Tuesday, February 27

MCC Palestine Update #14

MCC Palestine Update #14

This past week the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, an MCC justice-building partner, held an international conference under the title, "Speaking Truth, Seeking Justice." Nearly 400 people from 21 countries participated. In addition to MCC Palestine workers, MCC also hosted other partners and workers at the conference: Bishop Marcos, a Coptic Orthodox leader from Egypt; Harley Eagle, a member of the Dakota nation and program co-director for MCC in Pine Ridge, South Dakota; and Craig Cressman Anderson, MCC Egypt country co-representative. A variety of speakers addressed the structures of domination which imprison Palestinians and which hold Israelis captive to the myth of security through violence. Participants also had the opportunity to travel inside the occupied West Bank to see the structures of domination at work: siege barriers, settlement expansion, demolished homes, land confiscation. Many of the conference presentations can be viewed at Sabeel's website, www.sabeel.org.

Copies of the MCC Peace Office Newsletter, Palestine in Travail, are still available for a suggested donation of US $1 a copy from MCC. The newsletter would be a good resource for Sunday School or small group discussions. Contact Bob Herr or Esther O'Hara for copies: tel.: 717-859-1151; e-mail: bh@mail.mcc.org; regular mail: Peace Office, MCC, P.O. Box 500, Akron, PA 17501-0500. The newsletter is also available on MCC's website, www.mcc.org.

Below are two items. The first is a summary of a report issued by UNSCO, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Occupied Territories, on the economic situation within the occupied Palestinian territories during siege conditions. The second is a typically insightful piece of analysis by Amira Hass, reporter for the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz.

1. UNITED NATIONS – Office of the UN Special Co-ordinator: The Impact on the Palestinian Economy of Confrontations, Mobility Restrictions and Border Closures
1 October 2000—31 January 2001


Movement Restrictions

The lack of freedom of movement for people and goods caused by the present crisis has resulted in socio-economic hardships in the Palestinian Territory. During the 123-day period 1 October 2000—31 January 2001, the Israeli-Palestinian border used for labour and trade flows was closed for 93 days or 75.6% of the time. Internal movement restrictions and internal closures—partial or severe—have been in place for 100% of the time in the West Bank and for 89% of time in Gaza. The international border crossings to Jordan (from the West Bank) and to Egypt (from Gaza) have been closed for 29% and 50% of the time, respectively.

Direct Economic Losses

The direct economic losses arising from movement restrictions are estimated at 50% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the 4-month period and 75% of wage income earned by Palestinian workers in Israel. The GDP loss is estimated at USD 907.3 million while the loss of labour income from employment in Israel is estimated at USD 243.4 million. The total loss is estimated at USD 1,150.7 million, equal to 20 per cent of the projected GDP for the year 2000 (assuming no border closures). The loss is about USD 11 million per working day or USD 3.5 per person per working day during the reporting period.

In addition, there have been hundreds of millions of USD in damage to public buildings and infrastructure and to private property and agricultural land, in costs for caring for more than 11,000 injured Palestinians, and in public revenue losses and other effects of the closures.


Loss of employment in Israel plus mobility restrictions and border closures have resulted in an average unemployment rate of 38 per cent (more than 250,000 persons) as compared to 11 per cent (71,000 persons) in the first 9 months of 2000. Due to the high dependency ratio in the Palestinian Territory unemployment now directly effects the incomes of about 900,000 people or 29 per cent of the population.

Per Capita Income

In the absence of border closures, per capita income was projected to be about USD 2,000 in the Palestinian Territory in the year 2000. As a result of the crisis, border closures and internal movement restrictions, this has been reduced to an estimated USD 1,680—a decline of 16%.


Since the beginning of the crisis, there has been a 50% increase in the number of people living below the poverty line, estimated by the World Bank as USD 2.10 per person per day in consumption expenditures (less than NIS 9 per day). The number of poor has increased from about 650,000 persons to 1 million persons. The poverty rate has increased from 21% to 32%.

2. The revolt of the guinea-pigs
Amira Hass
Haaretz, 21 February 2001

Members of Israel's security and intelligence establishments (and their representatives in the political system) are now announcing the imminent collapse of the Palestinian Authority (PA).One arm of the security establishment orders concrete blocks placed at entrances to Palestinian villages, preventing the residents from reaching their fields or their jobs in the cities, while another sheds crocodile tears over the population's lost income. One order prevents PA officials from reaching their offices in the various cities, while a press briefing explains to reporters that the PA is not functioning. With one statement the political establishment prevents the supply of fuel and gas to the Gaza Strip and blocks the transfer of tax and tariff income to the PA, while another notes the growing gap between the Palestinian public and the PA, which cannot supply that public with decent services.

This feigned innocence fits in well with the victorious, Israeli, representation of the events: Arafat initiated the Al Aqsa Intifada in breach of agreements made with him - or at the very least, he did not stop it. Arafat is not putting the Intifada down, and therefore Israel's policy of collective punishment and acts of repression - military, financial and logistic - are a legitimate defense of the attacked side: Israel.

According to this representation of reality, everything started with the first Palestinian stone, the first Palestinian bullet and the road-side bomb on the Netzarim-Karni road.

There is probably little chance of convincing the Israeli public today that there is a link between that stone, bullet and bomb and the fact that the Oslo years did not offer the Palestinian public a future of independence, nor a hope for social well-being. Those who in recent years gladly adopted the victorious, Israeli, version of reality - alleging that the occupation is over because the PA got administrative control and policing powers over most of the Palestinian population in isolated enclaves - cannot be and are not interested in recognizing the occupied population's right to rebel. Those who yield to the victim-mindset that is daily fed by Israeli occupation mechanisms; those who count their own dead and wounded while remaining indifferent to the huge number of dead and wounded on the other side, are making no attempt to understand the meaning of the experiment that began in the last decade of the 20th century.

The Oslo lab experiment must be judged, not on the basis of the promises and declarations of its architects, but on the basis of the Israeli policy implemented on the ground. In short, the experiment tried to examine the possibility of continuing the rule over the Palestinians by shutting them into autonomous bordered-off areas, and taking over as much as possible of their water and land resources. An integral part of this experiment was cultivating excess privileges for the Palestinian leadership - giving it the stamp of approval and Western legitimacy as substitutes for recognizing United Nations resolutions regarding the solution for the conflict. Regardless of the personal feelings and past record of each member of this over-privileged leadership - long out of touch with its own people - it served at one and the same time as both one of the guinea pigs and one of the junior partners running the experiment.

The movement restrictions, the freeze on transferring funds to the PA and the destruction of the PA's economy are not an invention of recent months. They were a fundamental ingredient of the Oslo experiment, and of Madrid before it: On the one hand, international conferences allocating huge sums to the Palestinian Authority to compensate for the infrastructure destruction caused by the Israeli occupation since 1967; and on the other hand, a sealing of the borders - sending half the population below the poverty line and causing losses totaling more than the donations. This happened in March 1993, in the summer of 1995, and in the winter of 1996. The collective punishment policy at the time was not only a conditioned reflex of a veteran and experienced occupation mechanism, but also a tactic intended to ensure the taming of the Palestinian leadership into accepting the rules laid down by the victorious side: We will draw your people's borders of independence; you will persecute anyone who opposes this; you will become rich, thanks to the special freedom of movement we will grant only you; and we will all call this a peace process. If you break these rules, we have the power to jeopardize your public position, weaken your rule, and cut your sources of income.

The experiment is not over yet: It has neither been deemed a success nor declared a failure. CIA-favorite Jibril Rajoub's talks this week in Washington indicate how important the success of the experiment is to the United States - not only to Israel - and how crucial it is to some in the Palestinian leadership. The main problem, overlooked by the scientists, is that the human guinea pigs are rebelling against the experiment

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