Ben-Dror Yemini was born in Tel-Aviv, Israel in 1954. He studied Humanities and History in Tel Aviv University, and later on he studies Law. After his university studies, he was appointed advisor to the Israeli Minister of Immigration Absorption and then became the spokesman of the Ministry. In 1984, he began his career as a journalist and essayist. He worked as a lawyer and was a partner in a law firm. He has worked for the daily newspaper Maariv, and in Spring 2014 began writing for the daily Yedioth Ahronoth. The author of "The Industry of Lies."
Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:10 am And the World Pays - By Ben-Dror Yemini
And the World Pays
Despite the fact that the Palestinians are receiving aid at a scope that other countries can only dream of, they are still pitied. Thus the wretchedness has turned into an industry. Third article in the series
According to world opinion, the Palestinians are the most wretched people in the world. The most oppressed people on earth. This is a national group that incorporates a significant part of the image of the victim. Numerous publications deal with this wretchedness, with the poverty, with the refugee status that has continued for decades. Here, too, the connection between the facts and the publicity is less than nothing.
In the first article in the series, "And the World is Silent," which was published in the Rosh Hashana supplement, we dealt with the mass murder that Arabs and primarily Moslems perpetrate against Moslems and Arabs, compared with the relatively minimal number of Arabs killed in general, and Palestinians in particular, in the framework of the dispute with Israel. The second article in the series, "And the World is Lying," which was published in the Yom Kippur supplement, dealt with manipulation of the Palestinian refugee problem: even though almost 40 million people have experienced population exchanges for the purpose of creating states with a national, ethnic or religious identity, only the Palestinians of all the tens of millions, have remained refugees.
This article will examine the myth of Palestinian misery. The Palestinians are, indeed in a bad situation. No one disputes that. The question is whether this is a self-inflicted Palestinian product for which the Palestinians are responsible, or it is international harassment, primarily American or Israeli.
The myth, which is cultivated by the "forces of progress," says that, naturally, the United States is the root of all evil. Not only does it have an "unbalanced policy," it is also the oppressor of the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people. And Israel, of course, is worsening the general oppression. Is that really so?
While the Palestinians have acquired a place of honor on the world's list of wretchedness, well oiled public-relations have turned them into a nation of victims. The facts are different in essence from the myths and the plethora of academic and journalistic publications that are perpetrating a mass fraud on world opinion.
Misery pays. It has turned into an industry. The world opens its pockets. The "great Satan," the country most hated by the Palestinians, the United States, which vies for precedence only with Israel, the "small Satan," is the country that has helped the Palestinians since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 more than any other country in the world. Not Saudi Arabia alone, and not the Gulf states, separately or together. Not the countries of Europe, who donate separately and not even the European Union.
They have been showered with dollars and they respond with criticism
These are the facts: according to a report by the World Bank, from 1994 to 1998, the United States was the largest contributor to the Palestinians. The figures are no different in the years after that, but the 1990s, which ended with the Intifada, are particularly important. It is true that Israel receives more aid. The military aid stems from strategic reasons and this is not the place to discuss them. Most of it, in any case, assists American industry, because Israel must spend the money only in America. With regards to the economic aid, in recent years it has become marginal and it is less than the aid given to the Palestinians.
In everything pertaining to per capita aid for the purposes of Palestinian development welfare, they receive far more aid than the aid given, for example, to Egypt. But the myth repeatedly claims that the Palestinians are the "victims," that they must be given more and more because that, perhaps, will convince them to want peace and to abandon terrorism.
According to the World Bank Report, in the abovementioned years, Washington contributed close to $345 million, compared with the European Union, which contributed $298 million. Japan is also at the top of the list, with a contribution of $306 million during those years.
The American contribution is actually much bigger: during those years, just like during all the past few decades, the United States has been the largest contributor to UNRWA the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for refugees, which is assisting the Palestinians. UNRWA's annual budget was close to $300 million a year during that period. Out of that amount, $600 million were sent to the West Bank and Gaza.
Even by a multiyear calculation, from 1994 to 2004 the United States is in first place, with $1.3 billion in aid. After the U.S. comes the European Union - 1.11 billion, then Japan - 0.5 3 billion. Here, too, these amounts do not include the contributions to UNRWA and the "Dawa" (the "charity") which is used in large part to fund terrorism. We must remember that Hamas operated another, separate fund raising channel, some of which actually went to welfare, education, health and publicity infrastructures, and some of which went to strengthening the military arm and terrorists activities.
Billions have been given to the Palestinians. This money could have led to tremendous change in the Palestinian economy. This money, excuse the clichי, could have turned Gaza into Beirut (except that Hizbullah would turn Beirut into Gaza). But the Palestinians chose another path. The world rained dollars on them and the Palestinians responded with criticism. They were not the oppressed of the world, but rather the pampered of the world. Most of the inhabitants of Africa, who are suffering a lot more, can only dream of aid at the magnitude that was given to the Palestinians. There is poverty in the world. There is exploitation. There is oppression. But the Palestinians are not at the top of the list. They are far from that. They have never suffered from hunger. Their distress is mostly of their own devising.
They preferred the struggle to prosperity
Back before the Oslo Accords, money was flowing to the Palestinians. 1992 was a peak year for the Palestinian economy. The GDP per capita reached $1,999, and the actual GNP per capita was $2,683. The gap stems from supplements from foreign sources: some came from the UNRWA budget, some was transferred from Palestinians working abroad who sent money, and a significant part came from the work performed by many Palestinians in Israel.
Theoretically, if not for the terrorism, which forced Israel to impose closures and curfews, the Palestinian economy in the 1990s would have turned into one of the leading economies in the Middle East, after Israel. That is the point in time during which the secret talks were being held in Oslo, after which, following the signing of the Accords, the great flow of international aid to the Palestinians began. But these were also the years of large waves of terrorism. The Palestinians preferred the struggle to prosperity.
During those years, countries like Yemen, Chad and Nigeria, for example, had per capita GDPs of about $1,000 and they were not the poorest countries in the world. These were the years in which there were African communities of millions, in Congo, in Sudan, in the Sahara, which became refugees. But the international community abandoned them. The black people of Africa, of course, did not create terrorism and did not present a strategic threat. The moral conscience of the world in general and of the West in particular is activated in a very selective manner: by the television screen, by threats of terrorism, by the danger of a rise in oil prices. So the far greater suffering of tens of millions of black people in Africa is ranked much lower than the far lesser suffering of the Palestinians.
The distress of the Palestinians is apparently their most successful industry. This is distress that both perpetuates itself and serves as the basis for more and more payment demands. What is it for? Not for building infrastructures. Not for building an improved education system. Not for rehabilitating the hundreds of thousands who are living in refugee camps. The money went to three main objectives: perpetuating the political situation and the wretchedness; purchasing weapons and materiel for terrorism; and for corruption, by paying enormous amounts that went constantly into the pockets of cronies and hangers-on, such as the millions of dollars that went into the bank accounts of Yasser Arafat in banks around the world, and the coupons clipped by the heads of the Palestinian Authority from almost every economic development deal in the territories.
The supreme objective: Wiping Israel off the map
Israel is not innocent of mistakes, but all Israel's mistakes are dwarfed by the Palestinian liability. Living under an occupation is no great joy, and criticism of the occupation in general and of the settlements in particular, is legitimate. More than legitimate. We are not dealing with theory, however, but with facts: huge sums of money that were given to the Palestinians went down the drain. And the opportunities to win independence and prosperity were rejected in favor of the supreme objective: wiping Israel off the map.
The most important turning point was, of course, the Oslo Accords. The entire world volunteered to help the Palestinian Authority, which was established following the Accords. The Palestinian Authority did, indeed, grow and blossom. The big money began to flow. But the Palestinians themselves did not enjoy the fruits of the peace. To the contrary. They went into an economic decline.
Various research entities present contradictory data on the changes in the per capita GNP or the purchasing power of the Palestinians before and after the Oslo Accords. But even the contradictory data present consistent lines: on the one hand, there was an astonishing, unprecedented flow of funds to the Palestinian Authority, and on the hand, along with the enormous flow of funds, there was also a drop in per capita GNP. The explanation is simple: after the Oslo Accords, there were several waves of terrorism which led to a series of closures. Fewer and fewer Palestinians worked in Israel.
But the change came. In 1997 there was a turning point and the Palestinian economy began to recover. The Palestinians began to feel the benefits of peace. According to Palestinian data, from 1994 to 2000 there was a real increase of 36% in the GDP. And yet, despite the dramatic improvement, the recovery was short-lived and it ended with the outbreak of the second intifada in September 2000. Again, the chance for prosperity was destroyed. Again, the Palestinians chose the path of violence.
This is an important point in time. The violence broke out precisely after Israel extended to the Palestinians the most generous offers it the history of the conflict between the two nations. The myths of "Palestinian suffering" and of the "horrors of occupation" are inconsistent with reality.
Far from last place in suffering and poverty
Firstly, the uprising began after two years of the waning of the terrorism and the rise of the economic prosperity. Secondly, these were the days in which the Palestinians had a Palestinian state in hand. It began at the Camp David summit, at which Ehud Barak, then Prime Minister, proposed something that no Israeli leader had dared to propose before him. It continued under the guidance of Bill Clinton and the essence was a Palestinian State at the 1967 borders with the exception of minor border adjustments of a few percent, including substantial parts of Jerusalem, and exchanges of territory, as compensation for the Palestinians.
And how did the Palestinians respond? This is how Bandar bin Sultan, the highly influential Saudi ambassador in Washington at that time, describes the events of that historic day, January 2, 2001: bin Sultan was sitting with Arafat at the Ritz Hotel before he went into the meeting with Clinton. Ben Sultan told Arafat that this was a historic opportunity, that he had the support of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and most of the Arab world, and that if he refused the proposal, "It would be a tragedy, it would be a crime." It did not help. Arafat went to Clinton and said: "No." Arafat did not want a Palestinian state. Arafat did not want prosperity. Arafat did not want an end to the occupation. Arafat wanted war.
Israel was forced to respond in order to protect itself from the enormous wave of terrorism. Yes, Israel made mistakes. But all of its mistakes are dwarfed, we must repeat, by the Palestinian intransigence against ending the occupation and the conflict, and the refusal to establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
We will continue with the facts. The flow of funds for economic aid, for human development, to prevent hunger, is supposed to be in accordance with the state of the needy community. Were the Palestinians the neediest community? Comparative data show that the Palestinians are far from last place in poverty. While the GNP was not at Western levels, even among the Muslim or Arab countries the Palestinians are not the last on the list.
The Human Development Index for 2003 places the "occupied Palestinian territories," as the Palestinian Authority is defined there, in the 102nd place out of 180 countries. Since 2003 represents one of the low points, at the height of the intifada, and since the GNP during the 1990s was far higher, we can assume that the Palestinians' ranking during the 1990s was higher. And in any case, even in the dire situation of 2003, the Palestinians were ahead of Algeria (ranked 103) Syria (ranked 106) Egypt (ranked 116), Morocco (ranked 126), Yemen (ranked 156) and certainly most of the countries in Africa and some of the countries of South America.
The Palestinians are ranked high in human development, relative to other Arab states, even though the GNP is lower than in those countries. And yet, a comparison of GNP and the international aide, relative to other countries and relative to the size of the population, yields an amazing result: the Palestinians received the greatest amount of aid in the world. Actually, it has been a decade and a half that the Palestinians have been far from being the poorest, but they received the most aide. The facts tell the story.
For example, from 1994 to 1998, the Palestinians in the territories received more than $2.6 billion in aid from the donor countries, and another $600 million through UNRWA, but that is only part of the picture. An enormous number of Palestinian NGOs received support from many funds, primarily in Europe.
Additionally, "charity organizations" sent money, mainly to entities that engaged in terrorism and/or religious activities. The money came from Muslims in America and Europe, from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. The cumulative amount each year comes to hundreds of millions of dollars.
Comparative data for 2003 shows an even more surprising picture. While the poverty-stricken Yemen received external aid of $30 per capita, each person in the Palestinian Authority received $470. Even in absolute terms, this is distorted. Egypt received external $1.286 billion in aid while the Palestinian Authority received $1.616 billion in aid. It is superfluous to say that the population of Egypt is 73 million and the Palestinians population is only 3 million.
This is not the end of the Palestinian audacity - an audacity in which American support, both economic and political, is met with ingratitude. In 2003, among other things following the terrorist bombings, Washington decided to make its aid to NGOs around the world conditional on the signing of an agreement under which the recipient does not support terrorism. We should clarify that this was the policy vis-א-vis every entity in the world and not just the Palestinians. However, some of the Palestinians did not like that. They wanted both money and support for terrorism. An internal debate developed, with the expected nationalistic rhetoric. The radical elements prevailed and at the beginning of June 2004, the Palestinian legislative Council passed a resolution rejecting the American conditions.
The Palestinians wanted both aid and the option that the aid would go to terrorist entities or to entities that support terrorism. Why? Because of the Palestinian "national honor," which includes supporting terrorism, was more important than the possibility of obtaining American aid.
Weapons are more important than welfare, education and prosperity
Three researchers - Michael Keating, Anne Le More and Robert Lowe - edited a comprehensive book of articles on the aid, called "The Case of Palestine: Aid, Diplomacy and Facts on the Ground," which was published in 2005. The three will never be accused of being overly sympathetic to Israel. However, two clear facts emerge from the book: first, that the Palestinians have received the greatest amount of aid since World War II, not just in absolute terms, but also taking into account the adjustment for the various indices. And, in effect, relative to the number of inhabitants, the Palestinians have received more aid than the Marshall Plan, which was designed for the recovery of Europe after the Second World War. Second, in the words of the book, "Aid may have been part of the problem rather than the solution, and massive international aide has not prevented the decline of Palestinian society."
As usual with books of this type, it is also full of allegations against Israel, such as the claim that the aid contributed to perpetuating the occupation (how does that fit in with the Palestinian intransigence in refusing a Palestinian state and the Clinton initiative?), but if we relate solely to the data - of the World Bank, of the International Monetary Fund, of research institutes - they tell us the story.
Throughout the territories there are now tens of thousands of privately held weapons which are not part of the weaponry of the Palestinian security forces. The price of a rifle, according to type and period, ranges between thousands of shekels and thousands of dollars. When we talk about Palestinian distress, it is also worth remembering Palestinian priorities, both national and private: weapons are more important than welfare, then education, then prosperity. The problem is not money. The problem is the preference for weapons.
If the Palestinians had been fighting the occupation - they would have had an independent Palestinian state long ago, very close to the 1967 lines. But the Palestinians have made every effort to convince public opinion in Israel that the goal is not the end of the occupation. The Palestinian goal was and, for many, remains - the end of the State of Israel. Fantasy has overcome reality.
Like the dream that has been nurtured about the right of return, which only increased the misery of those who have been forced to remain refugees, so the dream of the destruction of Israel has only increased the wretchedness of the Palestinians. The blame is not theirs alone. The blame also belongs to their propaganda agents in the West. The blame belongs to the propaganda agents who treated them like oppressed wretches and not like people with equality who are responsible for their actions. There is no other explanation for the fact that since the Oslo Accords, the Palestinians in the territories alone have received $5.5 billion, if we do not take into account additional sources that are not manifested in the official reports. This comes to about $1,300 per capita. Just for the sake of comparison, under the Marshall Plan, every European received only $273 (after adjustment for the index).
The Palestinians deserve to receive this aid. They have many good reasons. However we now see what happened to this vast amount of money. It was spent on corruption and the Fatah movement was removed from the government. It was spent on weapons at the encouragement of the central government and the result is social breakdown and anarchy. And above all, the blame belongs to those who helped in the flow of this enormous amount of money without making the Palestinians undergo a process of withdrawal from their futile dreams of the destruction of Israel. The result is mainly the continued destruction of Palestinian society.