Thursday, August 9, 2012

Economic Realities Through the Eyes of a Palestinian

In a recent article published by Al Jazeera, Kristen Szremski, US Campaign Steering Committee member, relates the story of a Palestinian agricultural student to discount Mitt Romney's recent assertion that culture is responsible for the economic plight of the Palestinian people. The student, 23 year old Hebron resident Murad Amro, was recently refused an internship by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) of the United Nations.  Despite his professed desire to "plant peace in the hearts of all people" through the development of sustainable agriculture, Amro was rejected simply because his Palestinian homeland is not recognized as a state by the IFAD.

According to Szremski, Amro's challenges are indicative of the systemic roadblocks faced by all Palestinians on the road to economic development under Israeli occupation. In her view, a policy consisting solely of "positive investment" in Palestine by foreign nations and NGOs is one of the largest such roadblocks. Rather than contributing to Palestinian economic development, foreign aid has relieved Israel of its internationally recognized responsibility to provide for the basic welfare of Palestinians living under its occupation. Further, foreign aid is designed to maintain the viability of the "peace process" established by the Oslo Accords of the 1990s, which has long since proved ineffective. In fact, even as Palestinians receive one of the highest rates of aid per capita in the world, The United Nations Relief and Works Agency has reported that inflation and unemployment continue to rise in the Palestinian Territories.

While recognizing that foreign aid is part of a solution for Palestinians (some 80% of Gaza citizens rely on food aid because of the Israeli blockade of the region), Szremski argues that it is insufficient without outside pressure for Israel to change its policies.  As the international political and diplomatic establishment seems unwilling to apply such pressure, she believes that the best hope for justice in the region lies with BDS. With recent BDS wins such as the divestment by investment giant TIAA-CREF from Caterpillar, Israel is coming under pressure to change its policies. Perhaps most significantly, the stories of young Palestinians dedicated to development such as Murad Amro offer promise for a more just and prosperous Palestine in the years to come.

Want to learn more about BDS and how to get involved with Palestine advocacy? Join the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation at our 11th Annual Conference this September!

Romney, economic realities and one Palestinian’s story

Murad's story typifies Palestinians' experience of running into proverbial roadblocks at every turn of their development

"The combined results and fall-out from the Oslo peace accords, Israel's siege on Gaza and the loss of freedom of movement under a military occupation are some of the reasons why the Palestinian economy barely sputters alongside a more robust Israeli one. The anaemic economy has nothing whatsoever to do with a less-than-desirable Palestinian culture, as presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told Israeli guests at a $25,000-a-head fundraiser in Jerusalem on Monday..."

Read more here.