Economic despair and alternatives for Palestinians

Palestine Update 240

Economic despair and alternatives for Palestinians
The condition of the Palestinian economy is somewhere down in the dumps. Under the occupation, there is very leeway to grow the economy. In any case, growth is not what Israel will countenance. Israel not only wants a pliant occupied people. It also wants them to be vulnerable and subservient. Economic advancement runs the risk of letting people become assertive. Hence keeping the Palestinian people as in a dependent economy is what Israel chooses.

In this issue of Palestine Updates, we bring articles which raise the issue of whether, or not, the Palestinian economy can break free from the clutches of the Israeli economy. One pertains to whether the PA can float its own currency. The author discusses the pros and cons and what needs to be done to realize this option. We also discuss the ‘struggle economy’ especially in light of the PA’s decision to return moneys to Israel. These moneys are part of what Israel must pay to the PA from taxes collected but prefers to pay in portions as its continuing political control, and maintaining a dependent PA. And in the same thread of thinking, an article discusses how the PA can balance, if at all, austerity and peoples support.

The report about a Palestinian man selling land to Israelis and being punished for it (because it violates law) shows signs of economic despair which prompts dealing in land sales despite the acute risks.

Finally, we share a report of a US Senate initiative to introduce legislation that will restrict Israel from employing grants it receives to punish children and imprison them.
Please read and disseminate.

Ranjan Solomon

Can Palestinians free themselves of the shekel?
“The Palestinian economy has about 25 billion shekels [$7 billion] circulating in the local economy, but we are not forced to remain dependent on the shekel,” PM of PA said. “So one of the central issues we will be working on is forming a team to study dropping the shekel, either by resorting to an encrypted currency, digital currency or other options.”

In April 2014, the Palestinian Monetary Authority (PMA), which serves as Palestine’s Central Bank, threatened to resort to the US dollar or the Jordanian dinar as a temporary currency, when Israeli banks began refusing to take deposits from Palestinian banks after Abbas made Palestine a party to a number of international conventions and joined various UN agencies. In January 2018, the Central Council of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) voted in favor of ending the Palestinians’ economic dependence on Israel.

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PA prime minister prepares to deploy ‘struggle economy’
It was revealed earlier this month that the Palestinian Authority has returned hundreds of millions of shekels that the Israeli government deposited into its accounts in recent months. Israel traditionally collects tax revenues for the P.A. on Palestinian purchases, but when Israel began deducting monthly the sum of NIS 41.8 million, equivalent to the amount the P.A. pays in terrorists’ salaries and grants, the Palestinians declared they would refuse to accept any of their monthly payment. Israel’s unilateral deposit into the P.A. accounts was a response to growing concerns over the possible financial collapse of the Palestinian government.
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Austerity plan requires genuine bonding with the Palestinian people
The shrinking Palestinian economy as a result of the major absence of liquidity requires the newly appointed Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh to carry out serious austerity measures. The absence within a short period of time of hundreds of millions of dollars from USAID projects, followed by the refusal of the Palestinian government to receive its low tax remittances, collected by Israel at border crossings, require major economic surgery.

The politics behind the American and Israeli decisions is quite obvious. The Americans want to squeeze Palestinians so that they will accept, or at least not oppose, a political deal that they have been working on for two years. The Israeli decisions are much less grandeur. The decision made in the heat of the Israeli election campaign to reduce part of the monthly taxes collected by Israel on behalf of Palestinians was aimed at showing how Israel takes a tough stand against Palestinians who dare raise arms against it, and against a Palestinian government that is willing to support the families of these prisoners. Israel and the US are searching for ways to engage Palestinians and to reduce the tensions that are arising daily as a result of the major reduction in the Palestinian economy. An Israeli general described the Israeli actions, during the first years of the siege on Gaza, as an attempt to force Palestinians on a diet and not to get them to die of hunger.
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Court sentences Palestinian to 5 years for selling land to Israelis
The Nablus court handed the Palestinian man – whose name has not been released and is known only by his initials M.Y.M – a five-year prison sentence for trying to sell Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank to Israelis. “The Grand Criminal Court that met in Nablus sentenced […] M.Y.M to five years in prison on charges of attempting to cut off part of the Palestinian lands and [sell] it to a foreign state.” An official in the PA’s Judiciary Council reported that M.Y.M “attempted to leak land to Israelis, which is in violation of the law”. Selling or attempting to sell land to Jewish-Israelis is considered a crime by the Palestinian authorities and is punishable by hard labour, imprisonment or death. However, no death penalties have been signed off by PA President Mahmoud Abbas since 2006.
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New House Bill to bar Israel from using U.S. military aid to detain Palestinian children
New legislation proposed by Rep. Betty McCollum, a Minnesota Democrat, would ban Israel from using any of the billions of dollars in military assistance it receives from the United States every year to pay for the detention, interrogation, or torture of Palestinian children living under Israeli military occupation in the West Bank.

Israel’s military typically arrests and prosecutes 500 to 700 Palestinian children between the ages of 12 and 17 each year, subjecting them to coercive interrogation, physical violence, and trials in military courts that lack basic guarantees of due process.
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