FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The World Bank and the Palestinians

by MATS SVENSSON

We used to meet at Borderline Restaurant, myself and three young, well-educated men (always men) from “The Bank.” We were discussing the recent World Bank meeting in Al Ram. President Arafat had just died in Paris. The meeting in Al Ram, therefore, had an unusually high attendance. More than 100 diplomats had gathered in the cramped room. The circumstances surrounding Arafat’s death remained a bit strange with many question marks. Had he died of natural causes or had he been murdered? The political scene had changed with his passing. Everything was suddenly different.

Also the mood between diplomats had been affected by his death. Now there was great concern for the upcoming elections. Together with the Palestinian Authority, both presidential and parliamentary elections were being planned. Finally democracy.

The starting point was that all Palestinian political parties would participate in order to ensure democratic elections. The U.S. president had waved with his whole hand. Ensure democracy.

There were also concerns that Hamas would come to influence future policy. However, most people were quite sure that Hamas would not win and that their influence would be able to be limited. Hamas would be allowed to participate in the elections but be marginalized as much as possible.

To ensure the marginalization of Hamas, the World Bank presented a proposal during the meeting regarding comprehensive budget support to the Palestinian Authority. The aid would be targeting the poor. During the meeting it became clear that this request had come partly from the Palestinian Authority with Fatah in the lead but that it was above submitted on behalf of the U.S. administration.

Many of us slightly raised our eyebrows. Budget support to the Palestinian Authority!

The Bush administration’s task to the World Bank read, “Try to get Europe to pay.” The U.S. Congress would never agree to directly funding the Palestinian Authority.

During the meeting we received a thick, voluminous document. The pages were full of statistics, tables and evidence. We could read about the rapidly growing poverty on the Palestinian countryside, increasing food prices, transportation costs and unemployment, expensive water, expensive electricity as well as about the growing feeling of being trapped behind high walls.

The World Bank also said that it was possible to say that the Palestinian Authority was “on track” to receive these external resources. Just before Arafat’s death, it had been “off track.” Many of us around the table again raised an eyebrow. Even this had changed. “On track!” The Bank’s message was that there was no longer a reason to oppose a potential budget support to the Palestinian Authority.

At Borderline Restaurant, I now asked the World Bank’s young men, “On track? What is it that is on track? What has happened since the previous meeting, the meeting that was held before Arafat died?” Back then, the criticism had been harsh. Extensive reforms were needed. Back then, it felt as if Palestine lay in darkness. Back then, they had talked about corruption, abuse of power and a non-existent management.

I tried to tell the Harvard educated World Bank economists, “It is true that Arafat before his death managed to remove the brown envelopes. Wages had begun to be paid via bank accounts. But change had been minimal. The big change was that Arafat had died, the rest did not show any positive trends. Palestine was still off track.”

The young well-educated men in their dark suits all looked at me with a strange look. Waited me out for a moment and then asked if I had not understood what it is all about. “Do you not understand, Mats, that what we are writing is a political document? It is all politics. We can prove anything. In Palestine, there are no reliable statistics to lean on. Move the numbers a few tenths up and another half percent down and everything changes. Our latest task,” said the men in blue, “has been to pick out a political base that can demonstrate that it is safe to provide budgetary support to the Palestinian Authority before the next presidential and parliamentary elections. Prove that we are on track. With statistics, we can prove anything. No one can refute us. Very few move beyond the wide roads.”

”We all know that Hamas is growing and that Fatah needs our help,” they continued. “Mats, this is not about supporting the rural people of Palestine but to combat what has been defined as evil.”

At Borderline Restaurant sit three young men from the World Bank and lecture a notoriously naive Swede. A Swede who so badly wanted to believe that what was said was true. A Swede who recently believed that a thick, well-written World Bank document was based on truth, still hoping that Muhammed Rashid’s story and the reality behind the wall in Abu Dis would mean something.

Borderline, if one could tell its story, would tell you that the reality is something other than statistics and tables. Approximately where we sat there was formerly a gate that constituted the crossing from west to east Jerusalem. Recently one became humiliated at this place that was called Mandelbaum Gate.

Mats Svensson, a former Swedish diplomat working on the staff of SIDA, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, is presently following the ongoing occupation of Palestine.  He can be reached at isbjorn2001@hotmail.com.  

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

August 25, 2016
Mike Whitney
The Broken Chessboard: Brzezinski Gives Up on Empire
Paul Cox – Stan Cox
The Louisiana Catastrophe Proves the Need for Universal, Single-Payer Disaster Insurance
John W. Whitehead
Another Brick in the Wall: Children of the American Police State
Lewis Evans
Genocide in Plain Sight: Shooting Bushmen From Helicopters in Botswana
Daniel Kovalik
Colombia: Peace in the Shadow of the Death Squads
Sam Husseini
How the Washington Post Sells the Politics of Fear
Ramzy Baroud
Punishing the Messenger: Israel’s War on NGOs Takes a Worrying Turn
Norman Pollack
Troglodyte Vs. Goebbelean Fascism: The 2016 Presidential Race
Simon Wood
Where are the Child Victims of the West?
Roseangela Hartford
The Hidden Homeless Population
Mark Weisbrot
Obama’s Campaign for TPP Could Drag Down the Democrats
Rick Sterling
Clintonites Prepare for War on Syria
Yves Engler
The Anti-Semitism Smear Against Canadian Greens
August 24, 2016
John Pilger
Provoking Nuclear War by Media
Jonathan Cook
The Birth of Agro-Resistance in Palestine
Eric Draitser
Ajamu Baraka, “Uncle Tom,” and the Pathology of White Liberal Racism
Jack Rasmus
Greek Debt and the New Financial Imperialism
Robert Fisk
The Sultan’s Hit List Grows, as Turkey Prepares to Enter Syria
Abubakar N. Kasim
What Did the Olympics Really Do for Humanity?
Renee Parsons
Obamacare Supporters Oppose ColoradoCare
Alycee Lane
The Trump Campaign: a White Revolt Against ‘Neoliberal Multiculturalism’
Edward Hunt
Maintaining U.S. Dominance in the Pacific
George Wuerthner
The Big Fish Kill on the Yellowstone
Jesse Jackson
Democrats Shouldn’t Get a Blank Check From Black Voters
Kent Paterson
Saving Southern New Mexico from the Next Big Flood
Arnold August
RIP Jean-Guy Allard: A Model for Progressive Journalists Working in the Capitalist System
August 23, 2016
Diana Johnstone
Hillary and the Glass Ceilings Illusion
Bill Quigley
Race and Class Gap Widening: Katrina Pain Index 2016 by the Numbers
Ted Rall
Trump vs. Clinton: It’s All About the Debates
Eoin Higgins
Will Progressive Democrats Ever Support a Third Party Candidate?
Kenneth J. Saltman
Wall Street’s Latest Public Sector Rip-Off: Five Myths About Pay for Success
Binoy Kampmark
Labouring Hours: Sweden’s Six-Hour Working Day
John Feffer
The Globalization of Trump
Gwendolyn Mink – Felicia Kornbluh
Time to End “Welfare as We Know It”
Medea Benjamin
Congress Must Take Action to Block Weapon Sales to Saudi Arabia
Halyna Mokrushyna
Political Writer, Daughter of Ukrainian Dissident, Detained and Charged in Ukraine
Manuel E. Yepe
Tourism and Religion Go Hand-in-Hand in the Caribbean
ED ADELMAN
Belted by Trump
Thomas Knapp
War: The Islamic State and Western Politicians Against the Rest of Us
Nauman Sadiq
Shifting Alliances: Turkey, Russia and the Kurds
Rivera Sun
Active Peace: Restoring Relationships While Making Change
August 22, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton: The Anti-Woman ‘Feminist’
Robert Hunziker
Arctic Death Rattle
Norman Solomon
Clinton’s Transition Team: a Corporate Presidency Foretold
Ralph Nader
Hillary’s Hubris: Only Tell the Rich for $5000 a Minute!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail