A new report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) blames every significant failure of the Palestinian economy on “50 years of [Israeli] occupation… with no end in sight”.
“It is the longest occupation in recent history. For the Palestinian people, these have been five decades of de-development, suppressed human potential and denial of the right to development,” the report claims.
Brazen in its accusations and almost comical in its complete disregard of any geopolitical context or realities, the report blames Israel’s “occupation” for lack of a viable Palestinian agricultural industry, high unemployment, suffering in Gaza, and even falling donor support. It also accuses Israel of stealing money from the Palestinian Authority (PA).
According to UNCTAD, Israel has “hollowed out” the agricultural and industrial sectors of the “Occupied Palestinian Territories”. Only 1 in 5 hectares of cultivable land are utilized, and most arable land lacks irrigation, the report says. It also blames settlements for “annexing” West Bank land that could be used by Palestinians.
Interestingly, the report fails to note that 12 years ago, when the Jewish population of the Gaza Strip abandoned its settlements, it left behind – along with plenty of land – millions of dollars’ worth of farming equipment and thousands of flourishing greenhouses, purchased from the Jewish farmers by Jewish American donors for the express use of the Palestinians who would take over the land. Within days, most of the facilities were looted and rendered unusable by Arabs, with the remaining greenhouses destroyed in a second wave of vandalism the following year.
Israel also provides most of the territories’ water at reduced cost.
The report goes on to blame Israel for the troublingly high unemployment rate in the “territories” – 27 percent within Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem, and a stunning 42 percent in Gaza. However, neither of those numbers, according to the report, have anything to do with Palestinian leadership’s corruption, embezzlement of resources for terror, repurposing of foreign aid or generally poor governance, but are fully Israel’s fault.
Incredibly, in same section which lambasts Israel for harming Palestinian employment, the report also criticizes Israel for employing Palestinians. Because of lack of work opportunities, Palestinians are “forced to seek work in Israel and settlements, under dangerous and discriminatory conditions, often with inadequate health and safety provisions,” the report accuses.
The reality is very different. Palestinians who work for Israeli companies get significantly higher wages than they would in the “territories”, along with more reliable paychecks, better conditions, and benefits. In 2014, the Palestinian Authority’s official daily newspaper actually praised Israeli working conditions for Palestinians.
“The Palestinian worker receives nearly all of his rights from his Israeli employers – even if through the courts of law – [and he] is entitled to yearly vacations, sick leave and overtime pay, and is paid for his travel expenses, while the majority of Palestinian employers do not provide these benefits to their workers, except for a few institutions which have begun implementing them without pressure from official parties,” the article read.
UNCTAD condemned Israel’s growing settlement enterprise, pointing out that both Jewish population growth and construction are on the rise in Judea and Samaria, but seemed unable to explain exactly how this harms the Palestinian economy. The report drew attention to Israel’s demolition of Palestinian structures in the West Bank, though it does not provide a reason why illegal Palestinian buildings in the disputed “territories” should be allowed to stand and Jewish buildings should be destroyed.
The report goes on to describe the dismal socioeconomic conditions in the Gaza Strip, where the per capita GDP has shrunk by 23 percent since 1994. UNCTAD attributes Gaza’s slow reconstruction in sectors such as health, education, energy, water and sanitation to the fact that “only half of the $3.5 billion pledged in 2014 at the Cairo Conference on Palestine – Reconstructing Gaza for Gaza’s reconstruction [has been] disbursed”.
Even if that money reached Gaza, it is unlikely to alleviate the humanitarian suffering felt among its people. Hamas, the terror organization which runs the Strip, routinely funnels millions of dollars in aid money to its terror infrastructure rather than using it to improve life for Gazans. Last year, an Israeli official said that “a clear majority” of the aid money given to Gaza by the US, UN and European Union “ends up in the pockets of Hamas.”
In fact, UN employees in Gaza have used their positions with the international agency to directly help Hamas. Hamas officials have also infiltrated charity aid organizations to embezzle money for terror. In short, more aid money seems unlikely to solve Gaza’s economic issues.
Lastly, the UNCTAD report bemoans falling donor support for the Palestinians, “due in part to the fact that occupation prevents previous aid flows from translating into tangible development gains.”
Using careful language, the report also essentially accuses Israel of stealing public funds from the PA, the evidence of which was discovered through “pioneering research by UNCTAD”. The report claims the discovery led to Israel “reimbursing” the Palestinian Authority (PA) $300 million in “leaked fiscal resources.”
Again, the reality tells a different story. While Israel did transfer $500 million in withheld tax funds to the PA in 2015, it derived the money not from mysterious “leakages” but from a routine tax collection which was withheld because the PA still owed Israel at least that much in overdue bills for water and electricity.
As discriminatory as the report is against Israel, its conclusions come as little surprise. The UN’s various agencies have consistently reflected the international body’s deep-seated bias against Israel.