FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

How Most Aid to the Palestinians Ends up in Israel’s Coffers

by

shutterstock_40870444

Diplomats may have a reputation for greyness, obfuscation, even hypocrisy, but few have found themselves compared to a serial killer, let alone one who devours human flesh.

That honour befell Laars Faaborg-Andersen, the European Union’s ambassador to Israel, last week when Jewish settlers launched a social media campaign casting him as Hannibal Lecter, the terrifying character from the film Silence of the Lambs.

An image of the Danish diplomat wearing Lecter’s prison face-mask was supposed to suggest that Europe needs similar muzzling.

The settlers’ grievance relates to European aid, which has provided temporary shelter to Palestinian Bedouin families after the Israeli army demolished their homes in the occupied territories near Jerusalem. The emergency housing has helped them remain on land coveted by Israel and the settlers.

European officials, outraged by the Lecter comparison, have reminded Tel Aviv that, were it to abide by international law, Israel – not the EU – would be taking responsibility for these families’ welfare.

While Europe may think of itself as part of an enlightened West, using aid to defend Palestinians’ rights, the reality is less reassuring. The aid may actually be making things significantly worse.

Shir Hever, an Israeli economist who has spent years piecing together the murky economics of the occupation, recently published a report that makes shocking reading.

Like others, he believes international aid has allowed Israel to avoid footing the bill for its decades-old occuption. But he goes further.

His astonishing conclusion – one that may surprise Israel’s settlers – is that at least 78 per cent of humanitarian aid intended for Palestinians ends up in Israel’s coffers.

The sums involved are huge. The Palestinians under occupation are among the most aid-dependent in the world, receiving more than $2bn from the international community a year. According to Hever, donors could be directly subsidising up to a third of the occupation’s costs.

Other forms of Israeli profiteering have been identified in previous studies.

In 2013 the World Bank very conservatively estimated that the Palestinians lose at least $3.4bn a year in resources plundered by Israel.

Further, Israel’s refusal to make peace with the Palestinians, and as a consequence the rest of the region, is used to justify Washington’s annual $3bn in military aid.

Israel also uses the occupied territories as laboratories for testing weapons and surveillance systems on Palestinians – and then exports its expertise. Israel’s military and cyber industries are hugely profitable, generating many billions of dollars of income each year.

A survey published last week found tiny Israel to be the eighth most powerful country in the world.

But whereas these income streams are a recognisable, if troubling, windfall from Israel’s occupation, western humanitarian aid to the Palestinians is clearly intended for the victims, not the victors.

So how is Israel creaming off so much?

The problem, says Hever, is Israel’s self-imposed role as mediator. To reach the Palestinians, donors have no choice but to go through Israel. This provides ripe opportunities for what he terms “aid subversion” and “aid diversion”.

The first results from the Palestinians being a captive market. They have access to few goods and services that are not Israeli.

Who Profits?, an Israeli organisation monitoring the economic benefits for Israel in the occupation, assesses that dairy firm Tnuva enjoys a monopoly in the West Bank worth $60 million annually.

Aid diversion, meanwhile, occurs because Israel controls all movement of people and goods. Israeli restrictions mean it gets to charge for transportation and storage, and levy “security” fees.

Other studies have identified additional profits from “aid destruction”. When Israel wrecks foreign-funded aid projects, Palestinians lose – but Israel often benefits.

Cement-maker Nesher, for example, is reported to control 85 per cent of all construction by Israelis and Palestinians, including the supplies for rebuilding efforts in Gaza after Israel’s repeated rampages.

Significant segments of Israeli society, aside from those in the security industries, are lining their pockets from the occupation. Paradoxically, the label “the most aid-dependent people in the world” – usually affixed to the Palestinians – might be better used to describe Israelis.

What can be done? International law expert Richard Falk notes that Israel is exploiting an aid oversight vacuum: there are no requirements on donors to ensure their money reaches the intended recipients.

What the international community has done over the past 20 years of the Oslo process – inadvertently or otherwise – is offer Israel financial incentives to stabilise and entrench its rule over the Palestinians. It can do so relatively cost-free.

While Europe and Washington have tried to beat Israel with a small diplomatic stick to release its hold on the occupied territories, at the same time they dangle juicy financial carrots to encourage Israel to tighten its grip.

There is a small ray of hope. Western aid policy does not have to be self-sabotaging. Hever’s study indicates that Israel has grown as reliant on Palestinian aid as the Palestinians themselves.

The EU noted last week that Israel not Brussels should be caring for the Bedouin it has left homeless. Europe could take its own advice to heart and start shifting the true costs of the occupation back on to Israel.

That may happen soon enough whatever the west decides, if – as even Israel is predicting will occur soon – the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas collapses.

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.

More articles by:
June 29, 2016
Diana Johnstone
European Unification Divides Europeans: How Forcing People Together Tears Them Apart
Andrew Smolski
To My Less-Evilism Haters: A Rejoinder to Halle and Chomsky
Jeffrey St. Clair
Noam Chomsky, John Halle and a Confederacy of Lampreys: a Note on Lesser Evil Voting
David Rosen
Birth-Control Wars: Two Centuries of Struggle
Sheldon Richman
Brexit: What Kind of Dependence Now?
Yves Engler
“Canadian” Corporate Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
Return to the Gilded Age: Paul Ryan’s Deregulated Dystopia
Priti Gulati Cox
All That Glitters is Feardom: Whatever Happens, Don’t Blame Jill Stein
Franklin Lamb
About the Accusation that Syrian and Russian Troops are Looting Palmyra
Binoy Kampmark
Texas, Abortion and the US Supreme Court
Anhvinh Doanvo
Justice Thomas’s Abortion Dissent Tolerates Discrimination
Victor Grossman
Brexit Pro and Con: the View From Germany
Manuel E. Yepe
Brazil: the Southern Giant Will Have to Fight
Rivera Sun
The Nonviolent History of American Independence
Adjoa Agyeiwaa
Is Western Aid Destroying Nigeria’s Future?
Jesse Jackson
What Clinton Should Learn From Brexit
Mel Gurtov
Is Brexit the End of the World?
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Alabama Democratic Primary Proves New York Times’ Nate Cohn Wrong about Exit Polling
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
Stephanie Van Hook
The Time for Silence is Over
Ajamu Nangwaya
Toronto’s Bathhouse Raids: Racialized, Queer Solidarity and Police Violence
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail