Tony Blair was in the news
this week due to his bit part in a Bush family seasonal "home video"
starring the other famous pooch. Barney, and, more importantly, his chairing of
yesterday's conference aimed at boosting the Palestinian economy held in Paris.
Thanks, in part, to the
urgings of Blair and Israel's new sweetheart, French President Nicolas Sarkozy,
more than 90 donor nations are expected to contribute more than $5 billion to
keep the Palestinian National Authority's three-year development plan afloat.
Directors of the pro-Israel
Washington Institute for Near East Policy, David Makovsky, Simon Henderson and
Michael Makovsk, have written a scathing critique of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf
states, which they accuse of being less than generous towards their Palestinian
brethren over the past decade.
The article's neoconservative
authors have naturally neglected to criticise Israel's role in keeping the
Palestinians below the poverty line. They appear to have forgotten the $50
million a month in customs duties and tax that Israel withholds from its
rightful beneficiary. They ignore the fact that residents of the West Bank are
barred from working in Israel and Gaza is a virtually sealed economic wasteland
without jobs, electricity or hope.
And they have overlooked
Israel's systematic destruction of Gaza's infrastructure, including its
airport, which was constructed using donor funding.
They have also omitted to
mention the constraints heaped on banks asked to transfer monies to the
Palestinian territories, which have resulted in government officials attempting
to enter with suitcases of cash, or the cessation of direct Western aid
designed to undermine support for Hamas.
Crediting the region's alleged
parsimony to a "you broke it, you fix it" attitude towards the West,
they say they hope Saudi Arabia and the Gulf will be more financially
forthcoming following the summit.
Let's be straight on this. GCC
states are not responsible for the impoverishment of the Palestinians or the
hardships they face in their daily lives, which derive from Israeli policies,
supported directly or indirectly by the US and, in the past, were exacerbated
by internal corruption. Isn't it time the finger was pointed where it belongs?
However, prior to the 1991
Gulf War, when the former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat sided with Saddam
Hussain during the invasion of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia along with Gulf states were
together contributing as much as $6 million a month to the PLO. I can still
recall the days when a percentage of Gulf postal revenue was automatically
reserved for Palestine and Yasser Arafat would regularly tour the area to
successfully drum up cash.
Despite hurt feelings, it
wasn't long before this region resumed giving aid to the Palestinians in a
spirit of forgiveness. For instance, in 2005 Saudi Arabia provided $ 15 million
to UNESCO for Palestinian students and when the World Food Programme last year
reported more and more children in Gaza were seen begging or rummaging in
garbage bins for something to eat, Saudi Arabia responded with a donation of
Last year, too, Saudi Arabia
and Kuwait pledged $97.5 million to the Palestinian National Authority to pay
civil servants but funds were blocked by banks warned that they risked breaking
US laws. Moreover, private donors and charities within this area have often
been erroneously accused by the US of facilitating terrorist funding, which has
deterred sincere giving.
In 2005, the UAE was praised
by the Arab League for donating $100 million towards a housing compound in Gaza
and this year transferred $80 million to an account controlled by the PLO,
which does not contravene US anti-terror regulations. Saudi Arabia and Qatar
have also sent substantial amounts to the same account. Yet according to Messrs
Makovsky, Makovsky and Henderson apart from Saudi Arabia the Gulf States have
contributed hardly anything at all.
It's clear that the article, "Aid to the Palestinians:
the role of Oil-rich Arab States," is nothing other than a red herring,
written to deflect the reader from the real sources of Palestinian deprivation
In any case, filling
Palestinian coffers as admirable as that may be can only achieve so much. At
the end of the day the Palestinians need to be self-sufficient. They are an
educated, entrepreneurial, hardworking people who will flourish once they have
a state and control over their own borders, seas and airspace.
US President George W. Bush
says it's feasible a Palestinian state will come to fruition late next year. If
you still believe in the tooth fairy you'll be inclined to believe him. Last
weekend, Israel launched airstrikes on Gaza and contemplates a full-scale
incursion, while right on the heels of the Annapolis conference it announced
the building of 300 homes for Israelis in occupied East Jerusalem.
It's about time Western
governments and their think tanks turned a spotlight on the true culprit. Israel
is the cause of Palestinian hardship and the greatest single obstacle to a
Palestinian state and regional peace. Any other interpretation is naught but a
cynical exercise in smoke and mirrors. Washington Institute take note! We're on
Linda S. Heard is a
British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can
be contacted by email at email@example.com.