If the Palestinians had their own “Arab Spring”…..

Earlier this month, a most unusual iten appeared in the Arab media. Abdulateef Al-Mulhim, commenting on the “Arab Spring and the Israeli enemy”, observed that:

Many Arabs don’t know that the life expectancy of the Palestinians living in Israel is far longer than many Arab states and they enjoy far better political and social freedom than many of their Arab brothers. Even the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip enjoy more political and social rights than some places in the Arab World. Wasn’t one of the judges who sent a former Israeli president to jail is an Israeli-Palestinian? The Arab Spring showed the world that the Palestinians are happier and in better situation than their Arab brothers who fought to liberate them from the Israelis.

The item came after a series of economic demonstrations during August in the West Bank. Whether these acts were a genuine outburst of distress or Hamas trying to wrestle power away from the Palestinian Authority (PA), I will not debate. The key issue is how strong is the Palestinian economy. Does the populace of Ramallah and Gaza need its own protest movement? And if so, who would be on the receiving end of the complaints?

It has long been accepted that the Gaza and the West Bank are two separate economies. Even the ruling powers – Hamas and the PA – appear more united by the hatred of Israel rather than a common political plan.

Gaza’s immediate progress is hampered by Egypt’t battles in the Sinai with various Bedouin tribes. It is not just that Egypt is Gaza’s route to global trade, Cairo supplies around 70% of the power for people in the fertile costal strip. Yet despite such geopolitics and Israeli security restrictions, I have observed previously that evidence suggests that the area now boasts over 600 millionaires.

The BBC news service has confirmed this economic improvement. At a primary level, the tunnel economy has created a new elite, specifically people close to the Hamas regime. In tandem, there has been “a surge in the value of land with prices more than doubling in the past two years.”

There many who argue that if Israel were to withdraw most of its security regulations, then this new wealth would spread to others. Almost by definition, this is a given, although the process could be kickstarted if Hamas were to cease daily rocket attacks in to southern Israel. An additional factor that impedes progress are the social limitations imposed and dictated by Hamas on its own people, measures which have now led to a daming report by Human Rights Watch.

The situation in the West Bank has similarities to Gaza. As the IMF reported, an economic boom is in progress. The 9% increase in growth for early 2012 is a direct continuation from the achievements of 2011.

That said, the PA is till crying poverty. Civil servant salaries for August were only delivered in early October. Although the Ramallah government does not expect to emerge from the economic crisis soon and begs for assistance from overseas, an analysis from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics reveals that there is still a lot of money around.

Stocks of Palestinian assets invested abroad in 2011 were about $5,233 million, while stocks of foreign liabilities on the Palestinian economy were about $4,512 million……primary results of the International Investment Position (IIP) for the Palestinian Territory by the end of 2011 revealed that the net IIP had amounted to about $721.0 million,  which means that the Palestinian economy of its various sectors had invested outside Palestinian Territory by more than the investment amount in the Palestinian Territory from abroad.

So what next? It would seem that both in Gaza and in the West Bank, money is around but not flowing to those positioned at the end of the food chain, about 95% of the population. And that raises the old and recurring issue of corruption and graft. Only recently, a former aide of President Arafat was convicted for embezzlement. If I was a Palestinian, I know that I would be protesting to my leaders about such vast distortions.

Is that a more serious problem than resolving the issues with Israel, I am not to judge. However, it does leave a question for European and American donor countries to the Palestinians – where and how should they continue to transfer money?

Ealier this month, the European Union agreed to a further 11 Million Euro of assistance to UNRWA. What is significant is that for all the murderous troubles facing the Palestinians in Syria, barely 10% of the money will go to lending then support. Most of the money will go……elsewhere.

When will the donors wake up? When will the Palestinians really open their mouths of distress against all of these distortions?

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2 Comments on “If the Palestinians had their own “Arab Spring”…..”

  1. Joe van Zwaren Says:

    This is an excellent article which points that the real responsibility of lack of development of the Arabs is due to the corruption of their leadership. Israel has been used too long as an excuse, covering the real reasons of poverty and suffering in the Arab world. I particularly like Abdulateef Al-Mulhim’s about how well Palestinians have done in Israel, with even a Israeli Palestinian judge sending the former president of Israel to jail.


  2. […] about Gaza, which has not been tampered by officials with an agenda to grind, then there is much anecdotal evidence. I have reported on the new cars from China that have become very popular in recent months. These […]


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