[News] Palestine - World Bank exposes the blatantly obvious

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon May 14 12:55:51 EDT 2007

World Bank exposes the blatantly obvious
Sonja Karkar, The Electronic Intifada, 14 May 2007


It should have happened sooner, but at least it has happened now. 
Israel has been exposed by the august World Bank for its oppressive 
control of the West Bank. Three weeks before global protests begin 
against 40 years of Israel's occupation, the report reveals what 
every government knows, but not one has been prepared to stop. 
Effectively, the report challenges the notion of a viable two-state 
solution under Israel's current restrictions and illegal land 
appropriations. According to the report, the West Bank has been 
fragmented into 10 isolated non-contiguous ghettoes which is an 
impossible configuration for any viable state, and this is made even 
more bizarre by the presence of some 250,000 illegal Jewish settlers 
(excluding those in East Jerusalem) who exercise control over 50 
percent of the West Bank. And the Wall, says the report, exceeds at 
times Israel's security needs and seems rather to contribute to, 
along with restrictive zoning and land use rules and practices, 
Jewish settlement expansion.

The Bank's report is timely and welcome, but curiously it does not 
mention the effects of the sanctions that the West and Israel imposed 
on the Palestinians at the beginning of last year. At the time, the 
World Bank had stated that the Palestinian economy would shrink by 27 
percent in 2006 -- "a one year contraction that compares to the Great 
Depression in the US". In other words, the Palestinian economy was in 
danger of collapse even then and the warnings were not acted upon. 
Instead, the world cavalierly continued with its sanctions because it 
did not approve of the newly elected Hamas government -- 
democratically elected in fair and transparent elections overseen by 
former US president Jimmy Carter. Now, the World Bank is ratcheting 
up its dire warnings about the prohibitive restrictions that have 
decimated the Palestinian economy: as long as the political situation 
remains unresolved and the economy continues to depend on foreign 
assistance simply for survival, there is very little prospect of a 
sustainable economic recovery. Certainly not the sort of sustained 
growth rates that can provide decent living standards for an 
expanding population. Any reversal of the situation, says the report, 
would have to entail dismantling Israel's grid of physical and 
administrative barriers.

These catastrophic conditions have been apparent for years, which 
makes one wonder about the real intentions of the world's leaders, 
especially since so much energy has been wasted trying to negotiate a 
two-state solution according to the long-irrelevant Road Map. Not 
only does the report point to the physical barriers of checkpoints, 
roadblocks, walls, gates and no-go zones, but it reveals Israel's 
complex permit system which seriously affects the freedom of 
Palestinians to move anywhere. The permits and IDs are mind-boggling, 
not just because they are needed to move, but because they are 
necessary at all inside the West Bank which was designated as part of 
the future Palestinian state by the Oslo Accords in 1993. Israel, 
however, is undeterred and continues its settlement expansion and 
Judaisation of Jerusalem without any regard for the human misery and 
frustration caused by such entrapment. The fact that the number of 
obstacles has risen -- 44 percent higher than at the signing of the 
Agreement on Movement and Access in November 2005, according to UN 
OCHA data on which the report relied -- only confirms Israel's 
deliberate intent to paralyse the Palestinian economy, further 
disintegrate Palestinian society and render any viable Palestinian 
state forever impossible.

Israel's myth-making about an inferior, uncivilised, violent people 
does not square with Nobel Laureate Professor Joseph Stiglitz's 
description of the Palestinians and their economy when he was Chief 
Economist at the World Bank in 1997. He said then: "The Palestinian 
economy is blessed with excellent people. Its general development 
indicators -- including life expectancy, literacy and child mortality 
rates -- are among the best in the Middle East and North Africa 
region." If one considers the unrelenting punishing controls being 
exerted on the Palestinians, it is a wonder that they have survived 
the attacks on their society and economy at all. However, their 
resourcefulness which has sustained them thus far, will be no use 
once Israel's impenetrable maze of dead-ends is completed. If the 
world allows that to happen, the problems besetting the Palestinians 
will take on a much more frightening dimension. Israel has yet to 
provide an answer for what it plans to do with almost 3 million 
people in the West Bank deprived of their land, water, homes, and 
liberty. There are not too many solutions left.

The most tragic thing in all this is that so many Palestinian lives 
have been lost and wasted -- and continue to be -- in the living hell 
Israel has been allowed to construct while the world falls over 
itself to defend Israel's right to exist and its right to defend that 
existence. Not a word is said about the rights of Palestinians crying 
out to be recognised under Israel's occupation. The World Bank's 
report this time is absolutely clear, making our legal and moral 
culpability for the consequences even more onerous if we do not help 
the Palestinians. We ignore the report's findings at our peril.

Sonja Karkar is the founder and president of Women for Palestine in 
Melbourne, Australia. See 

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