Sonja Karkar, of Australians for Palestine, writes:

Below is another extraordinary speech given by Professor Nurit Peled-Elhanan, daughter of a general in the Israeli army and a granddaughter of a signer on the Israeli Declaration of Independence.  Nurit lost her daughter in a suicide bombing in Jerusalem, but even in the face of such a personal tragedy, she has never hesitated to speak out passionately about the terrible injustices suffered by the Palestinian people at the hands of her government and its leaders.  Like her charismatic brother Miko Peled who came to speak in Australia last year, Nurit speaks from firsthand experience of Israel’s true intentions to take all of the land and gradually expel the Palestinians from their homeland.  In the meantime, Israel has instituted the worst of apartheid policies and practices against those Palestinians under its military occupation, as well as Israel’s own Palestinian citizens.  As the world remains mute and unhearing at the incredible bravery of the Palestinian hunger-strikers, Nurit’s cries from the heart are her effort to break that silence.  We ignore these pleas at our peril.  Israel’s efforts at normalisation are failing and it will only be a matter of time before the ugly face of Zionism will be fully exposed .  Please take a stand now before more people suffer and die, particularly for the three hunger-strikers to whom Nurit refers below.  Protests have taken place across Europe and more action is urgently needed.

Sonja Karkar

The 45th birthday of the Occupation


by Nurit Peled-Elhanan

Occupation Magazine

9 June 2012

I dedicate my words this evening to three hunger-strikers. Mahmoud Sarsak, who has been striking for 83 days. An excellent football player from Gaza, he was arrested three years ago under the Law against Illegal Combatants, which permits him to be imprisoned for life, without a trial and without charge. Akram Rikhawi, who has been imprisoned since 2004 and has been on a hunger-strike since 12 April, in protest against his not being released despite the fragile state of his health. And Samer al-Barq, who renewed his hunger-strike after he had stopped it, with the signing of the agreement,

because like many who were released, he got a new administrative detention order. Those prisoners are still alive because “when freedom takes hold of a person’s soul, even the gods cannot touch him.” (Jean-Paul Sartre) Not the god of Zionist power and not the Israeli angel of death. Those prisoners, and thousands more like them, including more than twenty Members of Parliament including the Chairman of the Parliament, Dr. Aziz Dweik, are being held without justice or trial, under humiliating conditions, for years, without visits or hope. They are the freedom fighters of this country who remind us again and again that we all live under occupation and that only their liberation will restore our freedom to us.

Arab citizens of Israel have been living under occupation for nearly sixty-five years now, and the Jewish citizens of Israel are living under a siege that they have imposed on themselves. We are all subjects of a colonialist regime that includes the appropriation of lands and water resources, ethnic cleansing, destruction of the landscape and destruction of the human spirit. A language and culture of which they have no need except to express their being conquered has been imposed on the Arabs whose language and culture has been deliberately and institutionally removed from the lives of the Jews, so that we cannot teach our children and remind their children that `there can also be a love story between an Arab poet and this country.` (Mahmoud Darwish). Thus since its establishment Israel has been perpetuating, in the manner of oppressive regimes, an alienated society and a culture cut off from this place, its residents, its aromas and its tastes. Even the trees and the flowers in our gardens are alienated, foreign, and do not belong. This alienation testifies again and again that on the day of its founding Israel emblazoned on its flag the symbol of apartheid and racism, and eschewed the symbol of freedom and brotherhood that ensures democracy.

This year the apartheid regime of the State of the Jews proved its complete loyalty to racism and the principles of racism. Twenty-five racist bills were submitted and more than ten racist laws have been passed this year, and hardly any Jewish citizens went out onto the streets. More than three hundred people imprisoned without trial launched a hunger strike to the death for two months and more, and hardly any Jewish citizens went onto the streets. Thousands of children are not going to school in East Jerusalem because the Jewish ministry of education does not allocate classes or because the racist Citizenship Law makes them the citizens of no-place and no one is going onto the streets. The separation of families, the expulsion of residents, the confiscation of lands, children abducted from their beds and cruelly interrogated, families evicted from their homes out onto the street, farmers tortured by kippa-wearing bullies under the protection of the army and on the orders of the government  and hardly anyone goes out onto the streets. That is the peak achievement of the Zionist movement.

The State of Israel, which was officially declared as an apartheid state, is distinguished by what has always been the most typical and successful method of racism: the classification of human beings. The Hebrew language that keeps getting uglier under the auspices of the army of Occupation and the bureaucracy of Occupation, is full of classifications: there are people who are a cancer in the heart of the nation and there are people who are a security danger, and there are people who are a plague or a demographic nightmare and there are people who are a health risk, all of them classified and categorized in such a way that even the most ignorant and boorish of Israel’s ministers manage to learn this categorization by heart.

We are all subject to classifications. We are all controlled by the racist laws of this place, and voluntarily placed into ghettos. The Zionist ghetto has learned not to see and not to hear anything beyond the walls that surround it: the real walls made of concrete, and the imaginary walls made of obedience, hate and terrible fear. We do not dare protest against the racist laws, we do not dare to defy racist signs, we do not dare to defend tortured children, we do not dare to break the walls of Gaza, and we do not dare go to Hebron and Deheisheh, to Jenin and Ramallah to ask after the neighbours. That is the great victory of the Occupation. Under the cover of the Occupation, we choose again and again to fold under the rule of criminals of every kind, war criminals, ignoramuses and boors. Thus do we punish ourselves for our helplessness and the withering of our spirit. Year after year we take our children to the gates of the schools, let them learn in an education system that burns books of history and citizenship and authorizes books that incite the murder of children. We abandon them to brainwashing and lies about the War of Liberation we won and Jerusalem Day that signifies our conquests, and the parade for Samaria, which is ours, we let them be taken to Hebron, the City of our Patriarchs, and to the City of David who is not alive and not well. The teachers in that system do not flinch when they are called upon to poison their pupils’ minds with mendacious stories about our historical rights to the neighbours’ lands, about heroism and victory when it was really ethnic cleansing, inspired and planned by the institutions of racism. The entire purpose of Israeli education is to prepare children to be obedient soldiers of the Israel Occupation Force.

We bow our heads when the most institutionalized terrorist organization in the world takes our children from us and enlists them into its ranks and teaches them how to classify people, how to classify children, how to classify babies, how to classify pain and how to classify the dead. All that, in order to harden their hearts and to dull their senses so that they can abuse, destroy and kill with a clean conscience. We are occupied to such a degree that even when the human being turns into blood we continue to classify without understanding that all of us, the dead and the living, are victims of the corrupting Occupation.

We feel the pain of the parents of one captive Jewish soldier and do not let the pain of the parents of thousands of abducted Palestinian children penetrate through to us, parents who are not allowed to visit their incarcerated children for years because the price demanded of them for the visit is collaboration with the oppressor. We ignore the sufferings of the children of Gaza who are living on the margins of death, victims of malnutrition and lack of medical care, without electricity, without the right to education and livelihood, without a chance and without hope.

As everyone knows today, the 1967 war was not a war of no choice. It was a bolting from the corral by young generals, hot-blooded colts who had sprouted and grown up in the Zionist ghetto and learned to dream of conquest. They trained and trained until they could do so no longer and then took advantage of a moment of stupidity on the part of the neighbours to breach every obstacle, to cast off all restraints and to conquer and expand and destroy joyfully, with intoxicated senses, with a feeling of omnipotent supremacy but without any plan for the future, without any thought for the day after and the millions of human beings who became subjects overnight. In order to justify the devastation and the destruction, the official mythologists were mobilized to affix a scriptural verse to every profane killing and an entire nation was swept into the stream of plunder and exploitation, surpassing themselves every year, because the Jewish genius, from the moment it was enlisted for the task of ruin and devastation, destruction and killing, has not stopped taking out ever more patents.

Today, when the Occupation is beginning to show its effect on the quality of life of the ruling nation, they are rising up and demanding social justice. But social justice too is classified. Social justice is for residents of this ghetto, not of that ghetto. Residents of that ghetto will only spoil our social justice if we include them in our demands, if we give them a forum, if we let their voices be heard in demand of what is theirs. Because that ghetto is there for security reasons and its residents are not victims of injustice and racism but are a security problem, each and every one of them. And when they are killed it is not from racism but from political considerations and we don’t get involved in politics. Therefore that movement for social justice, the failure of which was written on the wall upon its inception, is the most spectacular product of the Israeli education system.

Woe to us that the criminals of the Occupation today are our children, woe to us that we have so succumbed to racism, that we have thus permitted the apartheid criminals to occupy our spirits and to cut us off from everything that is human, from everything that is just, from everything that is peace and quiet, good neighbourliness, love of humanity, mercifulness and compassion, in order to achieve their base objectives. The spirits of the hunger-striking prisoners in their cramped cells are breathing freedom and liberty, and our spirit is oppressed and expiring.

We are living in a ghetto that has no city and no homeland, the language of which is not the local language, a ghetto that has no place to open onto except the bypass roads that pass by everything that is alive.

The time has come when we must join our neighbours all over the Middle East, to sing the praises of the true rebellion, to declare the opening of the borders and the breaking of the barriers, to break down the doors of the prisons, to return the olives and the vineyards to their owners, to return the Children of Palestine to their borders and their land and to try to recover what was lost and trampled under the hobnailed boots of the fat bullies. Only then, if the true children of this country will permit us to learn how to live in it, we too may be able to liberate ourselves from the Occupation and be free from fear, because as Menachem Begin said:  “The essence of freedom is freedom from fear, because fear is no less terrible a ruler for its being concealed.”

Among us the fear is overt; among us fear is the motivating force behind every action. Fear of refusal to serve in the Occupation army, fear of supporting a justified boycott of the produce of the settlements, fear of visiting the neighbours. Kindergarten children who arrived here from Ethiopia a few months ago already know whom to hate and whom to fear. They are struck with terror and fear of ‘the Arabs’ they have never seen in person. They are sure that it was the Arabs who burned the Temple, who murdered Jews in Germany, who detained them in Gondar, who are lying in wait for them on all sides. We must liberate our children from the walls of fear and teach them the bases of liberty and responsibility, and explain to them and to ourselves that a person who obeys restrictions that prevent him from going wherever he wants, even if it is Hebron or Jenin or Ramallah, is not a free person but a conquered person. A person who invents laws that restrict the ability of their neighbours to get an education and make a living is a repressed person, a person under siege. That siege can be lifted only by resistance of the type that we see in Bil’in and Ni’lin, Babi Salah, Maasara and through courageous civil disobedience, with a blanket “no” as our neighbours are doing.

I will conclude with a few lines written by Almog Behar, who wrote the following to Mahmoud Darwish:

To my brother Mahmoud Darwish:
who made our history conflicted
And placed me among the high towers
Standing watch over the heavy gates of Gaza
Observing the windows of houses through the sights of rifles?
Who erected between us walls of concrete and iron and the eyes of cameras
And divided us into conquerors and conquered
When we should be brothers?

Translated from Hebrew by George Malent

AFP link: www.australiansforpalestine.net…


The whole truth is coming out about the situation in the Holy Land.  The truth is coming out too slowly to suit a large and growing number of people, but the truth is coming out surely, nevertheless.

You and I can help to educate the public by circulating pertinent news reports like the one pasted below.  This report reflects a peculiar antisocial attitude which needs to be recognized for what it is and illuminated.  When we share what we’re learning with our friends and neighbors … without imposing what we’re learning on them … we thereby help to hasten the end to a great deal of international, highly personal suffering.

 God seems to be working His purpose out in the Holy Land today.  We’re all of us a part of it.  Jerusalem has a way of changing people.  It’s going to take the whole truth to set all of us free.  The two highlights in the following news report are mine.


Israeli settlers assault UN delegation in al-Khalil

Israeli settlers assault UN delegation in al-Khalil


Al Qassam website – Jewish settlers threw stones and rubbish on a number of foreign law professors, who are participating in a conference about Palestine’s membership in the U.N. which is being held at al-Khalil University, while they were touring the old city near the Jewish settlement of Beit Hadasa.

The delegation visited the old city over two days to see how the Israeli occupation soldiers and Jewish settlers deal with Palestinians.

They were guided by Muhammad al-Jarbeeni, a lecturer at the university and an activist in defending al-Khalil, to see for themselves the measures and restrictions against Palestinian residents in the old city, the rough treatment by the occupation army and the harassment by the settlers.

The visiting delegation were also briefed on the closure of Shuhada street and the effect it is having on the local residents and the residents of Tel al-Romaidah.

Lecturer and researcher at Oxford University, Abbas Sheblaq said that the situation in the old city is a clear proof of the fascistic way used by the occupation to uproot Palestinians and the Israeli mentality which aims to eliminate the other.

He further described the occupations practices in al-Khalil as worse than what the defunct apartheid regime’s practices in South Africa, adding that what the media relates about the practices of the occupation and its settlers does not exceed 5% of the facts there.

For his part, Guy S.Goodwin-Gill, Senior Research Fellow at All Souls College (Oxford University) said that he has been to many areas of armed conflict around the world, but he has never seen anything like what he saw in al-Khalil’s old city.

Original post on the Occupied Palestine blog: Israeli settlers assault UN delegation in al-Khalil


Sonja Karkar, of Australians for Palestine, writes:

About a year ago, economists Raja Khalidi and Sobhi Samour published a highly critical article on the PA’s neoliberal policies in the Journal of Palestine Studies entitled “Neoliberalism as Liberation: The Statehood Program and the Remaking of the Palestinian National Movement” in which they argued that the statehood program “cannot succeed either as a midwife of independence or as a strategy for Palestinian development” since that program is “predicated upon delivering growth and prosperity without any strategy or challenge to the parameters of occupation.”  In an interview with Electronic Intifada in April 2011, Raja Khalidi explained that even if the PA has met the criteria for statehood eligibility set out in the reports by the World Bank, the IMF and UNSCO, “the real problem is that such criteria and arbitrary thresholds are irrelevant to the reality and to the big elephant in the room of Palestinian governance, namely the Israeli occupation.”  He went on to say:  “What’s going to make this virtual state turn into a real state? Nobody seems to be addressing that. All the talk is about polishing this virtual state, reforming and fixing it, adding services here, privatizing there, saving money here and cutting budgets there. It’s like the manner in which donors and international institutions approach the performance of a normal middle-income country. The PA seems to assume that by the will of the people, the citizens who proved themselves being capable of respecting traffic signals, paying electricity bills and not carrying guns in public, statehood will ‘impose itself’. Somehow statehood ‘just arrives’ in September because technically everything is ready.”   Since these words were written, the Arab Spring has catapulted the Arab world into the headlines, but regrettably says Khalidi, “the Palestinian national liberation movement appears weaker than at any time in the five decades since it was launched. It is hamstrung by Israeli occupation, donor funding cut threats, Arab governments’ and peoples’ distraction with the ongoing uprisings in the region, not to mention growing Palestinian disgruntlement with tight living conditions and weak leadership.”  Nevertheless, Khalidi contends it is possible that a Palestinian spring “is in the making”, but it won’t be thanks to the PLO/PA. He says “by virtue of its neoliberal program and its inability to lead a struggle that delivers independence, the PLO and its allied national bourgeoisie have effectively broken the ‘national-social contract’ and, in a sense, betrayed their historic role.”  Damning words indeed, but Khalidi says these turbulent times could yet give rise to “another set of struggles for social justice and economic equity”.  We can only hope so. The Palestinians have endured enough.

After the Arab Spring in Palestine – Contesting the neoliberal narrative of Palestinian national liberation


by Raja Khalidi

24 March 2012

Over the past year, as Arab peoples in surrounding countries erupted in
protest against dictators, security regimes, and failed social and economic
policies, the Palestinian people living in their occupied homeland have
remained quiescent. Neither have mass protests targeted the Palestinian
“regime’s” policies or negotiating performance, nor has resistance to
Israeli occupation escalated or taken more effective forms.

In contrast to the turbulence and revolutionary potential of the Arab
Spring, has neoliberal ideology, through its economic policy content,
created a Palestinian constituency for normalcy and risk aversion that could
hold back progress in the struggle for national liberation? In exploring the
impact of recent neoliberal economic policies of the Palestinian Authority
(PA) on living conditions and popular political consciousness, the burning
question is whether these have succeeded in creating a people willing to
resist encroachments upon their material gains and the liberal way of life.

Intuitively at least, the eventuality of a neoliberal complacency seems
unlikely, if not absurd, for a people struggling for liberation from a
regime of prolonged Israeli settler colonialism. Any informed observer
cannot but be cognizant of the ravages on social fabric wrought by
neoliberal policies in many countries, including within the
neo/post-colonial range of experiences. To the extent that a the fallout
from the world economic crisis may evolve into a backlash that targets
neoliberal policies and their impact globally and in the region, even if not
necessarily their legitimacy, the need to elaborate a relevant critique in
the Palestinian context becomes compelling.

This leads to a re-examination of conventional Palestinian patriotic wisdom.
This “consensus,” discursively derived from Marxist revolutionary theory,
holds that the Palestinian struggle has yet to reach the “stage” of national
liberation, the PA “self-government” notwithstanding. The “national
project/program,” led so far by a broad coalition of a national bourgeoisie
and salaried middle class, camp-dwelling refugees, rural peasants and urban
workers, has been traditionally invoked to postpone or subordinate pressing
social agendas within Palestinian society by prioritizing independence and
statehood. I enquire as to whether the horizontal range of pending
Palestinian social equity deficits (youth, women, workers, farmers,
depressed regions, etc.) might yet form a new basis to revive a twin
struggle for national liberation and social emancipation in this new (Arab)

A Shifting Palestinian Constituency for Neoliberalism

Seemingly disoriented by the changing regional landscape and the unexpected
legitimization of political Islam, PLO political and diplomatic moves have
become increasingly tentative and, indeed, contradictory. Over the past
year, the PLO moved seamlessly from the announced “completion” of a two year
“state building” project in the West Bank to an inconclusive national
reconciliation process with Hamas in Gaza, to an international diplomatic
“state-recognition” campaign in the UN (1)  that was self-aborted just as it
was being launched. Most recently, the PLO engaged in an abject return to
failed “exploratory” negotiations with Israel.  Today, with its ammunition
apparently spent, the PLO appears hard put to achieve the national
reconciliation and unity that is widely considered a prerequisite for any
progress in any direction.

The Palestinian national liberation movement appears weaker than at any time
in the five decades since it was launched. It is hamstrung by Israeli
occupation, donor funding cut threats, Arab governments’ and peoples’
distraction with the ongoing uprisings in the region, not to mention growing
Palestinian disgruntlement with tight living conditions and weak
leadership. New forces loom on the horizon, especially an emboldened Hamas
whose Brethren are assuming power around the region, but which is also
experiencing its own crisis owing to the rapidly transforming regional
landscape and recognition that its governance achievements are mediocre, at

Of more recent genealogy, a diffuse, more youthful coalition of social
forces has entered the scene. They are inspired by and learning from the
unfolding revolutionary turmoil among their own young Arab “brethren,”
unencumbered by the legacy of PLO factionalism and generally resistant to
appeals to national unity under the “Leader” and the ruling party. They
could not care less about the supposed gains of twenty years of polite Oslo
politics and are singularly unimpressed by their elders’ claim to have kept
the flame of national liberation alive.

Yet this apparently “unorganized” movement seems to be testing the waters,
uncertain whether strategies should target the PLO or Israeli occupation, or
both, with demonstrations (2) one day outside the Muqata’a (PA headquarters
in Ramallah) and on another day “Freedom Riders” (3) challenging the
Israeli occupation regime. This movement has yet to reconcile itself with
the irony that the mass of Palestinian (poor, refugee) youth are already
“factionalized,” street wise and have been long mobilized by the PLO
leadership and act separately from the newer youth groups.

Yet these are not the only protagonists in the emerging Palestinian
socio-political stand-off. We should not forget the broad swathe of public
opinion and material interests linked to maintaining the status quo, either
fearful of what change may bring or simply unbelieving in the possibility of
positive change. The latter include the Hebron importer who does not want to
lose VIP access to Israeli ports, the PA employee in Ramallah who does not
want to lose the monthly paycheck needed to cover the housing mortgage, the
village worker dependent on the construction job in the nearest Israeli
settlement to be able to refill the newly installed pre-paid electricity
meter, not to mention the PLO veteran from Amman 1970 and Beirut 1982 who
has seen it all go wrong too many times before.

Fattened by a PA governance mode, especially since 2005, that consists of a
rich menu of neoliberal social values and economic policies, security-first
and the rule of law and normalcy, this Palestinian “silent majority” is not
going to be easily persuaded or prodded into any misguided Palestinian
Spring. Even if they are not consciously engaged in neoliberal advocacy,
they constitute, perhaps unwittingly, a solid constituency for not altering
the status quo. One indebted “citizen” summed it up well when speaking to a
Los Angeles Times (4)  reporter: “Now that I have all this responsibility on
me, my main concern is stability,” he said. “I don’t want to see anything
happen that might stop my paychecks.” Such self-interested complacency
highlights the distinctive nature and impact of neo-liberalism (5), which
can at once project an open, forward-looking governance agenda while
entrenching conservatism as regards the diminished role of the state
vis-a-vis the primacy of the market and property rights.

Simply put, awaiting national liberation and without a mobilization towards
that end, many Palestinians seem willing to coexist with, if not defend, the
lifestyle under occupation to which they have become accustomed. They may
not sense the implications that the embedment of neoliberal values in
Palestinian minds and hearts implies for the struggle for national and
social emancipation. But in the wake of a second, militarized and failed
intifada, most of those living under occupation and PA administration meekly
have accepted, if not embraced, the limited focus of the PA on
“self-improvement” that has overwhelmingly defined the Palestinian reform
and governance narrative for the past five to ten years.

Simultaneously, many Palestinians also remain wedded to the premise that
only after national liberation can struggles for democratic representation
and social justice proceed apace. This presumes—or does not challenge
head-on—the need for obedience to a national liberation leadership and the
supremacy of its definition of “national interests.” There has been a clear
public acquiescence with the PA leadership’s demand for improved
“self-governance” in the post-2005 period. But this was largely conditional
(in public reasoning) on a resolution sooner rather than later of the
national question, amounting to a sort of Palestinian national/social
. This “demobilization” of a militant popular resistance movement
into a body of compliant and entitled “citizenry” is a familiar reminder of
how, in other places and epochs, pre- and post-nationalist leaderships
successfully delayed accountability for social or political governance

The confluence of the moment between the unfulfilled national
self-determination aspirations of the Palestinian people, the increasing
audacity of the occupying power, the emerging social and economic
transformation agenda in the region, and, the growing popular contestation
of the PA regime all provide rich material for reflection on the possible
ingredients and shape of a Palestinian Spring, if indeed one is in the

PA Neoliberalism Surges Past the Finish Line

In our work published in the Journal of Palestine Studies (5) a year ago,
Sobhi Samour and I attempted a first assessment of the progress made and
risks engendered by PA neoliberal economic policymaking under prolonged
occupation, which have intensified under the current regime. Since 2005, the
PA embarked on a series of post-intifada, post-Arafat institutional and
policy “reforms” targeting security and rule-of-law measures, enhanced
public finance transparency and efficiency, and the provision of improved
public services and utilities. In doing so, the PA followed Washington
Consensus conventions that severely limit active state intervention in the
economy beyond the protection of property rights so as to release the full
potentials of the market. In the Palestinian case, this is particularly
curious, as if too much government regulation or fiscal preponderance was
the real ailment of the Palestinian economy under occupation.

The zeal, indeed exhibitionism, with which the PA pursued these reforms,
coupled with the international attention they attracted, implied that the PA
needed to successfully navigate the two-year homestretch to freedom through
its “state-readiness” program. In line with some of the more dated World
Bank notions about good governance, it became commonsense that only by being
certified as institutionally ready for statehood by the World Bank, IMF, UN
and the AHLC of donors could parallel political negotiations possibly lead
to an actual Palestinian state.

Within the constrained economic policy-making space available to the PA, the
only macroeconomic policy option it really ever has had was to stimulate
aggregate demand through public expenditure fuelled by increasingly high
levels of international aid. Ironically, while the PA program aspires to be
a model of “sound” neoliberal policies, within the confines of the Paris
Economic Protocol between Israel and Palestine it is by definition unable to
pursue the full range of such policies, except by tracking Israeli economic
policy. Nevertheless, PA trade policy, such as it is, aims to build an
economy even more liberalized than Israel’s, with lower tariff and other
barriers to trade and financial flows.

The dedication of the PA to liberalization is undeniable, and earned fulsome
praise in 2011 from the international financial institutions. But even along
this trajectory, success in the full pursuit of such policies is by no means
assured. Even if the PA had assessed the possible economic impact of its
policies when designing and launching them, it is dubious that they could
have realistically predicted how such measures might play out in a
distorted, fragmented and occupation-throttled economy. In such a laboratory
environment with unstable substances, untried formulae and uncontrollable
internal and external pressures, any number of things could go wrong from
the perspective of IMF-inspired prescriptions for fiscally vulnerable
developing countries.

Needless to say, the most uncontrollable substance in this peculiar
situation, Israeli occupation, is the elephant in the room of the
achievements of Palestinian neoliberalism. In its latest move, Israel waded
into the PA “state-readiness” scoring game with its report to the March 2012
AHLC meeting by denying its rating, citing  (6) stalled growth in 2011,
fiscal weaknesses and aid dependence. Not surprisingly, Israel insists on
yet “further reform in order for the PA to meet the standards of a
well-functioning state”.

Looking at recent economic developments, it appears that indeed something is
going awry. Policy-makers appear to have reached the end of their tether,
except in proposing yet further austerity. Their core constituencies are
increasingly questioning the peaceful coexistence between the promise of
national liberation and the neoliberal life, while in reality neither is
assured. As for the important global function of neoliberal policies, namely
to “level the playing field” of the economy to enable the free movement of
financial capital, the PA project is hardly significant in regional or other
terms. Hence the sustainability of financially profitable capital
accumulation in the Palestinian conditions is dubious, even if for the
moment the Palestinian Securities Exchange is reportedly a bright performer
 compared to other regional Exchanges badly shaken by the Arab Spring.

The PA completed its two-year, institution-readiness program in September
2011 with no state in sight. Facing an apparent breakdown in negotiations,
the PLO was challenged by growing public dissent and, in terms of its own
strategy, a lack of clarity as to where to go next. This “finish line” was
crossed without the Palestinian people actually being any freer than they
were two, five, or twenty years ago, even if for some in the West Bank the
“quality of life” under occupation has never been better.

The PA has been quick to blame Israeli intransigence and the failed
political process, not to mention Palestinian internal divisions, for not
delivering the results that would have allowed it to morph into a new state.
PLO officials might admit in private that they had no serious expectations
to the contrary and were hoping to buy time with the state-readiness program
so as to prolong the “peace process.” But few are willing to recognize the
extent to which five years of “reform” have locked the PA into a
sub-contracting role for a continuing, increasingly sophisticated and
cost-effective occupation regime.

Apparently the PA will not accept that its economic policies should be
derailed just because there is a political stalemate (or collapse). Nor,
judging from Jordanian, Arab and donor responses, does it appear that the
PLO will be allowed to consider downgrading the PA, even if it wanted to. In
the past months as the PLO diplomatic campaign came to a halt amidst looming
donor financial sanctions, and as Israeli colonization intensified, the PA
oddly enough opted for further deepening of its neoliberal measures in the
most narrow domestic policy area that it could tinker with, namely fiscal
austerity measures.

The Discrete Charm of Fiscal Austerity and Structural Reform under

Two recent austerity measures are especially indicative, because of both
their policy content/impact and the popular response they provoked, namely
the revised Income Tax Law, and the plan to reduce the public sector payroll
by early retirement of the oldest segment of the PA civil service. The Law
was criticized for poor design, inadequate public consultation, and possible
adverse social impacts on marginal groups, but mainly for the perceived tax
burden it would have created for small and large businesses alike. This Law
is notable for being the most significant, if not first-ever, economic
measure since 2005 to be rejected by public outcry. In January, the PA was
obliged to announce its suspension and reformulation after a “public
dialogue.” While a parallel domestic austerity plan to abolish thousands of
public sector posts through early retirement was considered, anticipatory
public opposition led the PA to announce (8) that it was never seriously
studied. Meanwhile, a series of sarcastic, graphic postings (9) and
humorous songs (10) on Palestinian youth internet/facebook (11) networks
depict a series of accusations against the PA encompassing grievances about
Ministerial privileges, urban and rural poverty, runaway prices, and
political dysfunction.

The strong public reaction to these proposals cannot be simply ascribed to
populist discontent or frustration with lack of progress in the political
process, although these are not negligible factors. Some public criticism
may have confused the increased burden from taxation with the separate
problem of a Palestinian inflation rate that is systematically higher than
in Israel. But across the middle-to-low income spectrum, there are signs of
a looming socio-microeconomic crisis in the Palestinian economy that mirrors
its chronic macroeconomic crisis. Inflationary pressures, conspicuous
consumption, imports fuelled by stable income expectations, and rising
household indebtedness (12)
are combining to squeeze many households. For
now, that is the most clearly “evidence-based” factor fuelling discontent
that goes beyond PA politics.

For example, the most common indictor of “financialization” of an economy
(or the preponderance of the financial economy over the real economy) is the
ratio to GDP of credit extended to the private sector. In the case of the PA
, this ratio has grown to an all-time high of twenty-nine percent in
2011. While such a ratio is actually several points above the average for
comparable economies, it is well below the critical level (of over 110
percent) that is the threshold over which financialization is considered to
become destabilizing. However, with Palestinian private credit growing
annually by thirteen percent, the critical comparative figure to highlight
is that of real per capita GDP, which has been growing at two percent
annually since 2006, or less than one-sixth the growth of private
indebtedness. No wonder the average household is feeling the pinch.

Now that the proverbial chickens of the past five years’ private consumption
boom are coming home to roost, the official PA narrative is explaining that
it is payback time for past excesses, while the sound of international
cheerleading has somewhat subsided (14)
. The PA is faithful to neoliberal
expectations, evidenced by the Prime Minister’s statement that the
government cannot be held responsible if people irresponsibly incurred debt
for consumption loans that they cannot repay. But if the PA’s repudiation of
its most provocative austerity measures does not in itself mean a roll-back
of Palestinian neoliberalism, it at least suggests that its policy thrust
has reached the limits of the envelope within which it has been contained
since Oslo. 


[Palestinian banking sector credit aggregates, 2006-2011. 2006-2010 data
from Palestinian Monetary Authority. 2011 data based on author estimates.]

Popular contestation, a fledgling business class chafing at the new tax
burdens <shasha.ps/vdetails.asp?nid=12271&vt=6…> , and critical review
by some experts together underscore the risks of pursuing further
belt-tightening in order to attain an impossible fiscal balance and
aid-independence under an occupation which is constantly undermining the
fabric of society and the economy. From a developmental angle, this is
especially futile as the occupation regime by definition negates sustained
growth or development and sits astride the most important channels of
potential public revenue (from external trade) (15).  From the perspective
of national liberation, such a PA policy effectively plays party to Israeli
“economic peace” (16)
and ensures maximum extraction of Palestinian
“national” resources to share the costs and administrative burdens of
administering an open-ended occupation and orienting Palestinian economic
policy (and most debate) around that function. This is the effective, if not
outcome of Palestinian neoliberalism.

Looking at the broader implications of the now abandoned PA structural
reform measures, pushing through the income tax law would have meant a major
shift in PA business-friendly policies towards a private economy hardly able
to cope as it is. And had the PA gone ahead with public job cuts it would
have has to abandon the one macroeconomic policy goal that it could target,
and did with some success since the second intifada, namely sustaining
aggregate demand through payroll stimulus. So the successful contestation of
these measures represents a small victory for common-sense economic policy
and recognition of the real limits of any “policy-making” under occupation. 
Despite the PA’s uncertain policy making performance, it can only be hoped
that this episode may have had some sobering effect on the plans of
Palestinian “reformers” and their international sponsors who have helped
perpetuate the suspension of disbelief that the PA economic program amounts

States of Liberalization and Stages of Liberation

It is increasingly apparent that continuing “embedment” of neoliberalism in
Palestinian society and economic thought has effectively created a real
constituency willing to live with Israeli “economic peace.” One Arab Spring
after we first explored these questions, I would contend that recent
economic developments have accentuated inherent contradictions upholding the
PA program and Palestinian national alliance sustaining it. The first cracks
in the PA’s external image may be showing in an economic policy package that
has run out of steam, if not begun to reverse.

Certainly, the PLO faces critics on all sides over political
paralysis/disunity and its inability to deliver a national solution through
negotiations. But there is little concrete evidence that the broader liberal
philosophy and lifestyle which frame its economic policies is being
questioned. Nor are the financial and commercial interests and joint
security regime with Israel that underpin it threatened by popular
discontent. Indeed as my co-author has stressed to me, protests
notwithstanding, it might still be the case that many believe in market
primacy, define success as working in a bank in Ramallah, think that the
poor contribute inadequately to their electricity costs, that drinking an
expensive coffee in a Ramallah café is a sign of status, or that kids from
refugee camps should be barred from selling their fake CDs in restaurants
and night-spots.

However, I find it difficult to see how, or why, the broad socio-political
alliance that sustained the PLO’s strategy for the past five years would or
should remain bound by the comfortable narrative of “reform and
institution-building” that replaced the appeal to patriotism practiced by
the PLO under Arafat. For several decades, that alliance more or less
successfully married the interests of private Palestinian capital, labor and
public policy within the broad pluralist political system of the PLO and its
national/social contract. But today that consensus cannot be taken for
granted as the Palestinian social fabric is stretched to its breaking point.
The confluence of class and political interests the PLO symbolized cannot
but be undermined by growing PA economic policy incoherence under pressure
from popular and corporate dissatisfaction.

Furthermore, Palestinian history tells us that no growth or prosperity
bubble has ever been sustainable. Since the 1930s, popular resistance to
colonialism, surges of national self-determination, or the impact of
economic shocks have repeatedly forced a retreat from “normalcy.”
Notwithstanding neoliberal successes in neo-colonial situations elsewhere,
its victory is not necessarily imminent in Palestine. This is not only
because of the pending challenge of decolonization but also, I believe,
because its core constituency never really coalesced in its favor, and could
not attain “class consciousness,” so to speak.

The PA strategy of state-building by policy and in lieu of
resistance/liberation encouraged a focus on “domestic” concerns of
“citizens,” rather than the “national” concerns of “militants.” This
constitutes an important deviation from the manner in which PLO hegemony was
sustained since its inception. That entailed nurturing a broad consensus
that the imperatives of an overarching national liberation project justified
tolerating compromises on, or at best lip-service to, deeper social
transformation and economic development agendas. Ever since the 1970s when
Palestinian Marxist factions flew red flags from minarets in Jordan, the PLO
mainstream maintained that until completion of the “stage of national
liberation,” social conflict must be postponed for the sake of national
unity. And in the earliest stages of the struggle against colonialism before
1948, traditional nationalist elites were at odds with the Palestinian
socialist and labor movements which gave national and social agendas equal

“Domestication” of Palestinian national politics was underway well before
the Arab Spring, indeed beginning with Oslo, wherein socio-economic
priorities acquired increasing significance alongside the struggle for
national liberation in public opinion. Yet it is too early to discern if
popular discontent implies a repudiation or abandonment of neoliberalism or
simply an attempt to create a kinder, gentler, reformed version. In
Palestine, the potent mixture of socio-economic conflict and a repressed
aspiration for political empowerment and national self-determination could
lead developments either way.

The possibility should not be dismissed that a broad public would opt to
cling to the PA way of life and its entitlements instead of risking a
perilous resumption of (even non-violent) resistance or even national
reconciliation. At this historic juncture, a fractured and exhausted
national movement stands at the precipice of possible reconstitution in the
wake of an announced death of a morbid “peace process” or, alternatively,
disintegration and collapse under the weight of settler colonialism. In the
wary and time-tested perceptions of most Palestinians, preserving the status
quo is inevitably the preferable option.

But can Palestine remain immune to the contagion of change sweeping the
region, and will a younger, impatient and exigent generation simply defer to
the “national leadership” in defining its agenda of social change and
anti-colonialism? It would seem intuitive that the weight of the Arab Spring
would only hasten and shape events, if not through the channels of its
revolutionary undercurrents, then through the influence of the
“counterrevolutionary” forces in the region and internationally.

So, with the achievements (in hearts and minds at least) registered by
Palestinian neoliberalism, the diversion of public attention from occupation
to inflation, taxation and indebtedness, and the fracturing of the
national/social contract, a new configuration of forces ensues. Could this
open a path to a new phase of social and economic contestation of the PA
regime that is as valid, compelling and urgent as, if not indistinguishable
from, resistance to occupation?

As early as V.I. Lenin’s endorsement of the national struggles for
self-determination by colonized peoples, through Mao’s strategies of
alliances with nationalist forces, to the Vietnamese and African experiences
of broad anti-colonial fronts, national liberation struggles always have
entailed coalitions between different class forces and their political
formations. Depending on the strength of the national bourgeoisie (and the
degree of its common interests with colonialism), it usually has assumed a
more or less prominent role in active leadership of the liberation movement
and secured for itself a significant (if not dominant) role in
post-independence periods.

The Palestinian national liberation movement appears to be no exception to
that broad trend. Without going into the historic evolution of the social
alliances that sustained Palestinian nationalism over the past century,
suffice it to say that since 1948 at least one major shift occurred. After
the Nakba the leadership of the Palestinian national movement, hitherto held
by the urban notable elites and proto-capitalist class with a wide peasant
and working class constituency, passed to a new generation. Since the 1960s,
the PLO breed of refugee/middle-class nationalist militants, intellectuals
and guerrillas allied with a “national bourgeoisie” dispersed between
Palestine and throughout the region and beyond, together built a legitimate
constituency for most of their existence.

In the analysis of the preeminent narrator of neo-colonialism, Frantz Fanon
in his Wretched of the Earth, the “national bourgeoisie” is little more than
a “national middle class” with an “historic mission: that of intermediary.”
In the Palestinian case, these would include strata such as Fanon’s
“university and merchant bourgeoisie,” “army and a police force,” “the young
national bourgeoisie,” “the party,” a “profiteering caste,” a “native
bourgeoisie,” “honest intellectuals,” and a “bourgeoisie of the civil

In Fanon’s view of this parasitic, non-productive and generally “useless”
bourgeois/petit bourgeois class elaborated in the “Pitfalls” chapter (17),
there is no particularly important role for domestic and expatriate
industrialists and masters of finance. Their weak industrial and
technological base and “comprador” links to global capital determine their
objectively hostile position towards the national liberation project, even
if they may be willing to strike an accommodation with it. In a departure
from Fanon’s typology however, in the Palestinian case, these “diaspora
millionaires” are not hostile to national liberation; indeed they are
important players who always have been closely aligned with PLO economic
interests and political program, underwritten it financially, and invested
in productive sectors and development in Palestine. Combined with the other
strata of the national middle class, I would describe this social formation
as the core potential constituent of a Palestinian “neo-colonial, national

This strange Palestinian brew implies a hitherto unknown hybrid that
interweaves a Fanonist scenario of post-colonial revolutionary failure
(which usually takes place post-independence) with an unachieved national
liberation project (which usually is not mortgaged to neo-colonialism). For
example, the (usually) post-colonial “de-mobilization” of the previous
militant leading cadres vividly described by Vijay Prashad with respect to
the Algerian experience in The Darker Nations (18) , has been pursued with
vigor by the PA since 2005. A new “entrepreneurial” technocracy has taken
the place of PLO and Arafat-era PA administrators, disinheriting the PLO
military cadres whose “struggle” since the 1960s made the PA self-governance
project possible. But such a deformed neocolonial governance pattern has not
been witnessed while de-colonization is still unachieved or in the absence
of sovereignty. In that regard, Palestine presents a unique situation.

The Palestinian National Bourgeoisie: Progressive? National?

Throughout the Arafat era, the “national front” shared political decision
making powers and co-managed, more or less, “national wealth” to the extent
that such a public good was nurtured, mobilized or otherwise created by the
PLO. From the taxation levied by the PLO on Palestinian workers in the Arab
states since the 1970s, to the mobilization of the expatriate Palestinian
capitalist classes in the 1980s and the generous sharing of rents (19) from
public utilities franchises and selective commodity supply monopolies under
the PA in the occupied territory since 1994, there has usually been a common
ground, material interests and good “national” political sense for such an

Such a political-economic consensus has always united the material forces of
Palestinian capital and the national bourgeoisie with the national
liberation movement. The latter has historically mainly represented the
dispossessed and deprived masses of Palestinian refugees in exile, peasants,
urban poor and a growing middle class of educated professionals. To the
extent that a recognized and re-legitimized PLO leadership might still
command political influence among the Palestinian people inside and outside
Palestine, this national front could yet survive. The rise of a Palestinian
Islamist national liberation movement which is bonded together with faith
and tradition may appear to have rendered such an alliance obsolete.
However, the recent governance experience of Hamas in Gaza suggests that the
movement’s alliance with its own capitalist support base inside Palestine
and in the region also has been vital to its economic and financial
survival. Indeed it entails a “national front” of a greener color perhaps,
but nevertheless effectively comporting with the tradition of the secular
national liberation movement.

In his timeless indictment of the (inevitable) treachery of the
post-colonial national bourgeoisie, Fanon defines its essent


A great article from Elizabeth Burr, highlighting the dire situation of Palestinian Christians in particular. In truth, most ‘Western’ Christians fail to even realise that there are Christians in Palestine suffering alongside their Islamic Palestinian sisters and brothers. The statements she quotes by church leaders though at the end of the article suggest that the ignorance cannot last forever.

From America Magazine (The only national Catholic weeklyin the USA).

Out of Palestine

Solidarity with a displaced people

Elizabeth G. Burr | America Magazine | FEBRUARY 27, 2012

Recently I asked Dominique Najjar, a Palestinian Christian who lives with his wife and children in Minneapolis, why so many Palestinians are leaving Palestine. He told me the story of how he and two of his three brothers, all aspiring professionals, immigrated to the United States from East Jerusalem out of “economic necessity,” starting in the early 1970s. “My parents needed support,” he said, explaining that economic advancement was impossible under Israeli control. This took place within the first decade of the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, which began after the 1967 war and is illegal under international law.

But there is more to Mr. Najjar’s story. He and one of his brothers did not intend to emigrate permanently from their homeland. After they had moved to the United States, however, Israel revoked their Jerusalem residency status. Now they are given 90-day tourist visas when they return to their hometown, where their 89-year-old mother lives alone. Since none of her seven adult children enjoys residency status in Jerusalem any longer, none can do more than visit her. She receives daily “compassion and attention” from her Muslim neighbors next door. Najjar remarked that the revocation of his residency status is “all part of the Israeli effort to minimize the number of non-Jews in Jerusalem.”

It is difficult for citizens of other countries to appreciate what the occupation means for Palestinians who are not citizens of the country that rules them (unlike Israeli Palestinians who live in the recognized State of Israel). A reading of the 30 articles of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) reveals that very few of these rights are applied to occupied Palestinians. Directly relevant to Mr. Najjar’s story, for example, Article 13 (2) states, “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.” People of conscience are faced with the oppression of an indigenous population in their own homeland, and Christians worldwide must confront the truth that Palestinian Christians are walking down a long Via Dolorosa from which, without international intervention, the only exit is exile.

Indigenous Christians have lived in Palestine since the origins of Christianity about 2,000 years ago. Over the centuries other Christians immigrated to Palestine. Palestinian Christians comprised at least 15 percent of the Palestinian population in the late 19th century, under Ottoman Muslim rule, and about 7.5 percent by 1944, in the final years of the British Mandate. During the 1948 war, which resulted in the establishment of the State of Israel in much of historic Palestine, more than a third of Palestinian Christians were among the 750,000 to 800,000 refugees forced to flee their homes in Palestine. The Israeli historian Ilan Pappé has described Israel’s “war of independence,” which Palestinians call the nakba (catastrophe), as “the ethnic cleansing of Palestine” in his book by that title published in 2006.

The Lydda Death March

Audeh Rantisi, a Palestinian Christian, has written in The Link, a journal published by Americans for Middle East Understanding, about his family’s expulsion from Lydda, near Tel Aviv, in July 1948, along with that of thousands of other residents. An 11-year-old at the time, Rantisi witnessed: an infant being crushed to death by a cart after his mother lost hold of him, an Israeli soldier shooting to death a newly married young man who would not hand over his money, people dying of thirst and many more horrors. He reports that “scores of women miscarried, their babies left for jackals to eat.” On the fourth day of the “Lydda death march,” his 13-member family reached Ramallah, in the West Bank, “carrying nothing but the clothes we wore.” His father also took with him the key to their house. Generations of the Rantisi family had lived in Lydda for some 1,600 years.

Mr. Pappé is not alone among scholars who have identified a Zionist ideology of exclusion as the engine driving the expulsion of Palestinians in 1948 or who have interpreted Israeli policy since then as a continuing campaign of ethnic cleansing. By 2011 the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip had reached its 44th year. In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the occupation has brought the construction of scores of “settlements” in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which currently house at least half a million Israeli settlers. Five years ago Israel had already expropriated 87 percent of East Jerusalem and 75 percent of the West Bank for settlements, parks and military areas. Thus less and less Palestinian land is available for Palestinian housing, agriculture or other uses. Human rights abuses of Palestinians abound under the occupation, which appears designed to make their lives so unbearable that they will “voluntarily” leave. 

The emigration of Palestinian Christians from the occupied territories to the West since 1967 has also reduced their number to the point where Christians currently account for less than 2 percent of the Palestinian population under occupation. And the rate of population growth for Palestinian Christians in the West Bank amounts to just half of their emigration rate. Without a stabilization or reversal of the net decline, the extinction of Palestinian Christians in the territories is conceivable. Even in 2006 only about 50,000 Palestinian Christians were living in the West Bank and Gaza. 

What explains the ongoing exodus of Christians from Palestine? Some attempts at an explanation are misleading. In line with the Islamophobia notable in Europe and in the United States, Israeli propaganda points to tension and conflict with Palestinian Muslims, who comprise more than 98 percent of the Palestinian population under occupation, as the key reason for Palestinian Christian emigration. Israel has long encouraged political and religious division among Palestinians. Yet when I interviewed the Christian Palestinian secretary general of the East Jerusalem Y.W.C.A. in June 2009, she said that relations between Palestinian Muslims and Christians have been and remain largely positive. In her view “religious extremism” has been fostered by the environment of stress, chaos and conflict produced by the Israeli occupation. Indeed, there is a long history of good relations between Palestinian Muslims and Christians. Palestinians of both faiths experienced the catastrophe of 1948 together, and since 1967 those in the West Bank and Gaza have experienced the catastrophe of the Israeli occupation together.

‘Pull’ and ‘Push’ Factors

Palestinian Christians have tended to be well educated, relatively advantaged economically and more likely than their Muslim counterparts to have contacts in the West. Those could be considered “pull” factors behind the Palestinian Christian exodus. The “push” factors are the economic, political and social consequences of the Israeli occupation, with its “apartheid wall,” checkpoints and segregated road system; its ever-expanding settlements, destruction of Palestinian agriculture and demolition of Palestinian homes; its lawless, weapon-toting settlers; and its incarceration, with systematic torture, of thousands of Palestinians.

A 2006 survey of Palestinian Christians conducted by the Palestinian Christian peace organization Sabeel confirms the decisive influence of these “push” factors. Romell Soudah, a faculty member in business administration at Bethlehem University, a Catholic institution, writes that “the continuous confiscation of land…coupled with restrictions on mobility and access, give the impression that people are living in a cage, dehumanized, with little hope for freedom and normal living. This situation…is the primary factor…forcing Christian Palestinians to leave.” These Israeli actions, plus water confiscation and economic strangulation, which drive unemployment and poverty levels upward, are seen as calculated means of emptying the land of Palestinians. Thus Christian Palestinian emigration is the most visible effect of Israel’s deliberate, if gradual, ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population.

Why Care?

Why should Americans care if Palestinian Christians in the West Bank are leaving their homeland twice as fast as their population there is growing? The erasure of native Christians from Palestine should be unthinkable. Palestine is where Christianity originated, and Palestinian Christians have a unique status in the worldwide Christian community. Americans should be outraged that U.S. policy, buttressed by generous funding from their tax dollars, makes possible the Israeli occupation and its discriminatory policies.

These policies include a campaign to revoke the time-honored tax-exempt status of Christian churches and other Christian institutions, like the Lutheran Augusta Victoria Hospital on the Mount of Olives, and prohibition of access to holy sites (for example, barring West Bank Christians from visiting the Holy Sepulcher, traditionally regarded as the burial place of Jesus, in Jerusalem’s Old City). Orthodox Jewish harassment of Christian clergy in the Old City is commonplace. Hanan Chehata, a journalist, reports that “numerous churches have been destroyed during Israeli military incursions, divided from their congregations by the wall, and exposed to dilapidation.” Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity suffered physical damage during the Israeli incursion and siege of 2002. The wall now encircles Bethlehem, separating it from nearby Jerusalem; residents of Bethlehem are prevented from entering Jerusalem and vice versa. A majority of Bethlehem’s Christians hold Israel responsible for the departure of record numbers of Palestinian Christians from their city.

Yet Western Christians often fail to recognize the imperiled existence of their Palestinian co- religionists. Moreover, there are millions of Christian Zionists whose interpretation of New Testament prophecies allies them with Israeli Zionism and against the Christians of Palestine. They imagine that there is serious division between Palestinian Muslims and Christians, whereas the far more prevalent tension is between Palestinian Christians and some Israeli Jews (settlers, military and government leaders or those who represent them). The continued presence of Palestinian Christians in Palestine offsets the misperception that the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” is really about relig ion—a conflict between Muslims and Jews, rather than one about land, human rights and international law.

A Palestinian Christian friend wrote to me recently regarding the typical pattern of Muslims and Christians working together cooperatively and harmoniously within Palestinian institutions and organizations. Among the examples she mentioned is the Rawdat El-Zuhur (Garden of Flowers) elementary school in East Jerusalem, which has a Christian principal, a Muslim accountant, a mixed teaching staff and a mixed student body. Rawdat El-Zuhur, she wrote, “serves the community irrespective of [the members’] faith.” Likewise at Birzeit University, north of Ramallah, the president is Muslim and the chairman of the board is Christian; the board members are mixed, as are the staff and the student body.

To their credit, Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, are prominent among church leaders who have advocated worldwide Christian solidarity with Palestinian Christians. Informed American Christians committed to peace with justice are called to stand up both to Christian Zionism and to U.S. government underwriting of the illegal Israeli military occupation that is driving Palestinians, and disproportionately Christian Palestinians, out of their native country. In the prophetic words of the Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

Elizabeth G. Burr, who teaches part-time at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minn, has been concerned with the Israel-Palestine issue for more than 40 years.

SOURCE: www.americamagazine.org…


Sonja Karkar, editor of Australians for Palestine, writes:

The following article is very important because it looks at the immense practical problems besetting the Palestinians as a consequence of Israel’s unrelenting occupation and apartheid policies and that unless the root causes of these problems are urgently dealt with, the Palestinians will remain an enslaved population.

It discusses, in particular, how aid has been a pernicious problem, linked as it is with politics and capital, and suggests that “Palestinians must aim to move away from the current context toward a paradigm that understands development as means to realising rights, freedoms, and self-determination.  It is also essential to move beyond the technocratic and apolitical understanding of the development process toward recognising the asymmetry of power and colonial dominance.”

The ‘economic peace’ that promised so much, it says, merely “promoted economic normalisation through joint industrial zones, Israeli-Palestinian business forums, Palestinian investments in Israel and even in settlements, neglect of the agricultural and industrial base, joint management of water resources for the benefit of Israeli settlements and industry, neglect of Palestinian economic activities in Jerusalem, privatisation, and encouragement of public and individual debt.”   The article points out that the Palestinian leadership is partly responsible for this state of affairs because it agreed to the Paris Protocol with the Israelis in 1994 when all the while and since, Israel has continued to colonise Palestine.  However, that does not mean Palestinian civil society has to accept the entrenched oppression under which they now live.
This article provides some suggestions for creating a resistance economy.

All references in the article are available in the links provided below.

Defeating dependency, creating
a resistance economy


by Alaa Tartir, Sam Bahour & Samer Abdelnour

Al Shabaka
14 February 2012

In an important recent piece – Economic Hallucination – Ramallah-based
Al-Shabaka policy advisor Sam Bahour exposed the charade played by both
Western donors and the Palestinian Authority (PA) to cover up the occupied
territory’s inexorable economic meltdown after decades of Israeli military
occupation. Arguing that the combined donor-PA approach poses major
obstacles to freedom and rights, Bahour concluded: “It’s time for a new
economic model, one built on economic justice, social welfare, solidarity,
and sustainability.” What would such an economic model look like and how can
Palestinians living under occupation move from today’s grim reality to an
economy that sustains the quest for self-determination? Al-Shabaka policy
advisors Alaa Tartir  and Samer Abdelnour  join Bahour to debate these
questions and explore alternatives.

Needed: Tools to Communicate the Socioeconomic Reality

The Gaza Strip has often been described as a large prison and, indeed,
Israel’s siege makes it impossible to portray it as anything else. The West
Bank, including East Jerusalem, is also a prison: its entire Palestinian
population, from the PA president (whose VIP status was recently downgraded
by Israel to a two-month travel permission) to day laborers, are forced to
rely on Israel for freedom of movement and access. Israel directly or
indirectly controls all Palestinian economic resources. Furthermore, 60% of
the West Bank, classified as Area C under the Oslo Accords, is completely
off limits to Palestinian development. Yet these West Bank realities are
masked by talk of economic “growth” of as much as 9% a year, impressive
institution building, and a booming stock market. This harmful narrative is
both a result of “people-blind” macro-economic measures and political
propaganda that effectively normalizes the occupation-PA-donor status quo.

As Jeremy Wildeman put it in an article  on the delusions of a Palestinian
economic miracle, “The crippling truth is one of poverty, personal
insecurity and protracted economic decline… [only serving] to distract the
world from implementing difficult solutions to the real problems.” How
difficult are those problems? Rashid Khalidi went to the heart of the issue
when he asked how “the settlement-industrial complex” would be uprooted – a
complex that stretches beyond the 600,000 settlers living in the occupied
West Bank and East Jerusalem to encompass the “hundreds of thousands in
government and in the private sector whose livelihoods and bureaucratic
interests are linked to the maintenance of control over the Palestinians”.

It should be noted that even those reports that speak glowingly of Prime
Minister Salam Fayyad’s institution-building efforts cannot completely
escape the truth. Multiple reports by the World Bank, International Monetary
Fund, and the European Union, admit that the private sector cannot operate
due to the restrictions of the occupation and the shrinking of the
Palestinian productive base. One 2010 World Bank report went so far as to
say that Israel’s “apparatus of control” had “become more sophisticated and
effective in its ability to interfere in and affect every aspect of
Palestinian life, including job opportunities, work, and earnings… [turning]
the West Bank into a fragmented set of social and economic islands or
enclaves cut off from one another.”

Although neo-liberal economic policies accelerated under Fayyad brought
wealth and spending power to small segments of the West Bank, this was
doomed to be a temporary phenomenon. That has now been replaced with
spiraling costs and deficits that the Government is seeking to address
through the same kind of austerity measures – public sector downsizing,
higher taxes, and reduced incentives for investments – the same kinds of
policies imposed upon many developing countries.

Economist Raja Khalidi questioned the applicability of structural adjustment
policies to the Palestinian context in a recent article, noting that
longstanding financial problems in the OPT have nothing to do with
structural problems that can be “adjusted.” Rather, they are the direct
result of the occupation. In addition to the volatility of the tax base and
the vulnerability of the level of economic activity to the Israeli closure
policy and recurrent military confrontations, Israel has full control over
the tax and customs clearance revenue that it collects on behalf of the PA.
As a report  by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD
revealed, imports produced in a third country and re-exported to the
territories as if they were produced in Israel (indirect imports) cause losses
of $480 million USD per year – almost 25% of public revenues, 10% in lost
gross domestic product (GDP) and 30,000 jobs per year. The PA’s moves are
leading to widespread protests against what has been termed “Fayyadism”
and the neo-liberal policies it represents.

Among the challenges for Palestinian economists and analysts are: Which
tools and measures might be used or developed to more effectively
communicate the reality of the Israeli occupation, from the mundane to the
catastrophic in both human and economic terms. For example, is it viable to
deduct from rather than add to GDP the costs of construction or consumption
related to checkpoints and other forms of mobility restrictions (i.e. jobs
to construct roads, extra fuel and transportation services) as well as other
costs of the occupation? Similarly, when a student from Gaza cannot study in
Birzeit or a person is imprisoned for months or years without charge, what
is the negative cost to the Palestinian economy? Such realities do impact
Palestinian socioeconomic well-being yet are much more difficult to measure
than the cost of expropriated land and resources – which also require
measurement in terms of lost socioeconomic, human, and political value.
ARIJ, the Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem, estimated that the total
measurable cost of the Israeli occupation on the Palestinian economy in 2010
was $6.897 billion, a staggering 84.9% of the total Palestinian GDP in 2010.

There is a need for new measures to factor in not only the cost of the
occupation but also the costs of corruption. National and international
institutions like the Bisan Centre for Research and Development, ARIJ, the
Center for Development Studies  at Birzeit University, UNCTAD and the Rosa
Luxemburg Foundation do important work and can help to further develop
accurate tools for quantifying, and analyzing such costs. It is also
important to openly disseminate and discuss these costs widely and build
consensus around their findings and potential actions

Top Priority: Dealing with Aid Dependency

The debates about Palestinian dependence on international aid go back to at
least the Nakba (the Palestinian catastrophe of dispossession in 1948).
Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins’ analysis of past aid initiatives suggests that
these bore the “tangible signs of expulsion” and spoke of a common exile.
The present is more pernicious because the sources of aid are easily erased
together with their implications: “The visible is no longer a reliable
source of what is there. Direct imports are not direct. Palestinian police
uniforms mean Israeli coordination. And a new ‘Palestinian’ road probably
means more settlers.”

Much has been written about the problems of the aid industry in the occupied
territories. There is a need to move beyond arguments that aid sustains the
occupation and to devise political costs that create a real change.
Palestinians must encourage the aid industry to stop wasting resources under
the false pretences of assistance and to help create a genuine economic
steadfastness to end the occupation. Donors are aware of the issues but have
little incentive to align general development policies with the reality of
the Palestinian experience. This is partly due to the unwillingness of donor
agencies to defy donor country political agendas, and partly to the global
reality that aid policy is highly decoupled from genuine socioeconomic
improvement. Added to this is the PA’s acquiescence to the status quo.
However, it cannot be ignored that donor countries benefit greatly from the
current configuration of the aid industry. This is particularly true of
USAID and the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), whose
contractors and consultants consume so much of their own aid. In addition,
the recent book  by Sahar Taghdisi-Rad reports that a great deal of aid to
Palestinians contributes to the Israeli economy. In the end, little aid
reaches Palestinians; that which does signifies an immense political cost
when it ignores inalienable rights to freedom, self-determination, and

Donors have never taken Palestinian claims seriously, partly because donor
investment in the so-called “peace process” has never been seriously
challenged. A civil society campaign is urgently needed to expose these
operations and make it difficult for donors to do business as usual. Getting
a few “bad” donors out of Palestine as a result of social pressure would go
beyond simply “reforming” aid and might restore Palestinian steadfastness
and resistance in the struggle for human rights.

Another good starting point along this road would be lobbying to revoke the
exemptions the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat gave to USAID.
According to a 2010 report  by AMAN, a Palestinian coalition for
transparency and accountability, 146 foreign organizations are registered,
just 40% of the total number operating in the OPT. This is partly because
Arafat exempted from registration all USAID institutions, branches, bodies
and companies, according to the report. Furthermore, the Ministry of
National Economy grants many USAID branches registration permits as
non-profit companies without requiring the submission of any official
documents. They do not have to report or submit budgets, and are not subject
to the oversight of the Palestinian Companies Controller. USAID is not the
only one to operate without registration or oversight. Others include Konrad
Adenauer Stiftung, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Ford Foundation, Handicap
International, and Diakonia. Indeed, the author of another study on
international aid agencies told Al-Shabaka that one NGO refused to disclose
information on the basis that “we are registered by the Israeli government
and so you don’t have the right to ask us to reveal any of our information,
particularly when it comes to finances”.

The PA should not only demand accountability from foreign NGOs but also tax
their operations. A tax on the consultancies of foreign experts will make
them more expensive for donors in relation to local expertise. This is fully
in harmony with the Paris Declaration for aid effectiveness, as it would
promote the utilization of national capacity. Such incentives might help
redirect aid to Palestinian employment.

This problem extends to Palestinian NGOs, which now number some 1,500 active
organizations . Many refuse to publicly disclose their general assemblies,
boards, staff, funders, audited financial reports, bylaws, and even their landlords.
Some of the biggest and most important Palestinian NGOs refuse to give any
information, claiming that the data is too sensitive. The Palestinian case is not
dissimilar, though perhaps not as extreme, to Haiti’s “Republic of NGOs”. Before
they were forced to pay for their own freedom from colonization, Haitians were
once a people able to feed and clothe themselves.

The Palestinian leadership is partly responsible for the present conditions
of economic dependency and continues to suffer from the thinking and
consequences of an “economic peace” engendered by the Paris Protocol signed
with the Israelis in 1994. Such “peace” has promoted economic normalization
through joint industrial zones, Israeli-Palestinian business forums,
Palestinian investments in Israel and even in settlements, neglect of the
agricultural and industrial base, joint management of water resources for
the benefit of Israeli settlements and industry, neglect of Palestinian
economic activities in Jerusalem, privatization, and encouragement of public
and individual debt. All of the above has occurred alongside increasing
entrenchment of Israeli’s colonization of Palestine.

It is vital to address the link between politics, capital and aid.
Palestinians must aim to move away from the current context toward a
paradigm that understands development as means to realizing rights,
freedoms, and self-determination (see, for example, this recent article  by
economist Ali Kadri). It is also essential to move beyond the technocratic
and apolitical understanding of the development process toward recognizing
the asymmetry of power and colonial dominance. Many Palestinian writers are
touching on different aspects of this dilemma. This body of work needs to be
taken a stage further so that it can compete with the existing paradigm and
discourse and provide a credible alternative. The status quo only serves to
normalize and maintain the Israeli occupation by ignoring the political
roots of Palestinian poverty.

Learning from Practical Experience at Home and Abroad

A new Palestinian agenda for a resistance economy can be informed by
indigenous, regional, and international experiences. The economic vision
must be to reinforce self-sustainability and socioeconomic (as well as
cultural) resistance over and above artificial economic growth. Economic
growth – as measured, discussed, and applied has become a leash and muzzle.
This is not to suggest that private sector development be hindered;
entrepreneurship is important at all levels and scales. But there must be a
vision for an economy that sits at the heart of the Palestinian struggle.

The first priority must be self-reliance in terms of basic foods.
Small-scale agriculture can – and has – been carried out by Palestinians to
feed themselves, e.g. permaculture, rooftop drip gardens, and local
biodiversity in terms of crops. Taken to scale, this would gradually reduce
and eventually end dependence on food aid. It could also serve to reconnect
millions of encamped Palestinians to land-based livelihoods. Much can be
learned from Lebanese author Rami Zurayk’s work on how Arab agriculture has
been undermined by aid and ways to restore indigenous practices (see his
recent book Food, Farming, and Freedom   and his blog  .) Cuba’s experience
of achieving food security under politically adverse conditions is also
worth studying. Another experience worthy of study is that of the Sahrawis,
who managed to organize and administer in exile a highly educated population
aligned with their national interests under the most adverse circumstances
(see Randa Farah’s recent study).

It is also vital to prevent the PA from undermining Palestinian agricultural
potential. Marj Ibn Amer valley in Jenin district has historically been a
major food basket for Palestinians, but the PA has commenced actions to
establish an industrial zone, whose ability to operate will be fully
dependent on Israel, on that land. These attempts are being documented, legally
challenged and exposed by BISAN among others. PA officials have been known
to laugh when someone talks about the agriculture sector. In fact, the real joke
are the official declarations about empowering the people in their land when
the land is neither preserved nor used for Palestinian interests.

Traditional cultural industries are another area worthy of support.
Exporting Palestinians’ rich cultural heritage (unlike vulnerable cash-crops
such as carnations and strawberries) can help educate people globally about
the Palestinian cause and provide opportunities to preserve cultural

A Palestinian development agenda should engage Diaspora Palestinians in the
struggle for sustainable self-reliance. Palestinians have the experience of
the 5% that used to be deducted from the salaries of those working in the
Gulf for the Palestine Liberation Organization. The challenge now would be
to build the trust of the Palestinians in the Diaspora, to ensure that
Palestinian funds for a Palestinian development agenda would not be misused
or fill the pockets of corrupted leaders, but would instead be actually
managed as bonds by a national development bank or through a national
development agency along the lines of the Agha Khan Foundation.

There is also a need to think about how Palestinians can institutionalize
and eventually create a bureaucracy around a democratic people-driven
development agenda. In the development literature there is a trend that
prioritizes the indigenous mechanisms, approaches, and governance for
development. In fact, the leading institutions of the first Intifada
demonstrated effective Palestinian-centered governance provisions.
Unfortunately, these were displaced in the wake of the Oslo Accords.

Importantly, a new Palestinian economic vision must embrace dignity in aid.
There must be a time limit by which aid from donor nations supporting any
aspect of Israeli military activity is respectfully declined. All
international NGOs should agree to work on Palestinian development
priorities and timeframes (not three-year donor agendas) and tackle the root
causes of Palestinian poverty: the Israeli occupation and resulting
restrictions and continuing colonization of Palestine. Transparency in
purpose and operations, as well as demonstrated results must be ensured. If
we Palestinians do not ensure dignity in our development, no one will.

Alaa Tartir is a Palestinian PhD candidate and researcher in international
development studies at the Department of International Development, at the
London School of Economics and Political Science as well as a project
coordinator. He is also a research fellow of the Palestine Economic Policy
Research Institute, and recently published The role of international aid in
development: the case of Palestine 1994-2008 (Lambert 2011).

Sam Bahour does business consulting as Applied Information Management (AIM),
specializing in business development with a niche focus on the information
technology sector and start-ups. He helped establish PALTEL and the PLAZA
Shopping Center. Until recently, he served on the board of trustees of
Birzeit University and was the University’s treasurer. He is also a Director
at the Arab Islamic Bank and the community foundation Dalia Association.
Bahour is co-editor of HOMELAND: Oral History of Palestine and Palestinians
(Olive Branch Press). He writes frequently on Palestinian affairs and his
work is posted at www.epalestine.com….

Samer Abdelnour is completing a PhD in Management at the London School of
Economics. His doctoral research examines NGOs and humanitarian response,
and the role of community and collective enterprise in postwar
peace-building and development in Sudan. Since 2005 Samer has managed
applied research projects across Sudan (Darfur, Southern Sudan, Blue Nile).

Al-Shabaka, The Palestinian Policy Network, is an independent, non-partisan,
and non-profit organization whose mission is to educate and foster public
debate on Palestinian human rights and self-determination within the
framework of international law.

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