politics of money in
Palestine By Ramzy Baroud
In Malaysia, a small group of community
activists are busy at work developing projects
that benefit most vulnerable members of
Palestinian society in Gaza.
the umbrella of Viva Palestina Malaysia (VPM), the
group shows solidarity through empowerment
projects: interest free loans for small projects,
providing employment for women, supplying
thousands of solar lamps aimed at ending the
persistent darkness for many families, and more.
The overall value of the combined efforts
of VPM is important because it is long-lasting.
Equally important, the channeled funds are not
part of a political scheme nor are aimed to exact
concession. This can hardly be said of much of the relationship
leadership and society, and outside funds, which
began pouring it, with a clear political manual
that has been dutifully followed by those who
provide the funds and those who receive them.
That relationship was once more a subject
of scurrility and discussion following the recent
visit by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, emir
of Qatar to Gaza, which has been under an Israeli
siege soon following Hamas' victory in the general
elections in 2006. The siege became complete in
2007, when Hamas clashed with its rival Fatah,
perceived by Israel and the US as "moderate".
Al-Jazeera said the emir's arrival to Gaza was
to "to inaugurate a Qatari investment project
worth hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild
the impoverished and overcrowded coastal enclave".
Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh interpreted the
visit at a grander scale: "The visit of the emir
announces officially the breaching of the
political and economical siege imposed on Gaza for
more than five years."
on their political leanings, however, spoke of
entirely different mechanism that compelled
Qatar's generosity. Those sympathetic to Fatah
warned that empowering Hamas in the Gaza enclave
to act as a state will further deepen the national
divide. Others spoke more candidly of a Qatari
reward to Hamas for leaving Syria at the height of
the regional power play ignited by the so-called
Judging by the largely
measured or reserved response from Israel, the US
and other countries that would have made it
impossible for the emir to visit Gaza in the first
place, Syria might have been the keyword behind
the seemingly selfless effort.
But in any
case, there are hardly any inconsistencies between
this episode and a history rife of the political
manipulation of funds. It is an intrinsic
relationship that goes even earlier than the
signing of the Oslo Accords in September 1993.
Oslo, however, officiated and cemented that
relationship in many respects. Merely two weeks
after the signing of the Declaration of Principles
issues of international aid became a core subject
involving mostly Western donor countries, Arab
countries and others.
political dominion of Oslo is all but dead,
international aid continues to flow. The rise and
decline in funds are often affiliated with the
Palestinian Authority (PA) report card, as in its
ability to sustain a political charade and serve
as Israel's "partner" despite the fact that Israel
has completely altered the physical reality upon
which Oslo was predicated.
appearances, Mahmoud Abbas' PA is much less immune
to political arm-twisting as a result of its
nearly two-decade entanglement of the
international aid cartel, than Hamas. The latter
is barely learning the ropes. They too will
eventually learn that there is no such thing as
free money, especially when those offering their
services are very much at the heart of the
political struggle for the future of the Middle
The link between political
statements and action and money is obvious for all
to see. What may appear as political concessions
can oftentimes be attributed to some funds being
frozen or waiting to be delivered. It is
transaction-based politics at its best.
While the PA's budget deficit stands at
US$1.3 billion, old friends are barely in a hurry
to offset the financial crisis. The US is yet to
free $200 million it pledged for the year 2012.
The decision has everything to do with the PA's
attempt last year to obtain UN membership for
Israel on the other hand agreed
to an early transfer of $78 million of tax
revenues it collects on behalf of the PA fearing
that a collapse of PA institutions could prove too
costly for Israel as well. With the conspicuous
retreat of international donors, and the measured
Israeli moves, Israel is now earning a greater
stake in the PA political investment in the West
Bank. Israel is notorious for manipulating the
weaknesses of the PA whenever the opportunity
arises, as it surely will.
entanglement of the Palestinians to obtain
political goals is not confined to such obvious
examples. In fact that political/financial barter
is a major component that defines the relationship
between Palestinian leaderships and factions and
It is the same paradigm
that turned thousands of NGOs in Palestine into
disconnected entities, less concerned with uniting
behind a national liberation program, and more
concerned with maintaining attractive portfolios
that make their services more marketable among
potential donors, mostly affiliated with the
donors' countries that have long leased the
Palestinian political will in the first place.
It is difficult to say what it will take
to free the Palestinian leadership and society
from these impossible entanglements. But it goes
without saying that those who rent their
sovereignty to the highest bidder have no business
speaking of national liberation, popular
resistance and all the right sounding, but empty
(ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally
syndicated columnist and the editor of
PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My
Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story.
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