Threatening livelihoods

Palestine Update 235

Threatening livelihoods
Israel’s political methods are routinely bizarre when it comes to battering the Palestinian economy. Israel is convinced that, when it hurts the Palestinian economy, it has hurt the people in ways that affects their very living.

A UN report in 2016 had predicted that the Palestinian economy could double in size without the Israeli occupation. Palestinians are easily one of the most economically dependent people. That is not because they are incapable of managing their own economy. On the contrary, everywhere they go, they have made a mark as leaders in industry, academia, and other important arenas.

By resorting to strangulation of the Palestinian economy, Israel has ensured their economy will not prosper and will keep Palestinians where Israel wants them to be – at the margins. The intent is to frustrate people and prompt outmigration. This is a crude and cruel form of extermination by subtle means. It is, indeed, a form of ethnic cleansing.

Today, poverty in Gaza is pervasive; 53% of the population survives on less than 4.6 USD/day, with two thirds subsisting on less than 3.6 USD/day. Access to food is one of the most fundamental challenges facing the population in Gaza, where 68% of households are severely or moderately food insecure. Although residents of Gaza have rich farmland and 40 km of coastline, the Israeli blockade has severely restricted the ability to properly exploit domestic food sources available through agriculture and fishing. The strict limitations on fishable waters have severely hampered the livelihood of Gaza’s fishermen, 95% of whom already live below the poverty line.

Palestine’s economy is highly dependent on Israel. Israel has built walls and set up checkpoints throughout the occupied Palestinian territories, which makes it incredibly difficult for Palestinians to travel for jobs, to visit banks, or to trade. Israel has blockaded Gaza and restricted the entry of vital goods on the dubious ground that this ‘could’ be used for terrorist activities – such as agricultural fertilizer and furniture. Israel has also confiscated land at exponential rates, imposed high levies, eliminated competitive trade opportunities, and made it harder for Palestinians to access water and build their productive capacity. All of this has prevented Palestine from reducing its deficit and achieving growth.

This issue highlights four examples that Israel uses to choke the Palestinian economy. The campaign to push forward punitive actions against the cruelties imposed by Israel needs to be intensified and widened. Israel will not relent until it undergoes its own fears and threats of economic grief owing to its callous politics.

Ranjan Solomon

Israeli forces target Gazan farmers, fishermen
Israeli forces deployed in military watchtowers opened fire at farmers working in their lands in the Khuzaa town in the Khan Younis district in the southern Gaza Strip. Israeli war boats also opened fire targeting Palestinian fishermen off the coast of the northern and southern Gaza Strip.

The Israeli army also regularly detains and opens fire on unarmed Palestinian fishermen, shepherds, and farmers along the border areas if they approach the buffer zone, as the authorities have not made clear the precise area of the designated zone. The practice has in effect destroyed much of the agricultural and fishing sector of the blockaded coastal enclave, which has been under an Israeli air, land, and sea blockade for 10 years.

U.S. Aid prepares to lay off Palestinian personnel
Under orders from the Trump administration, the U.S. Agency for International Development is preparing to lay off most of its Palestinian aid workers in its West Bank and Gaza mission, according to U.S. government communications reviewed by NPR. It’s the latest step toward shrinking a decades-long U.S. aid mission to build the capacity for a future Palestinian state. The decision to dismiss the aid workers raises questions about how the Trump administration can implement the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan it vows to soon unveil –  with an emphasis on major investments in the Palestinian economy, potentially funded by Gulf Arab states.

Israeli water pipeline threatens Palestinian agricultural lands
Some Palestinians in the West Bank governorate of Qalqilya hope to stop construction of a water pipeline Israel plans to build that threatens to destroy agricultural areas there. The residents see the project as an Israeli ploy to uproot villagers and seize land. The pipeline is to be built by Israel’s national water company, Mekorot Water Co. Ltd., which is the main Israeli company pumping and supplying water to all of Israel and its settlements. The pipeline will run supply Israeli settlements in the central West Bank provinces of Qalqilya and Salfit. Qalqilya and much of Salfit lie in Area C of the West Bank, which is under Israeli civil and military control.The pipeline project threatens the Palestinian presence in the area where more than 700 olive trees are being cultivated alongside some 2,600 almond and carob trees. Israel is attempting, by all possible means, to seize Palestinian land and jeopardize Palestinian existence.

World Bank warns of severe shock facing Palestinian Economy

The World Bank said that the Palestinian economy is now facing a severe shock in regard of public finances as a result of Israel’s approach over tax revenues, calling for an urgent resolution of the crisis before it deepens. The report further stated: “The economy, which in 2018 saw no real growth, is now facing a severe fiscal shock because of the standoff over clearance revenue transfers.”

Israel decided to deduct around $10 million a month from the revenues — the sum the PA paid families of prisoners or prisoners themselves serving time in Israeli jails — prompting the Palestinians to refuse any funds at all. “Against a background of declining aid flows, the recent standoff stemmed from Israel’s unilateral deduction of US$138 million from the PA’s clearance revenues in 2019 to offset estimated payouts to Palestinian martyrs and prisoners’ families,” the report noted.

According to the World Bank, “the clearance revenues, collected by Israel and transferred to the PA monthly, amount to 65 per cent of the PA’s total revenues. In response, the PA rejected the diminished transfers and was forced to cut the wage bill by 30 per cent, reduce expenditures in social assistance, and borrow more from local banks. If not resolved, the standoff will increase the financing gap from US$400 million in 2018 to over US $1 billion in 2019.”

Economic strangulation
Building a business isn’t easy when you’re living under a military occupation. Although you need a permit to do anything, permits are controlled by the foreign army. If they permit you, you need to import raw materials and equipment. But imports are also controlled by that foreign army.

If they let you, your next step is to hire workers. But, you guessed it, the foreign army controls their ability to reach your factory.If you have any foreign business partners or consultants, it’s the foreign army that decides whether they can visit.  And, after all of this, the foreign army can shut down your ability to export any time it chooses.