Why there is no Palestinian economy

This morning, NPR featured a story about how the Palestinian economy is being ruined by ‘the occupation’. Checkpoints and roadblocks, Israeli restrictions on where Palestinians can build roads, etc., have made economic development impossible. The Palestinians are miserable and it’s Israel’s fault.

One might think from the report that the checkpoints, etc., have been there since the beginning of the occupation in 1967. But of course this isn’t true. Most of these were put into place as a direct result of the upsurge in terrorism that began in 2000 with the beginning of Arafat’s intifada.

These impediments wouldn’t be there if they weren’t necessary. Does the Israeli government enjoy the constant condemnation in the press and the UN? Wouldn’t it like to make the Bush administration happy? Does the average Israeli male under the age of 40 open his mailbox and say “great news — I’ll be away from my family and my job for 30 days so I can harass Palestinians at checkpoints”? Although pro-Palestinians scream when I say it, all they have to do is stop terrorism and these will go away.

Now let’s look at the Palestinian economy. Much money has been given to the Palestinians over the years for development of infrastructure for a state and an economy. In the days of Arafat it went mostly into his and his friends’ Swiss bank accounts, or was used to purchase weapons and explosives. Although Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayad seems to be committed to development, the Fatah organization is still a confederation of gangs and clans who allocate funds according to nepotic principles. Even money which is allocated ‘legitimately’ mostly goes to support the ‘security’ forces, the army which the PA would like to build to confront Israel (oops — “fight terrorism”).

And this is the West Bank. In Gaza, Hamas receives large amounts of funding from Iran and other supporters, and spends it on stockpiling arms and building fortifications. The rocket business is booming! But a large part of Gazans’ income came from workers who crossed into Israel, and this has been ended as a result of terrorism — especially including attacks on the very border crossings that they used, forcing them to be closed. And a discussion of Gaza would not be complete without mentioning the greenhouses built by the expelled Jewish settlers, which were purchased by Jewish donors in the US and turned over to the Palestinians — and then torn to pieces by them.

Another aspect of the Palestinian economy in both the West Bank and Gaza is the ‘refugee economy’. There are about 1.7 million Arabs who claim refugee status living in Gaza and the West Bank. They receive aid from UNRWA, the huge organization created by the UN to maintain the refugee population. UNRWA has 27,000 employees, almost all ‘refugees’, and 10,000 of them work at its Gaza headquarters.

UNRWA’s focus on nurturing the refugee population, helping it learn the official Palestinian irredentist ideology and preventing any solution of the refugee problem other than ‘return’ is illustrative of the real reason that there is no functioning Palestinian economy, despite everything that has been poured into it:

The primary goal of the Palestinian leadership, from the Mufti through Arafat and including the present leaders of Fatah and Hamas has never been the welfare of Palestinians. First priority has always been the destruction of Israel and the removal of the Jewish presence from ‘their’ land. And as we’ve seen in the case of the refugees, they have always been prepared to sacrifice their people to advance this goal.

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