance”), history indicates that political conditions will be attached and followed by those seeking more future aid. These interventions usually yield undesirable governance in terms of freedom and peace.
F) Lastly, this plan is clearly disingenuous since the occupation is the problem, not just Palestinians lacking economic opportunity.
A diseased economy is merely a symptom of a military occupation and apartheid regime – this makes Palestinians more miserable but it does not destroy their reason for resisting.
**Don’t Believe the Hype** Even an idealistic 50% increase in Palestinian GDP and alleged lowered unemployment would really only benefit a few, the shameful, the sell-outs!
Lyndi Borne is a media intern at the Institute for Policy Studies.