Jewish settlers burn Palestinian farmland, abduct old shepherd


JENIN, (PIC)– Jewish settlers burnt Palestinian farmland in the location of the evacuated settlement of Homesh south of Jenin city and tried to attack nearby Palestinian homes, local sources said.

Eyewitnesses said that the settlers blocked the road in the area under the eyes of the Israeli occupation forces, who did not act to stop them, before starting their rampage.

They said that Jenin fire brigades extinguished the fire before spreading in the area, adding that the settlers routinely wreak havoc in the area in an attempt to rebuild the settlement.

Meanwhile, another group of settlers abducted an old Palestinian shepherd after beating him up near Orif village south of Nablus city on Monday evening.

Fawzi Shehade, the chairman of the municipal council in Orif, said that the settlers assaulted Salim Eshahde, 60, while rearing his sheep near the village’s secondary school and then took him away along with 50 of his sheep heads, which were grazing in the area.

( / 06.12.2011)

Abbas handed report on financial disclosures

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Rafiq Natsheh, head of the Anti-Corruption Commission, on Tuesday handed President Mahmoud Abbas a financial disclosure report as part of his regular updates, officials said.

During a meeting at the presidential headquarters, Abbas stated that “we are committed to establishing a Palestinian state that is on the path of transparency, accountability, and the rule of law.”

The disclosures, to be released on Dec. 9, coincide with Global Anti-Corruption Day and will detail the finances of those working in high-ranking positions in the Palestinian Authority, as per the law.

The release of the forms comes after the PA has taken action against two cabinet ministers suspected of corruption, Minister of Economy Hassan Abu Libdeh and Minister of Agriculture Ismail Daiq.

Both stepped down over the past year following investigations by the PA.

( / 06.12.2011)

Inwoners Tripoli moeten wapens inleveren

De inwoners van de Libische hoofdstad Tripoli hebben tot het eind van december om hun wapens in te leveren bij de autoriteiten. Dat heeft Abdel-Rafik Bu Hajjar, hoofd van de gemeenteraad van Tripoli, vandaag gezegd.

Het particuliere wapenbezit leidde tot grote veiligheidsproblemen.

‘Alle personen moeten hun wapens inleveren en terugkeren naar een burgerlijk leven of zich melden bij het ministerie van defensie of binnenlandse zaken om zich aan te sluiten bij de veiligheidstroepen’, aldus Hajjar.

De revolutionaire brigades die gedurende de val van Tripoli in augustus de stad binnenstroomden hebben tot 20 december om te vertrekken. De afdeling in Tripoli moet zichzelf aan het einde van de maand opheffen, zei Hajjar.

De Libische Nationale Overgangsraad heeft voor een voorzichtige benadering van de ontwapening gekozen. Vorige maand zei interim-premier Abdel-Raheem el-Keib dat hij strijders niet kan ontwapenen totdat er een alternatief kan worden geboden. Het kantoor van El-Keib verklaarde dinsdag wel achter het initiatief van de gemeenteraad van Tripoli te staan.

( / 06.12.2011)

Palestinians invest in Israel and Jewish settlements

Why are so many Palestinian investors putting their money into Israel rather than the Occupied Palestinian Territories? This summary of Issa Smeirat’s groundbreaking research on the issue reveals the reasons why and highlights how the occupation keeps Palestine from getting on its economic feet


Palestinian women working at a factory in the Ramallah area 

Since the Paris Protocols, which were signed in 1994 in the frame of the Oslo Accords, the interdependency of the Palestinian economic system on the Israeli economic system has increased. As Dr. Sara Roy summarized: “The Israeli government pursued a policy of de-development based on the structural containment of Palestinian domestic economy and the deliberate dismantling of that economy over time.” This process, which started at the very beginning of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories, was entrenched by Oslo and the accords that followed.

While in 1970, 70% of the Palestinian food consumption was produced in Palestine, nowadays the Palestinian Territories import more than 85% of their total needs from Israel. The traditionally strongest sector – agriculture – accounted right before the Oslo Accords for 20% of the Palestinian Gross Domestic Product (GDP), while today it represents less than 4%. The Palestinian agricultural productivity is only a fraction of the Israeli one under the same geographical conditions: while every dunum (1000 m²) in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank produces an average of 6 000 to 10 000 NIS, the average productivity of every dunum in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) reaches not more than 2000 NIS.

Nor has Palestinian industry developed since the the First Intifada, which spanned 1987 to 1993, and its GDP has seen a steady decline. Until 1997 any foreign and Israeli investment in the West Bank was forbidden to ensure the impossibility of competitive business on the Palestinian side. The efforts by the Palestinian National Authority to enforce the industrial sector face the high competitiveness of the 17 well developed Israeli industrial zones in the settlements on the one side, and in general of the cheaper production costs in Israel, where the raw material costs are more than 30% lower than the average cost in the Occupied Territories, and the labor force can be easily imported from the OPT for a cheap rate. The employment of Palestinians impacted the Palestinian economy in two ways:  the remittances from Israel increased the inflation, injecting considerable capital without corresponding production process. On the other side, it increased the dependency of the Palestinian labor force from the Israeli labor market demand. After Oslo, the Israeli labor demand went back – from 135 000 workers before 2008 to 75 000 after 2008 – creating unemployment among the Palestinians and increasing the cost of work in the OPT. The Head of the Industry Union in Israel Dankatarevas declared once “Israel would lose $2 billion every year and 76 000 jobs if the economic relation of dependency between the Palestinian Territories and Israel would change.”

In 1960 the Israeli GDP was twice the Palestinian one; nowadays it is more than 5 times higher. The annexation of the Palestinian economic system has been a key-element in the development of the Israeli economy, and has been pursued in the financial sector too. After the military occupation of Palestine in 1967, Israel closed down all Palestinian banks, and all the financial transfers were enabled exclusively through Israeli banks flourishing in the West Bank. Between 1967 and 1984, 36 Israeli branches have opened in the Territories, enabling Israel to pull all the Palestinian savings to the Israeli economy. Even after the re-opening of Palestinian banks, the only access to the external financial market is possible just through the Israeli financial system. The Israeli economist Klaiman reported that since 1987 the amount of Palestinian tax money transferred to Israel reached 9.4 billion US dollars.

While Israeli is monopolizing the Palestinian economy, some Palestinian investors managed to integrate into the Israeli economic system. More and more Palestinian businessmen do direct investment in Israeli economy in spite of continuous shortage of Palestinian trade balance, the distortion and skewed economic integration with Israel. Today 53% of Palestinian companies have direct and indirect contracts with Israeli companies. In the sole period 2009-2010 16 000 Palestinian businessmen hold Israeli permits that allow them to enter Israel on a daily base.

Palestinian direct investments in Israel and its settlements (1993-2010)

According to the empirical study by Smeirat (Al-Quds University) on the “Determinants of Palestinian Direct Investments (FDI) from the West-Bank in Israel and the Settlements”, the restrictions for investments by the Israeli occupation and  the savings by Palestinians workers employed in the Israeli market were the key-element in the increase of Palestinian investments in Israel. According to official statistics, in 1989 36.2% of the Palestinian labor force were employed in Israel, while in 1991 the remittances reached $2.3 billion, which is equivalent of 4% of the Israeli GDP at that time. Although the share of workers in the Israeli market decreased to 9.3% in 2009 and as consequence of this the total amount of remittances decreased – 16% until 2008 back to 9% of Palestinian GDP after 2008 – the chance for Palestinians to invest as the Israeli investors moved to more profitable and innovative sectors as the high technology-sector. In addition to that, the lack of facilitations for investments by Palestinian banks discourages Palestinian investments in the Territories. Due to the instable economy, the facilitations (loans etc.) in Palestine accounts for 28 % of GDP – compared to the 111% in Jordan and 56% in Egypt).

Palestinian capital increasingly moved from the Territories to Israel after 1993, being invested foremost in industry (23.5%), in constructions (22.7%), in the tertiary sector (15.2%) and in trade (13.1%). Direct investments from the West Bank (FDI) –  to be defined as the investment occurring when an investor based in one country (the home country) acquires an asset in another country (the host country) with the intent to manage that asset – constituted in 2009 60% of the total FDI in Israel, calculated on all the intervals from 1993 to 2010. The total Palestinian capital resulting as invested in Israeli market in 2010 reached an average of $5.8 billion. More than 1 billion turned out to be invested in settlements. Accounting just the fixed capital invested by 11.2% of the investors working as investors before and after Smeirat’s the case study 1993-2010, the average amount reaches $2.55 billion.

Who is investing in Israel and its settlements? 

76% of the total invested capital came from Palestinian savings. The majority of the Palestinian investors were from Hebron (1), Nablus and Ramallah (2), and Bethlehem (3). Only 11.2% of the total 16 000 investors has been working as investors in the period 1993-2010. The empirical study found the expectation of high returns, the age, the experience, the proficiency in foreign languages and the availability of starting capital to be the most relevant demographic determinants of Palestinian direct investments in Israel. The research proofed a positive relation between the age of the investors and the amount invested: 42% of the 420 investigated cases had more than 19 years’ experience and was between 41 and 50 years old (38%); while the more language-skilled the investors were, the more often they invested in Israel. Average-educated Palestinians become more frequent investors in Israel than their highly-educated counterparts, while the 7% of the investors holding a university degree invested the same amount as all the average educated investors – holding Tawjihi or less – together.

Many Palestinian investors showed to prefer business relations with Arab Jews (Mizrahi), while 16% were partners with Arab Palestinian living in Israel. A large number – 20% of the case study – were Palestinians subcontracted to Israeli companies, while just 13% were fully Palestinian investments. Despite the fact that 17% of the interviewed investors was investing in both Israel and the West Bank, one third of the total declared that they do not have any role in developing the Palestinian economy and reducing unemployment; while 3.5% declared to re-allocate the capital in Israel and the West Bank and to contribute to unemployment reduction on both sides of the separation barrier.

Major pull-factors for the investments

Having said that the long-term restructuring of the Palestinian economy by the Occupation has forcibly tied the Palestinian economy to the Israeli one, there are various element determining the attraction of Palestinian capital to Israel. Concerning Israeli interest, the state managed to keep the cost of the military occupation as low as possible, financing it by Palestinian taxes and swallowing the whole Palestinian economic process. As far as Palestinian investors are concerned, the major pull factors have been indicated as following: the import of raw materials to Israel is obviously easier than to the border-controlled- OPT (1); electricity costs in Israel are lower (2), while a higher return is expected (3). The advanced communications means and the higher labor qualifications available on the Israeli market, together with the bank facilities and easier tax procedures make Israel a much more attractive and secure investment environment. A crucial determinant for the singular dependency relation between an occupied and an occupying market is the ability to import cheap labor force from the OPT, eliminating the major element which normally determines high production costs in developed market economies.

Major push factors for Palestinian investors

Looking at the development difficulties of an economy under occupation, there are five main elements pushing private investors to seek profit outside the OPT. The import of raw material is not only expensive but also dependent on the arbitrariness of the Israeli military controlling the Palestinian borders (1). In a situation of political uncertainty, trust in the Palestinian economy is low (2) as well as the competitiveness of Palestinian products, subject to unfavorable production conditions, Israeli taxes (3) and export restrictions (4). Finally, the long term occupation led the majority of Palestinian trade relations to be withIsrael (5). One third of the investors interviewed declared their readiness to retract their capital from Israel and reinvest in the OPT if the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) would offer investment facilitations, while another third would keep on investing in Israelanyway.

Meaning for the Palestinian economy and political implications

Calculating only the fixed capital – invested by 11.2% of the Palestinian investors in the period 1993-2010, the Palestinian capital invested in Israel and its settlements means a loss of 255.5 million US dollars for the Palestinian economy, which represents half of the total Palestinian GDP for 2010. Moreover, the PNA loses a tax income in the amount of $256 million yearly. In 18 years this amount will reach $4.6 billion. According to Smeirat’s study, if the same average capital invested in Israel (2.5 billion US dollars) would be invested in the PNA areas, this would create 213 000 new jobs. Smeirat suggests different measures to be taken by the PNA to decrease the effect of the Israeli economic annexation and improve the capability of the Palestinian investors in the Palestinian environment, such as the construction of a port and airport in Gaza as well as in the West Bank, building and developing the trust relationships of the investment environment, enhancing the Palestinian public administration and institutions  to better control the capital and to develop infrastructures and industrial zones.

As professor of economics Mahmoud Jaffari of Al-Quds University stated, “the end of the Israeli Military Occupation should be treated as a necessary condition if any trade promotion program is to have any meaning.” It is unlikely that a market under occupation would be more attractive than a free market such the Israeli one, as much as it is unlikely that the private sector would re-orientate itself toward a less favorable market out of moral or political believe. More than the sole economic implications for the OPT, obviously deepening the economic dependency from Israel and impeding any sustainable and independent development, the political aspect has to be considered. Such an important economic interest of Palestinian investors in the Israeli market has a considerable potential to exert pressure on the Palestinian political class and to condition its political performance to reach the first priority of the Palestinian people: End the Israeli occupation.

 ( / 06.12.2011)

Understanding the Middle East

How are we to understand the situation in the Middle East ? Things are moving so quickly and in so many different, if not contradictory, directions. The reality has always been complex, but interpreting it has become more and more difficult. The actors involved, the challenges and the interests in conflict are so numerous that one wonders that the result of the popular movements in the region and the political changes currently underway is impossible to foresee. On the one hand, intrinsic domestic dynamics have created a new balance of power, which is having a powerful impact on Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria, but also on Tunisia and Morocco. On the other hand foreign countries, such as the United States, Israel, the European countries, China, Russia and even Turkey and Qatar are involved in various ways and in different capacities, either attempting to further the new realities or to try to control them to the fullest of their capacity, according to their ideological, economic and political interests.

In Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya and Syria, millions of people have been calling for freedom and justice ; the first results in Tunisia, Morocco (where some reforms have been granted in order to avoid uprisings) and Egypt are giving the Islamists the upper hand in the political arena. Some suggest that the popular movements have been hijacked, others claim it as the result of a true democratic process : in these Muslim majority countries, the Islamists remain the most popular force : a fact that must be accepted. Like it or not, the Islamists have a historical legitimacy as opponents who have paid a heavy price in opposing dictatorship : prison, torture, exile and executions have punctuated their history over more than half a century. But what is likely to happen in these countries ; how will the great powers manage the new situation ? It would be childish to think the United States, the European countries, China and Russia as well as Turkey are not involved, in one way or in another, in the discussions (and the political transactions) with the Islamists, the Army and their old allies. Israel will never be a passive spectator in the Middle East : its most powerful ally and staunch supporter, the United States, is working hard to gain some control over the situation. What is the nature of any potential agreement between both the Western and Eastern powers and the respective armies and the Islamists ? It was known that these old demonized Islamist parties would win in Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt and nothing has been done to prevent them from emerging as the leading political forces. Why ?

The Islamists have changed. They have always been very pragmatic (from Morocco to Egypt and Asia all the way through Palestine) and able to adapt to new political challenges. They know the balance of power is shifting in the Middle East and they deal with it accordingly. Yet they are facing contradictory expectations : they must remain faithful to the “Islamic credentials” that brought them to power and face foreign pressure that is testing their flexibility on respect for the democratic processes, their economic outlook and their attitude towards Israel. While the Turkish example is interesting, it cannot be a reference in the Middle East. It is not the same history, the actors are not the same, nor are the challenges. The Islamists in the Arab world, while happy to win successive elections, may well be entering a far more sensitive period of their history. They may lose the Islamic credibility they had as opposition forces or be obliged to change and adapt so much to the political context that the substance of their political program is abandoned, or reduced to the form of a less corrupt regime with formal Islamic features. Winning might be the beginning of loss.

What is happening in the Middle East is critical and complex, and it is clearly a turning point. From behind the scenes, Libya’s future is being decided by potential new leaders and by the Western powers that supported military intervention. Transparency is far from being a reality : the so-called “humanitarian intervention” was motivated by geostrategic objectives that are now fully visible. What we knew, we are now witnessing. Nobody knows what the future of Syria will be : the population refuses to give up ; thousands of civilians have been killed by the dictatorial regime. Israel, The United States, European countries and Iran have tried to avoid dealing with a regime change. There seems to be no alternative however. This is where the complexity of the Middle East is confusing with so many conflicting parameters. If the Syrian regime falls, its regional ally Iran would paradoxically become either a danger or an easier target as the balance of power and alliances shifts. The recent campaign against Iran must be read in this context. It started with the Saudis asking the American “to cut off the snake’s head,” followed by the alleged assassination attempt in the United States (we are ask to believe Iran wanted to kill the Saudi Ambassador in New York), and then using the attack on the UK embassy in order to create an international coalition against Iran. Iran, meanwhile, is operating on multiple levels and has a multidimensional strategy : to secure domestic support and to establish reliable ties in the region as well as internationally. The knot is tightening and the situation is increasingly worrisome for the current regime. Despite the lack of domestic freedom and transparency, Iran still has some allies and some powerful assets. Are we going to see internal democratic and popular forces mobilizing to change the regime or will it become a new war front ? The picture is far from clear.

Whatever the future in a Middle East in the throes of political upheaval, the new political players will all be assessed by the “international community” on the basis of three criteria : what kind of economic system and rules do they accept ; what is their position towards Israel ; and, eventually, where do they stand in relation to the Shia-Sunni divide in the Muslim majority countries. Understanding the Middle East means keeping these three factors in mind. On some issues Islamists might be more flexible than anticipated (except for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict) while the geography of the Middle East is changing radically. Yet, inside or outside politics, Muslims should face the cruel reality : their main challenge is in their internal conflict and especially the Shia-Sunni divide (and unhealthy competition). This is one of the most critical questions of our time : one cannot blame one’s enemies for being too strong when one is directly responsible for one’s own weaknesses.

( / 06.12.2011)

Tandeloze kritiekloze “moslimorganisaties”


Test: Abdou Khalani

“Ik vind jou een gemene jongen” waren de woorden van Harry van den Berg aan mijn adres na afloop van het debat over ritueel slachten. Hiermee verwees Harry naar mijn felle woorden, waarin ik het Contactorgaan Moslims en Overheid wegzette als een volstrekt overbodige organisatie die meer contact met zichzelf heeft dan met de mensen waar het om zou moeten gaan. En om het maar op zijn Wildersiaans te zeggen: ik neem er nog geen millimeter van terug!

Alle zichzelf benoemde “moslimorganisaties” in Nederland zijn ingeslapen organen die met ogen dicht als een schattige baby aan een subsidiefopspeen lurken en vooral niet gestoord willen worden in hun slaap.

Toen de Partij van de Vogels en de Katten in de Tweede Kamer met het wetsvoorstel kwam om ritueel slachten te verbieden, leek het alsof het Contactorgaan Moslims en Overheid zelf ritueel geslacht was! Het gaf geen enkele kik en van het opzetten van een lobbyfunctie had men blijkbaar nooit gehoord bij de inburgeringcursus indertijd! Niet dat ik dat ook maar enigszins had verwacht, want het CMO heeft bij mij al jaren afgedaan. Geen enkele moslim in Nederland voelt zich ook maar enigszins vertegenwoordigd door dit zielloze orgaan, dat meer bedoeld is om de overheid te dienen dan de moslimburgers. Sterker nog, geen enkele moslim zal dit orgaan kunnen opnoemen als de Poldernomaden dit op straat zouden vragen!

Maar gelukkig zijn ze niet alleen in hun oorverdovend stilzwijgen als het gaat om kwesties die moslims aangaan. Wat te denken van de geweldige ISBO, die het Islamitisch onderwijs op een goede manier zou moeten beschermen en op de bres zou moeten staan voor die scholen die door mevrouw Verbijsterveldt worden weggepest, zoals het Islamitisch college in Amsterdam heeft moeten ondervinden! Deze geweldige poldermoslims raden liever het Islamitisch college aan om te sluiten, dan er voor op te komen. Ook toen basisschool As Siddieq aanklopte voor hulp in de ongelijke strijd met mevrouw Verbijsterveldt, trof men een stel zielloze tandeloze en vooral kritiekloze kliek aan die zich meer zorgen maakte om de subsidiestromen dan om het idealisme om de Islam en de moslims te dienen.

Stichting Islam en Dialoog, het Samenwerkingsverband Marokkanen in Nederland, het CMO, ISBO etc. etc. etc. zijn allemaal organisaties waarvan je keihard kunt zeggen: met zulke vrienden heb je geen vijanden nodig!

Kortom, hoog tijd voor een heel grote schoonmaakactie. Weg met deze subsidieknuffelaars die op geen enkele wijze de moslims vertegenwoordigen maar zich meer zorgen maken om hun gladde kapsels en strakke driedelige pakken en middels hun dure Nederlandse woorden en zinnen indruk proberen te maken op Pauw en Witteman in plaats van datgene te doen waar ze voor aangenomen zijn: moslims vertegenwoordigen!

Tijd voor een kleine “moslimlente” in Nederland om echte idealisten met hart voor de zaak op de juiste plek te krijgen en tegen de bestaande winterslapers zeggen wij: slaap lekker verder!

Abdoe Khoulani is raadslid in Den Haag namens de Partij voor de Eenheid 

( / 06.12.2011)