International community supports a deluxe occupation
From the outset of the present intifada, external bodies have contributed more than a billion dollars to finance the Palestinian Authority's budget, thus providing a living to many households (whose breadwinners were employed by the PA), consisting of almost half a million people.
The publication of Amnesty International's report on the humanitarian crisis in the territories this week would not have attracted attention even without the latest bloody events. The fact that about 60 percent of West Bank residents live below the poverty line, and the conclusion that the economic and humanitarian crisis was caused by the blockades and the sieges, would not have shocked anyone, even less so when the headlines scream, "We'll smash them."
Indeed, the lack of drama in the situation is reflected in the report's own title: "Surviving under siege." If they're "surviving," apparently the crisis isn't so bad and the fluid and violent - but stable - status quo can continue and nobody will have to take some dramatic step to break the endless, bloody cycle. According to the Amnesty report, most Palestinians in the occupied territories depend on contributions of food and other basic products, at least to a certain extent. The World Bank report published in May 2003 describes the huge volume of international aid to the territories, which is "on an unprecedented level of international financial commitment."
From the outset of the present intifada, external bodies have contributed more than a billion dollars to finance the Palestinian Authority's budget, thus providing a living to many households (whose breadwinners were employed by the PA), consisting of almost half a million people. A record sum of more than a billion dollars contributed to the territories since the Defensive Shield Operation, excluding the UNWRA budget, was the main cause preventing a humanitarian crisis of catastrophic consequences. "The donors had no choice, if they wanted to keep alive the hope of reconciliation, since a collapse of the PA service structure and the further radical impoverishment of the population would have vitiated," the World Bank establishes.
The Palestinians managed to survive thanks to the international aid, but as usual in these cases, the beneficiary of the international community's rallying to the rescue was their Israeli enemy. Moreover, the contributing states' humanitarian enlistment became a safety net, enabling Israel to impose a deluxe occupation in the West Bank - total military domination with no responsibility for running the life of the occupied population, and no price tag attached.
Had Israel been required to fulfill its commitment as an occupying power, it would have had to pay NIS 5-6 billion a year just to maintain basic services for a population of more than three million people. But it created an international precedent - an occupation fully financed by the international community. The harsher the Israeli measures with "closures, blockades and safety fences," the larger the international aid "to prevent a humanitarian crisis," and Israel is not held accountable. Israel isn't even required to display minimal politeness and gratitude to the donor states for their generosity in providing the economic safety net. Indeed, the greatest contributor - the European Union as a body and European states individually - are treated with contempt and condescension: pay up and shut up, or we'll accuse you of anti-Semitism.
President Bush should be envious of Ariel Sharon for his cunning in setting up the deluxe occupation regime. In Iraq, the Americans are trying to get the UN and the states of Europe, which objected to the war, to partake in the burden of the occupation, but they are raising all kinds of demands and conditions. Sharon is exempt from all this, even though with one decision - removing internal roadblocks that have nothing to do with security, and are intended entirely to serve the settlers - he could, according to the World Bank, "improve the West Bank's domestic product by 21 percent."
Israel will not pay for its actions, but the international community will, because according to the Israeli concept there is no connection between humiliation, poverty and loss of hope to violence and terror, and any attempt to link them "justifies the murders." Only the international community must worry about the loss of the chance of reconciliation and pay for it dearly. Israel does not believe in reconciliation "because there is no partner to peace."
The government of Israel is totally opposed to "internationalizing the conflict" and to posting international observers in the territories, but it has no objection at all to internationalizing the financing of the occupation. And what if the donor states demand a similar status to the one they have in Bosnia? One can imagine a situation in which they say to Israel - when it takes a radical step like deporting Yasser Arafat - "we're fed up with giving in to your extortion. Cope with the humanitarian situation you've created yourselves" - and transfer the contributions to the rehabilitation of Iraq. Doubtlessly masses of Palestinians will pay for such a move, so it had better remain in the realms of wild imagination. But it will do no harm if someone dares play the devil's advocate.