Aid Subversion is Finally Getting on EU Nerves
By Shir Hever for JNews Blog, original available here.
An internal report by the European Union, authored in last July, was leaked to the press recently, causing a minor scandal. The report focused on the division of the West Bank into the so-called areas A, B, and C under the Oslo Accords – which, it claims, is now preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Israel divides the Palestinian area it occupies into five parts: the Gaza Strip (which is under siege, but Israel denies that it continues to occupy it), East Jerusalem (which Israel annexed into its territory in 1980 – a declaration declared “null and void” by United Nations Security Council Resolution 478), area A (18%), comprising mostly urban areas where the Palestinian Authority (PA) manages both security and civilian affairs, area B (20%), where Israel controls the security but the PA manages civilian affairs, and area C, (62%, excluding East Jerusalem), which comprises the rural areas, including the West Bank’s most fertile lands in the Jordan Valley, in which Israel controls both security and civilian affairs, and where Israel’s illegal colonies (apart from those in East Jerusalem) are situated.
The division into the three areas in the mid-1990s, was presented as a temporary policy, to enable the PA to gradually take over the entire Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), with the signing of a permanent agreement. Originally, this permanent agreement was scheduled for 1999, the year in which the Palestinian state was supposed to be founded. Thirteen years later, Israel continues to exploit these “temporary” measures to prevent Palestinians from constructing housing and economic infrastructure in most of the West Bank, while the colonist population in the settlements continues to grow at a rapid rate. The settlement population in area C has tripled since the beginning of the Oslo negotiations to reach about 310,000, and is now double that of the Palestinians living in the same area (they now number about 150,000, whereas prior to 1967, up to 320,000 Palestinians lived in the Jordan Valley alone). Israel has displaced or expelled large numbers of Palestinians to create facts on the ground to pave the way for annexing area C, but without area C, the rest of the OPT is a series of overcrowded enclaves – bantustans – disconnected from each other, lacking agricultural land and totally surrounded by Israeli-controlled territory.
Israeli newpaper Haaretz published an article on the report on 12 January . The Hebrewversion of the article was called “European report: Israel performs a forced transfer against the Palestinians:” a clear warning to Israeli citizens to prepare for the wrath of Europe over Israel’s violations of international law. The English version of the article had a toned-down title: “EUreport: Israel policy in West Bank endangers two-state solution.” Haaretz, it seems, would rather not include its English-language readers in an internal-Israeli debate about foreign pressure targeting Israeli policies.
The EU report does not reveal any new information that hasn’t been known for years, but it hints that European governments are coming to realize that their position on Israel/Palestine is at a dead-end. While they continue to offer statements on the importance of the two-state solution and spend money to promote it, Israel is ploughing on in the opposite direction with great momentum, expanding colonies, displacing Palestinians, disconnecting Gaza from the West Bank and imposing sanctions on the PA at will.
An important part of the report was dedicated to the work of aid organizations. The Palestinian population, strangled by the occupation, has so far avoided mass famine and death thanks to massive international aid efforts. Per-capita foreign aid to Palestinians was US$181 in 1999 (which is considered the best economic year since the beginning of the Oslo negotiations), peaked at 2002 during the height of the intifada at US$500, then declined, but reached a new peak of US$700 in 2009.
The report mentions that foreign aid to the Palestinians does not relieve Israel from its obligations under international humanitarian law (IHL). In practice Israel has been using this aid to its own advantage. Aid, designed to help foster a viable Palestinian economy, has become a source of funding for the occupation itself. Israeli companies and the Israeli government profitbillions from aid that was supposedly sent to the Palestinians. This is graphically revealed by Sahar Taghdisi-Rad in her new book The Political Economy of Aid in Palestine, which shows how donors are tailoring their aid programs to benefit Israel.
The work of organizations in area C is a key issue. Over the years, many donors, NGOs and project managers have abandoned area C, and focused their efforts on areas A and B, simply because Israel rarely grants permits to build in area C. The message of the EU report is clear – only the Palestinians have a right to govern their own territory. Donors who take the path which Israel sets for them are playing into the hands of the occupation. Unless aid projects are directed to area C (regardless of Israeli permits), the donors are acting in support of Israel’s occupation policies of divide-and-conquer. They should have to face the responsibility for participation in such illegal activity.