Business & Economy

Palestinians standing tall

Palestinians of all factions have so far, to their credit, withstood Israeli oppression. They have not given in, nor have they accepted to negotiate Palestinian rights away (“sumood” in Arabic), including the right of return of Palestinian refugees. Their violent outbursts, even those against one another other, have managed to make clear to both the US and Israel that basic Palestinian rights and basic territorial needs will not be cavalierly waived away. The uprising is meant to stand up to the power of Israel to dictate to the Palestinians. Thousands of Palestinian men, women and children are dead or in prison for this cause. 

Gaza's teetering tower of debt

Abu Khamis’s credit book is seeing a lot of use these days. The scribbled notes account for 45,000 shekels (US$10,000) owed for goods he has advanced to his penniless customers. “I have two credit books full of debt. I’m getting women coming in and offering to sell their jewellery, even their wedding rings. People simply have no money,” the clothes trader, who works in the central market of Gaza’s teeming Jabalia refugee camp, said. But Khamis’s credit line has almost run out. “I can carry on like this for about another month - and then I will have to stop lending,” he said. “And it’s not just me - it’s every shop in Jabalia.” 

Financial boycott sends Palestinian poverty numbers soaring, finds UN report

More than 1 million Palestinians, or one in four inhabitants of the occupied territories, are now mired in deep poverty as living standards deteriorate dramatically following the economic boycott of the Palestinian Authority this year, according to a United Nations report released today. The report from the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) found that the number of people living in “deep poverty” - defined as an inability to meet basic human consumption needs - soared by 64 per cent during the first half of 2006. An average of 1,069,200 Palestinians now live in deep poverty, up from 650,800 in the second half of last year. 

The Ugly Israeli

The phrase “Ugly America” which epitomized American arrogance, corruption and tragic blunders in South East Asia in the early sixties is no longer in vogue in that region. But “Ugly Israeli” is alive and well in the Middle East, wherever there is an agreement of any kind between Israel and an Arab partner. There are two essential rules to follow for anyone attempting in good faith to “normalize” relations with Israel: Avoid ambiguity in any transaction and make sure that working procedures as well as processes of arbitration and enforcement are firmly in place. 

Principled Dutch ASN Bank ends relations with Veolia

This week, ASN Bank, a Dutch bank based in The Hague, announced that it would end its relationship with Veolia Transport, and all companies that benefit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory. Since it first announced its intentions to become involved in an Israeli project to build a light rail/tramline system, to be constructed in occupied East Jerusalem, Veolia Transport, a French multi-national corporation, faced a lot of criticism from all over the world. The tramline aims to connect the illegally-constructed settlements in East Jerusalem with towns and cities in Israel. The case of ASN Bank shows that a call for boycott and divestment can be successful. 

Research: Dozens of Dutch companies support or facilitate Israeli occupation of Palestinian and Syrian territories

Dutch NGO platform United Civilians for Peace (UCP) today publishes a research about “Dutch economic links in support of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian and/or Syrian territories”. This research reveals that dozens of Dutch companies through their activities support or facilitate the Israeli occupation of Palestinian and Syrian territories. The investigation identified at least 35 Dutch companies that maintain direct or indirect relations with the occupation of Palestinian and/or Syrian territories: 21 companies with headquarters in the Netherlands and 14 Dutch subsidiaries of Israeli companies. Two of these companies have direct investments in settlements, namely Soda-Club International and Unilever. 

Happy Independence Day

The rate of unemployment in the occupied Palestinian territories has reached through the roof - 31.1% in the first quarter of 2006. Palestinian academics are concerned, even as they quibble over methodologies and exact figures. The Palestinian Economic Policy Research Institute (MAS) held its annual conference on the 13th of November at Birzeit University to discuss this problem. Unfortunately, very little by way of original ideas came out of this conference. What is sorely needed is consensus over a bold governmental policy that deals squarely with the current major cause of unemployment - Israel’s closing of its labor market, which at one time absorbed as many as 200,000 Palestinian workers. 

The olive harvest in the West Bank and Gaza

Olives, a centuries-old mainstay of the Palestinian economy, are in peak season for harvest from the middle of October to the beginning of November. Forty-five percent of Palestinian agricultural land (228,560 acres/914,235 dunums) is planted with olive trees. This year’s olive harvest is a source of hope for a community with over 2/3 of its population living in poverty (less than $2.7/day). As a bumper crop year, the olive industry promises to contribute over 118 million USD (based on 2003/4 figures) to the fragile West Bank economy - 22 percent of total agricultural production. 

Report: The impact of the economic strangulation on human rights in the OPT

A mission of FIDH visited Israel and the OPT between 25 June and 2 July 2006. The mission was in close coordination with Medecins du Monde, which in parallel conducted an evaluation of the evolution of the health situation in the Gaza Strip on the basis of a large inquiry among the medical and health care personnel of hospitals and clinics. The mission was set up in order to examine the situation of economic and social rights in Gaza and the West Bank almost a year after Israel ‘disengaged’ from the Gaza strip and three months after Israel and the international community decided to suspend all contact with the Palestinian Authority government and to interrupt all aid channelled to and via that government. 

Information Brief: The Gaza Economy

One year after Israel’s 2005 “disengagement” from the Strip, which was hailed by President Bush as a great opportunity for “the Palestinian people to build a modern economy that will lift millions out of poverty [and] create the institutions and habits of liberty,” a “Dubai on the Mediterranean” according to Thomas Friedman, Gaza is undergoing acute and debilitating economic declines marked by unprecedented levels of poverty, unemployment, loss of trade, and social deterioration especially with regard to the delivery of health and educational services.