Don't mention Africa

By
March 8, 2006 20:36

The PA has received close to $10b. since its inception, but little of it has been invested in building the Palestinian economy.

4 minute read.



If anyone still believes that terror reaps no rewards, consider the fate of some 72,000 Angolan refugees in Zambia. The Angolans, refugees from their country's civil war, are being fed by UNHCR, the UN agency that handles all refugees worldwide except Palestinians. The food allowance is not exactly generous: According to a February 24 New York Times report, the average meal consists of 4.7 ounces of enriched cornmeal, two ounces of beans, half an ounce of vegetable oil and some salt. But three servings a day provide the 2,207 calories that the World Food Program considers the minimum for adequate nutrition. Or rather, they did until January 1, when the food allowance was cut by 40 percent, to 1,400 calories a day. Since then, unsurprisingly, malnutrition has soared. UNHCR instituted the cut because feeding 72,000 refugees 2,207 calories a day for one year costs $8.5 million - but as of January 1, the agency had yet to receive a penny in donations for 2006. Not knowing when more money might be forthcoming, it was trying to make leftover supplies from 2005 last as long as possible. In mid-February, the United States, Britain and Germany finally pledged a collective $2.3m., but it is not known when that money will arrive - or where the other $6.2m. will be found. YET WEALTHY countries are clearly not short of disposable cash: Just three days after the Times report appeared, the European Union managed to scrounge up 120 million euros (about $143m.) in emergency aid for a more deserving cause: the Palestinian Authority. Of this, some $21m. - more than twice the annual food budget of the Zambian refugee camps - will go just toward paying February salaries for some of the PA's approximately 135,000 employees. Unlike the refugees, the PA's cash crunch is its own fault. It has two immediate causes. First, the World Bank withheld a scheduled $60m. donation in December after PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, seeking to buy votes for his Fatah party prior to the PA's January elections, defied the bank and raised PA employees' salaries, thereby further bloating the authority's already bloated public sector. According to the World Bank, the PA's approximately $1 billion in independent annual revenues is now entirely consumed by salaries; for any governmental activity outside of salaries, it depends on foreign aid. The bank was unwilling to underwrite such financial mismanagement. Second, following Hamas's victory in the elections, Israel refused to transfer some $45m. in taxes that it collects on the PA's behalf every month. That, however, was a direct response to Hamas policy: The organization refuses to recognize Israel's existence and openly calls for its destruction. For Israel to transfer money to Hamas would thus be rather like the US transferring money to al-Qaida. YET EVEN taking a longer view, the PA's financial woes are still its own doing. Since its establishment in 1994, the PA has received unprecedented amounts of international aid. Before the intifada, its foreign aid per capita was second only to that of Bosnia; since the intifada began, it has been the highest in the world. In total, the PA has received close to $10b. since its inception. Yet almost none of that money was invested in trying to build the Palestinian economy - which continues to be a basket case. In addition, since 2000, the PA's economy has been further disrupted by Israeli security measures imposed in response to the intifada. Among other things, Israel has drastically reduced the number of Palestinians allowed to work in Israel, disrupted travel within the West Bank via military checkpoints and instituted draconian security checks on cargo entering Israel from the territories. Yet these measures, once again, were a direct response to PA policy - specifically, its policy toward the terrorist war that has claimed more than 1,000 Israeli lives. Under Yasser Arafat, the PA actively fomented terrorism; under Abbas, it has not abetted terror, but neither has it actively tried to stop it. Not only have the PA's 58,000-strong armed forces never been ordered to hunt down terrorists, but many members of these forces actively participated in terror attacks, while others deliberately turned a blind eye. Had the PA instead made a good-faith effort to fight terror, Israel would not have had to institute such draconian defensive measures. All of the above begs an obvious question: Why would the EU rather shell out an extra $143m. - on top of the 500m. euros a year that it and its member states already give the Palestinians - to subsidize the PA's self-destructive policies, than donate $8.5m. to provide Angolan refugees with an extra handful of corn? The answer, quite simply, is terrorism. According to the accepted EU wisdom, averting Palestinian distress is a priority because Palestinian distress fuels Muslim rage worldwide. That theory seems dubious: If Palestinian distress were really so important to the Muslim world, it is hard to understand why, for instance, most of the PA's foreign aid comes from the West rather than from wealthy Muslim oil states. Nevertheless, it has attained the status of Holy Writ in Europe. And preventing Muslim rage is an EU priority because such rage, as the past five years have amply demonstrated, results in people being slaughtered from New York to London to Bali to Madrid. Angolan refugees, in contrast, have yet to perpetrate a single suicide bombing. So really, who cares if they starve to death?


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