FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Strangling the Palestinian Economy

The European Union this week issued its long-awaited guidelines to label settlement products produced in the illegal settlements Israel has built in the territory it occupied in 1967. Even before the guidelines were issued, the Israeli government blasted the move, claiming it undermined peace and discriminated against Israel.

It even claimed labelling would hurt Palestinian workers in Israeli settlements. This claim deliberately creates confusion and diverts international attention from the colossal damage Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestine does to the Palestinian economy.

True, some Palestinians work in Israeli settlements. But how many? And why do they work in settlements? To answer these questions, it is useful to begin with a quick look at the impact of Israel’s occupation on the Palestinian economy.

Israel has exploited the Palestinian economy — directly and through its illegal settlement enterprise — since its occupation began. It has confiscated Palestinian land and property for settlement construction and agriculture; seized water resources (the more than 600,000 settlers now use six times as much water as the 2.6 million West Bank Palestinians); taken over tourist sites; and exploited Palestinian quarries, mines, the Dead Sea, and other non-renewable natural resources.

In addition, the settlements are supported by an infrastructure of roads, checkpoints, and the Separation Wall, leading to the creation of isolated Bantustans. According to a World Bank study, 68% of the so-called Area C − which represents 60% of the West Bank and which is richly endowed with natural resources — has been reserved for Israeli settlements, while less than 1% has been allowed for Palestinian use.

This physical fragmentation, coupled with Israeli restrictions on movement and access, has led to the emergence of different economies in the occupied territory, greatly harming the prospects for economic development. Overall, it is estimated that the total cost of the occupation was almost 85% of the total estimated Palestinian GDP (around $7 billion) in 2010 alone. The illegal settlement enterprise has thus severely strangled the Palestinian economy. It is no surprise that the economy now suffers from structural weaknesses and a debilitated productive base that is unable to generate enough employment and investment. It is also no surprise that the Palestinians have become dependent on foreign aid, including from taxpayers in the EU and its member countries.

It is this harsh economic reality that drives some Palestinians — estimated at 3.5% of the total West Bank labour force in 2013 — to work in Israeli settlements, where they are subject to difficult, sometimes dangerous working conditions. Most do not have health insurance to protect them from work-related accidents and it is estimated that 93% do not have labour unions to represent them: they are subject to arbitrary dismissal and withholding of their permits if they demand their rights or try to unionize.

It is sometimes argued that Palestinian workers in settlements receive higher wages than in the Palestinian labour market; however, it is worth noting that they are paid on average less than half the Israeli minimum wage. For example, in Beqa’ot, an Israeli settlement in the Jordan Valley, Palestinians are paid 35% of the legal minimum wage. (The packing-houses of Mehadrin, the largest Israeli exporter of fruits and vegetables to the EU, are located in this settlement.) More than 80% of Palestinian workers would leave their jobs in the settlements if they could find an alternative in the Palestinian labour market.

While Israel spins that EU labelling will hurt a few thousand Palestinian workers, in reality millions of Palestinians have been dispossessed of their economic resources. And Israel’s occupation hurts Palestinians far more than EU labelling of settlement products could. What Palestinians need is an end to occupation, not more jobs in illegal settlements. Only then can they strengthen their economy’s productive base, generate employment, ensure self-reliance and self-sufficiency — and stop being dependent on EU aid.

The EU has recognized the illegality of Israel’s colonial enterprise, which is a breach of the Hague Regulations of 1907, the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, and the right of Palestinians to self-determination. But, as Israel’s largest trading partner, the EU’s guidelines on labelling do not fully meet its moral and legal obligations. Third states are obliged not to provide any assistance to maintain an illegal situation. The EU should ban all settlement products and end its dealings with all parts of the Israeli economy that engage in Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise.

This article appears in the excellent Le Monde Diplomatique, whose English language edition can be found at mondediplo.com. This full text appears by agreement with Le Monde Diplomatique. CounterPunch features two or three articles from LMD every month.

More articles by:

Nur Arafeh is policy fellow at Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network.

Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front
Jasmine Aguilera
Lessons From South of the Border
Manuel García, Jr.
A Formula for U.S. Election Outcomes
Sam Pizzigati
Drug Company Execs Make Millions Misleading Cancer Patients. Here’s One Way to Stop Them
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Agriculture as Wrong Turn
James McEnteer
And That’s The Way It Is: Essential Journalism Books of 2018
Chris Gilbert
Biplav’s Communist Party of Nepal on the Move: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian
Judith Deutsch
Siloed Thinking, Climate, and Disposable People: COP 24 and Our Discontent
Jill Richardson
Republicans Don’t Want Your Vote to Count
John Feffer
‘Get Me Outta Here’: Trump Turns the G20 into the G19
Domenica Ghanem
Is Bush’s Legacy Really Much Different Than Trump’s?
Peter Certo
Let Us Argue Over Dead Presidents
Christopher Brauchli
Concentration Camps From Here to China
ANIS SHIVANI
The Progress of Fascism Over the Last Twenty Years
Steve Klinger
A Requiem for Donald Trump
Al Ronzoni
New Deals, From FDR’s to the Greens’
Gerald Scorse
America’s Rigged Tax Collection System
Louis Proyect
Praying the Gay Away
Rev. Theodore H. Lockhart
A Homily: the Lord Has a Controversy With His People?
David Yearsley
Bush Obsequies
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail