Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Palestine, economics and Israel: theatre of the absurd

At the Israel International Model United Nations, guest speaker Robert Serry, UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, spoke on August 20, 2012 about Palestinian economic stability and statehood. Israel media reported that Mr Serry spoke of considerable economic growth in the Palestinian territories, and described the Palestinian world as ‘relatively stable’; however, while he saw Palestinians doing well economically, he stated that this economic story was unsustainable unless a Palestinian state was created.

These statements are noteworthy because they suggest that economic unsustainability is no longer a reason to question the viability of a Palestinian state, but is rather a motivation to create that state. The argument is simple: without statehood, the Palestinian economy will collapse.

As you will see, this argument places no responsibility upon Palestinians. Instead, the burden for the survival of the Palestinian economy lies exclusively with Israel. Specifically, Israel must remove an economic blockade; Israel must end all settlements; and Israel must open its borders (see, July 31,2012), so that non-Israelis—some of whom are killers--will have unobstructed access to its population.

Only then will a Palestinian economy survive.

We’ll look at this approach to statehood in a moment. But first, it is absurd to believe that the only imperative the UN can identify as necessary for a prosperous and successful ‘Palestine’ are actions by Israel. Second, it is absurd to suggest that a PA with ‘considerable economic growth’ means a PA ready for statehood; for the truth is, the PA is nearly bankrupt, it lives as a beggar on donor aid and its corruption is so dangerous to economic sustainability that the UN should shout at every opportunity, ‘corruption is the Number One enemy for PA survival, not Israel!’

It is also absurd to for the UN to believe that Israeli ‘oppression’ is the only barrier the PA must overcome to build an economically survivable nation-state. Nevertheless, documents prepared by Mr Serry’s UN suggest that an economic case for a Palestinian State is in fact being built upon three principles of Israeli responsibility: (1) the economic blockade of Gaza must be lifted (UN report, December 7, 2011); (2) Israel’s ‘prolonged occupation’ suppresses PA economic welfare (report of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, July 13, 2012);  (3) ‘settler’ activity is ‘the main cause of the failure of Palestinian economic efforts’ (ibid).

Let’s look at these responsibilities. First, Israel does not use a blockade against Gaza because Jews are Nazis (a favourite accusation); the blockade exists because Hamas is at war against Israel and a blockade is a legitimate war-time defense. Gazan politicians, clergy, schoolbooks—and TV—make clear that Hamas wars against the Jews. The Gazan economy does not suffer because of  Jewish ‘oppression’; it suffers because Gazan leaders uses donor aid to buy rockets instead of industrial machinery, and its officials use donor aid for personal luxuries instead of work programs for the unemployed. Building an economic case for statehood on the ‘woes of the Gazan people’ doesn’t pass the smell test, at least not now, when aid dollars go to weapons and bureaucrats build McMansions for themselves. Blaming Jews while Gazan authorities behave this way is absurd.

The second claim-- that ‘prolonged occupation’ brings economic woe to the PA--grows more absurd every day. Israel does not ‘occupy’ anything. Israel is not a hostile force with ‘boots on the ground’ who stifle daily Arab economic activity. Israel allows workers and goods to enter Israel. She leaves large sections of PA territory in the hands of the PA itself. There well could be fewer IDF in parts of the PA than there are police in Harlem, New York.

If we don’t call Harlem ‘occupied’, we shouldn’t call Ramallah ‘occupied.’

The third claim--that ‘settlers’ are obstacles to economic development--is equally absurd. In November 2011, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat declared that,  ‘the settlements cover only 1.1 per cent of the West bank’ (Evelyn Gordon, Commentary and calevbenyefuneh).  Please explain how Jews building on 1.1 per cent of land causes ‘PA economic efforts to fail’.

If by ‘settlers’ the UN mean Jews living in outposts, well, have you seen those outposts? They are tiny enclaves on naked hilltops in the middle of nothing, surrounded by wind and open land. They inhibit no one. They interfere with nothing. Most are barren and isolated. To suggest that their presence halts economic activity is absurd.

If not challenged, the UN (and PA) will continue to build their case that Israel alone causes Arab woe. That’s a shame, because their claims cannot survive scrutiny. Our media should demand that if Palestinians want peace and prosperity, they should prove they’re peace-makers and businessmen, not war-mongers and bomb-makers.

It’s a shame that Israel’s media isn’t more aggressive with UN and PA absurdities. Their ‘political correctness’ cheats Israel.

Will our media defend us?

Don’t be absurd.

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