|‘Economic resistance’ called for Palestinian economy reels under weight of Israeli occupation
|Abu Shameih,a 56-year-old shopkeeper,is one of the many Palestinian merchants who were forced to close-down their businesses and stay off work because of the violent Israeli actions.
Ali Abu Shameih is a 56-year-old shopkeeper in the West Bank city of Jenin. His retail store was recently attacked through the latest re-occupation of the city by Israeli tanks.
Israeli soldiers came and ravaged his shop willy-nilly claiming it harbored weapons for the Palestinians.
Abu Shameih is one of the many Palestinian merchants who were forced to close-down their businesses and stay off work because of the violent Israeli actions. Still, his loss of $40,000 because of damages is small compared to the $6 billion drainage on the Palestinian economy over the past 24 months. Two years ago, Palestinian GDP stood $4.5 billion, today it is a fraction of that.
All the economic sectors in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have been affected because of Israeli stiflement since the Intifada began in September 2000.
A recent report by the UN Information Center (UNIC) stated Israeli closures and sieges of Palestinian cities and towns caused a further $1.5 million strain on the economy, a fact characterized by the hindering of the flow of internal and external trade. “The Palestinian budget remains in critical condition, its primary source of revenue is now coming from donors,” the report added.
Palestinian officials indicated earlier the Arab and international foreign aid to the PNA witnessed a sharp decline in the first six months of this year. Saudi Arabia increased its financial aid to Palestinians by granting the Palestinian universities $200,000 each as part of a plan to prevent them from bankrupt. Besides its military actions, Israel also seizes more than $700 million in Palestinian tax revenue since the start of the Palestinian Intifada in September 2000.
About 60 percent of the Palestinian workers are unemployed and about half of them depend on food handouts. The UN report stated 55 percent of the Palestinian population live under the $2 a day poverty line.
Raja Khaldi, a UN analyst, indicated the main problems facing the Palestinians are the hardships being imposed on them by the Israeli army. He said the situation in the Occupied Territories is on “the brink of collapse”, with people unable to move and jobs and businesses coming to a halt.
The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) has failed thus far to keep its economy out of Israeli strangulation with infrastructure in total disarray. Palestinian economists agree the PNA will have to modify its policies, concerning the economy. The term “economic resistance” is now being highlighted among economists in the West Bank. They see the term as the most appropriate one to describe an economy that is under siege, yet willing to sustain itself through indigenous Palestinian means.
Above all this form of “economic resistance” means keeping the generation of income going on the Occupied Territories through continuing to develop small and medium scale projects by people themselves and thus being able to sustain an economic system on local levels.
That way they are helping to create an economy based on national resistance. This, however, should be made through transparent and direct approaches. “The Palestinian government should realize how to take advantage of the foreign aid and donations effectively and to use these resources for the benefit of its economy and Palestinian people,” Dr Fouad Bseiso, a Palestinian economist, told The Star. “Such economic resistance must become widely recognized by the people through popular social and political wills.
But the present conditions in the Palestinian territories are preventing such a structure from taking place. The PNA is virtually at a standstill, waiting for a new government. And the current Israeli assault against Palestinian President Yasser Arafat is putting off such a plan for the time being, something which is causing chaos in the political and economic arenas in the Occupied Territories.
At a time when Israeli officials are talking about their people’s security, their army and bulldozers are destroying the businesses and homes of Palestinians. Israel’s durable security system is being forged at the expense of dissecting the social and economic security of more than 3.3 million Palestinians.
Bseiso, who is a former president of the Palestinian Monetary Authority, believes fundamental political and economic reforms must take place on every Palestinian level. He strongly supports the idea of having a Palestinian prime minister.
“Such a step will help streamline duties in the Palestinian leadership,” he explained. “The government must reorder its objectives so that it can solve the economic and social issues away from the political elements.”
Besides Bseiso, Palestinian lawmakers and analysts want the forthcoming PNA government to take charge of the financial malpractices that prevail in its institutions.
This requires not only new policies but new names as well. “There are many learned and educated Palestinians who have broad experience in economic development. We need these people to know how they can deal with the complicated economic and financial issues linked with Israel, Arabs and the world.” Once more, economic resistance raises a vital issue for Palestinian survival. Bseiso said Palestinians will have to choose between two options to survive. This is either to stop their Intifada or continue the struggle until the end. The first option is impossible, a fact which makes the second a better alternative.
All told, sustainable resistance requires continual financial support from both local and foreign resources, these remain far below the required levels. “The political and economic reforms in the PNA institutions must go on. Without them the occupation will remain.”