HomeAsiaIsrael-Palestine War: The Curse of Economic Disparity

Israel-Palestine War: The Curse of Economic Disparity

Israel-Palestine war is the most spoken topic in today’s world. Though the root of this problem can be blamed upon Britain in 1947 for their controversial role in the UN Resolution 181 as United Nation’s Partition Plan for Palestine.  Since that time, the people of Palestine are being oppressed both politically and economically by Israel. After convincingly winning the 1967 Arab-Israel war that shattered the short-lived United Arab Republic alliance between Syria and Egypt, Israel took complete control of the remaining part of Palestine. The government of Israel under Prime Minister Levi Eshkol (1963-1969) then devised a new way to further marginalize the Palestinian people economically. They introduced new legislations in the guise of peaceful economic co-existence to gain the trust of the Palestinian people. But in reality, it was far from it. Seven years of Israeli control of the economy never brought any significant improvements in the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank. Rather, the pre-existing economic condition of the West Bank and Gaza worsened by the day. Unemployment, poverty and numerous trade barriers imposed by Israel only halted the economy of Palestine.  Using “Hamas” as the scapegoat for violent acts, the Israel authority effectively closed the trade between Palestine and Egypt through the Gaza border.

Photo-1: Illegal Israeli settlements are built along the West Bank border of Palestine.

Under the newly introduced Paris Economic Protocol, Israel further destroyed the fundamental economic structure of Palestine. The GDP of the West Bank and Gaza declined 36.1% by the year 1992-96.  It also began to build illegal settlements into the Palestinian territory. Building new infrastructure, settling new Jewish immigrants around the perimeter of Gaza and the West Bank were cruel examples of their colonizing practices.  According to the Council for European Palestinian Relations, formally 13.4% of Palestinian people were involved in agriculture and 90% of them are irregular farmers. But Israel too took away the last vestiges of their cultivable land. They withheld water and banned the import of fertilizer from outside. Thus, the Palestinian people lost the ability to even grow food. Moreover, many problems were faced by the Palestinian farmers like widespread confiscation of arable land by Jewish settlers, destruction of wells and aquifers, and building barbed-wire fences alongside the borders of the West Bank and Gaza strip.  They also built checkpoints and imposed harsher border controls that made traveling difficult for the Palestinians and to access natural resources.

Photo 2: A Palestinian farmland in West Bank, which is steadily decreasing owing of Israeli occupation around the vicinity.

Aside from depriving the Palestinians of accessing the modes of production pertaining to agriculture, Israel Defence Forces (IDF) set the tone for all the economic activities of the Palestinians. All types of transactions needed approval from the IDF. Sometimes, the IDF deliberately delayed the approval to halt the expansion of business ventures and industrialization efforts of the Palestinians. In some bizarre twist and turns of inhuman proportions, no Palestinian could purchase lands, produce goods or build infrastructures without the proper authorization of Israeli authority. It exploited all import and export activities of the Palestinians through hook and crook. The Palestinian were only permitted to import and export of certain products through Israel. For this, the exporter or importer had to pay a hefty value-added tax (VAT). The World Bank estimated that nearly 8% to 12% profit of Palestinian goods were lost annually the trade barriers imposed by Israel.

In some of the worst cases of inhumane economic injustice, Israel literally had a free entry of products in the Palestinian markets but they never allowed cheaper Palestinian products entry into the Israeli market. Surprisingly, Israel always had a strong hand in controlling the circulation of technological products and gadgets in Palestine. Fearing leakage of Israel’s cruelty to the entire world, Israel was always skeptical of permeating access to the latest communication technologies like computers, laptops, and mobile to Palestine. Rather, it forced the Palestinian tech-retailers into selling refurbished techs and gadgets from Israel. As a result, instead of losing money by dumping old and useless tech gadgets, Israel gained millions of dollars just by selling the refurbished gadgets that were often bugged by Mossad, Israel’s premier intelligence agency. It is estimated that half of the revenue of the Israeli treasury was paid by the Palestinian. Like this, social security contribution was also paid by the labourer working in Israel. Again, the currency of Palestine did collect seigniorage revenue. But, the authority of Israel did not undertake the public expenditure in the occupied territory.

After the end of the third Arab-Israel War in 1967, Israel gained de facto control of literally all of Palestine. In the name of giving employment opportunities, they began to exploit the cheap labour force of Palestine. So, Palestinian were being forcibly admitted into Israeli industries with dangerous working conditions and abysmal salary. At one point fearing retaliation by Palestinian worker strikes, Israeli industries recruited laborers from Thailand, Romania, and other friendly countries, leaving the unemployed Palestinians further impoverished. Due to the Israeli closure policy, Palestine lagged behind.  Most of the roads and highways of the occupied territory were built before 1967. Only an estimated 25% of households in Palestine are connected to sewerage channels. Survey shows data that Israel ranked in the first place and West Bank; Gaza territory place last position in coverage of sanitary facilities.

Photo 3: Death and Destruction everywhere in Gaza strip. No wonder why Palestine receives so less tourists nowadays.

Tourism is considered one of the most lucrative income sources of the Middle East. In some bizarre twist and turns, this sector is diminishing in Palestine. In Gaza, there had been very few international visitors after 2005 and all were working for media like CNN and Al Jazeera. Israel collects heavy tolls from anyone who enters and leaves Gaza.  Israel also controls all tourism to the West Bank. Due to the dangers of kidnap, insurgency, occupation, and rampant blockades by Israel border forces, tourists are fearful of visiting Palestine. Restriction in visa policy is also a reason. Any international passport holder can entry into Palestine but the entry to Jerusalem and West Bank is controlled by Israel. Many of the countries also don’t permit their citizens to visit Israel.

Foreign Aid contributes a greater part to the Palestinian economy. The majority of the donation comes from the Muslim majority Arab states, Palestinian diaspora in western countries, and from various international organizations like the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN), etc. Unfortunately, Palestine has turned into a “basket case” as all the donations sent there go to Israel first. In exchange, Israel provides very little monetary assistance and provides the same number of products and goods instead of money to the Palestinians. At present, the portion of getting foreign aid is ever on the decline due to the harsh restriction of Israel.

At last, one of the major themes that come into mind that, the self-rule period (1967-94) demolished the fundamental structure of the Palestinian economy. Their closure police made thousands of Palestinians jobless, increased unemployment. Losing one-third of the labor force, no nation can develop. Increased political strife and uncertainty decline the Palestinians household income.

Trying to achieve historical compromise through resolution between two people leads to conflict. Israel’s confiscation of lands, building new Jews communities, attainment to control over the border made Palestinian viable to their rights.

The experience gained from the Oslo Accord of 1992 is also a failure in the grand scheme of things and it did not resolve the clash. Rather, it only intensified the blatant distrust and hatred of Israel and Palestinians towards one another. So, a new accord, the new policy is needed to establish the rights of Palestinians, to gain over their land. That will be free of clash, conflicts and will lead to the sustainable development of Palestine.

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