Select Committee on International Development Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Israeli Citizens Action Network


  This submission reviews the subjects identified for review by the Select Committee.

A.   Who we are

  Israeli Citizens Action Network (ICAN) is an apolitical volunteer organisation of retirees, including a significant number of British ex-patriates, who are seriously concerned about the increasing prevalence of unbalanced reporting and lack of honest information concerning Israel and the Arab conflict.

  We draw on the personal experience of members from all walks of life including professionals, industrialists, academics and blue-collar workers, who having lived in this region for many years, are familiar with its history in a manner which cannot be emulated by correspondents who have little previous knowledge of the area.

  We believe that the experience and expertise of our members enable us to submit pertinent comments and recommendations to the Select Committee and we welcome the opportunity to do so.

B.   Development assistance and the Occupied Territories

  1.   The effectiveness of aid from UK and EU sources on Palestinian poverty levels, how it is targeted and what could be done to prevent it from being wasted or destroyed.

  Aid is channelled through many organisations in the Palestinian areas. EU reports and IMF reports focus on the mishandling of these funds, corruption and lack of transparency.

  For aid to be effective there must be control and accountability. We cannot expect a Palestinian society lacking democratically elected institutions to be capable of making a fair distribution according to universally accepted principles.

  Therefore for aid to have some impact in that it reaches those in most need, the donating body has to create its own structure on that ground which can work with all elements of the local population including the Israeli authorities. Of course, these could be disbanded once there is a democratic local government.

  The recent IMF report "Economic Performance and Reforms under Conflict Conditions," states that $900 million cannot be accounted for in the period under review. Thus it can hardly be claimed that the present methods are effective.

  Apart from direct money transfers, aid in the form of food and medical supplies has also not reached the people for which it was intended. Correspondence found in captured documents concerns the "diversion" of food products and medications destined for Gaza Strip inhabitants to the Black Market. These items are confiscated by the security apparatuses, which use them for their own needs. Also according to the captured documents, basic foodstuffs (flour, sardines, meat, milk and so on) distributed by UNRWA to the inhabitants of refugee camps, find their way to private businessmen who sell them on the Black Market. (See appendix A[70])

  Recommend: Funds should be allocated to those local Palestinian NGOs who have the most efficient and effective means of alleviating poverty in the territories provided that they can show there is clear accountability and transparency.

  2.   The impact on Palestinian trade, employment and economic development of customs duties and taxes, and controls on the movement of goods and people at Israeli ports and airports and points of entry to the West Bank and Gaza.

  If the word "impact" refers to the present "Intifada", planned and started by the Palestinians following their reneging on the "Oslo" process, then surely the Palestinians should be asking themselves the above question.

  The Palestinian economy was booming up to September 2000 with growth rates at the level of some of the South East Asian tigers. According to an IMF report, "Economic Performance and Reform under Conflict Conditions—September 2003".

  ". . . the PA nevertheless achieved an impressive turnaround in the current budget balance from a deficit of 4% GDP to a surplus of 1% of GDP in 1999".

Source IMF report

  Up to three years ago there was a prosperous two way trade between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Constant terror attacks have nullified the potential benefits.

  Following constant abuse by Palestinian terrorists at the crossing points, Israel has had to impose constraints to stop the terror attacks.

  If a war is declared by one side, they cannot then complain if their stated enemy does not assist in their economic development. Nevertheless, under the Paris accords as part of the Oslo Agreements, taxes and duties are paid at the Israeli port of entry for all goods destined for the Palestinian areas. These funds are later released to the Palestinian Authority even though it was known that some of this money furthered the terrorist activities.

  Unfortunately, many Israeli companies were not paid for goods and services such as electricity and telephone services that they supplied to the Palestinians and they have therefore made claims on the funds collected by the Israeli ports authorities in settlement of their debt. In other words, if the Palestinians wish to develop their economy they have to respect the normal conditions of commercial practice so that they will be able to reap the benefits of free trade.

  Recommend:—To finance the necessary infrastructure in port facilities in the Palestinian areas to allow independence, providing there are inspection guarantees to ensure these facilities are not used for arming the Palestinians.

  3.   The impact of the wall of separation for Palestinian farmers and for employment, movement of people and delivery of humanitarian assistance.

  The anti-terrorist barrier has an impact on both peoples. The Israelis are just as upset about the need to erect this barrier as the Palestinians are about the disruptions it causes to their daily life.

  Israel has to consider the question; whether security is more important than humanitarian assistance. Israel has a fundamental right to defend her citizens and if weapons/terrorists are being smuggled in, then there will be checkpoints and barriers.

  Compensation matching the properties' value is provided for the use of the land and any damage to trees and crops. In addition, owners of agricultural land are also provided with compensation for the full value of their crop yield for as long as the property will need to be used

  Further, as recent polls show, 62% of Palestinians continue to support suicide attacks against Israeli civilians, according to a new public opinion poll published on Thursday by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Center (JMCC) and reported in the Daily Edition—7 November. Thus, much work must still be done focusing on extremist elements within the PA influencing the Palestinian people before we can once again enjoy the mutual benefit of friendly cooperation in trade and employment

  Official Israel estimates say that about 900 Israelis have been killed by Palestinian terrorists since September 2000 of whom 700 were civilians (see appendix B[71]). Many of the suicide bombers simply walked from their homes in the Arafat-controlled West Bank into Israel. The fence is designed to stop them.

  A similar fence in the Gaza Strip, constructed under an Israeli-Palestinian agreement of 1994, has been found to be very effective and has ensured that almost no terrorists have succeeded in penetrating into Israel. There is a human cost involved in restricting movements but a fence kills no one. This is the consequence of the war declared by the Palestinians

  Recommend:—As all residents have the opportunity to file a petition directly with the Israeli Supreme Court to submit objections, and in numerous cases, the authorities and the complainants have reached mutual agreement regarding alterations of the path.

  4.   The control that the network of settlements in the occupied territories have over the basic conditions for the development of the Palestinian economy: agricultural land, water, movement of persons and goods, environmental impacts.

  The premise of the issue above assumes that the settlements affect the development of the Palestinian economy. From 1967 through the 70s and 80s the Palestinian economy thrived. It grew at a faster rate than Israel and many of the Asian "tigers".

  The downward trend in the Palestinian economy is not a great as has been suggested. A report by the IMF states that "given the extraordinary circumstances in the West Bank and Gaza, the Palestinian economy has proved to be surprisingly resilient. By early 2003, there were already signs that the downward trend had been stopped and that the economy was beginning to stabilize."

  "Since the beginning of the uprising in September 2000, economic activity has fallen dramatically but, contrary to initial impressions, the economy did not collapse", stated the report. The IMF estimates that real gross domestic product growth (GDP) fell by 15% in 2001 and by 14.5% in 2002. Unemployment was at 25.5% in 2001 and 31.3% in 2002. The IMF further acknowledges that the economic relationship with Israel was "extremely productive" for the Palestinians, and that they enjoyed prosperity in the years that preceded the Intifada : so they were never "oppressed" or "strangled" by Israel, and had no reason to despair from the Peace Process and resort to terrorism, as some would have it.

  "By the second quarter of 2002, during the conflict's most intense period, the number of Palestinians working in Israel had fallen to only 33,000. But by the end of 2002, with some modest easing of restrictions, this number had recovered slightly to around 56,000."

  "Despite all the pressures and difficulties, more than two thirds of the Palestinian labour force remain employed, the banking system is still operating, and the Palestinian Authority has continued to provide essential services in education and health and pay the wages of its civil servants. And even while the restrictions remain in place, there are signs that the economy has stabilised."

  Strategic and security concerns together with the absence of the Palestinian peace partner have left successive governments no choice but to leave the major part of the settlement issue until a partner is found for peace negotiations.

5.   The accountability of Palestinian government institutions and the technical capacities of the public and private sectors to build an autonomous and viable economy.

  This is part of the heart of the roadmap, which was promoted by the UK and supported by the EU. There has been no progress on this over the past year. Constant attempts to appoint a suitable government to tackle this problem have failed. It has been reported that even the latest government of Abu Ala (Queiri) has been met with skepticism by many Palestinians since the corrupt officials have maintained their hold on ministerial positions and, of course, Arafat is in charge of all security services.

  Every attempt by the Israeli government to find ways to better the lot of the Palestinian people has been met with violent opposition by the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure. The industrial zones in Atarot, close to Ramallah and a similar zone close to the Gaza strip were intended to provide work and prosperity to the people of those areas. Mayhem and bloodshed resulted in business after business closing down and less and less opportunities for work for the Palestinians.

  Steph Wertheimer, the well known Israeli entrepreneur, set up his highly successful industrial park in Tefen in the north of Israel and the model is now being copied in Turkey. He has stated his desire to develop this style of industrial/entrepreneurial park to help the Palestinians (and incidentally also the Jordanians) when peace makes this possible.

  Positive growth and a viable economy will be the rewards of the Palestinian population when they will eventually be guided by leaders who emphasize and promote nation building and peaceful coexistence. When the Palestinian people are lead away from a culture of death and destruction, and encouraged to work for excellence and achievement, private initiatives and foreign investment can flourish. Israel will be the first in line to offer cooperative business ventures, renewing old contacts and forging new ones.

  The opportunities for rapid advancement of the Palestinian economy exist; the Palestinians have to rescind violence to achieve their aims.

6.   The role of civil society, including NGOs, in ensuring a broad popular participation in the development of Palestinian society.

  As stated in issue 1 above, funds should be allocated to those local Palestinian NGOs who have the most efficient and effective means of alleviating poverty in the territories provided that they can show there is clear accountability and transparency.

  Together with that, not all NGO's have a helpful agenda. Some charities who give aid to the Palestinian people are also very active politically, and unfortunately are not promoting peaceful negotiations and settlement to the conflict. This kind of involvement with Palestinian society only prolongs the conflict, and creates a continuous need for charitable assistance.

7.   Priorities for UK aid through bilateral and multilateral channels to strengthen the infrastructure of Palestinian development.

  There are a number of local NGO's who have the populations total interest at heart and are less involved with politics. These organizations should be identified and supported with funds but under tight monetary control.

8.   The role of aid in supporting political solutions to the conflict.

  The economic plight of many of the Palestinians in the disputed territories is caused by the continued actions of the terrorists and the continual incitement of hate of the general population and of children in particular through the Palestinian education system.

  Many examples abound of the incitement of children through their text books. Arabic Language for Fifth Grade No 542 pp 64-66 cites ". . . Palestine is your country . . . its pure soil is drenched with the blood of martyrs . . . we must fight the Jews and drive them out of our land".

  Islamic Education for Seventh Grade No 564 pp125 quotes "This religion will defeat all other religions and it will be disseminated, by Allah's will through the Muslim Jihad fighters".

  Recommend—To focus aid in the educational field and to ensure that the curriculum and text books are geared to peace and not to incitement to war.

9.   Future development needs of a Palestinian state and the potential for its economic cooperation with Israel.

  Any state needs to meet criteria set by the nations of the world in its treatment of its people and its neighbours.

  A Palestinian state needs to be:

    (a)   Pluralistic—Israelis cannot enter Palestinian areas for fear of their lives.

    (b)   Democratic—accept the views of others. Christian/Jewish parties.

    (c)   Open to all religions (not just protect them as dhimmi status in Arab countries).

    (d)   There are no Synagogues in the Palestinian areas and desecration of Jewish holy sites continues eg Joseph's tomb, synagogues in West Bank (Efrat).

    (e)   Open to women's rights—women coerced to become suicide bombers.

    (f)  Protect children's rights—Children are abused twice in terms of accepted world standards. They are encouraged/forced to take part in political/violent demonstrations and given politicized educational material, not being allowing to see all points of view. Both are against the Geneva Convention.

  The way forward is to encourage and help the PA meet the primary conditions of the roadmap, ie, abandoning verbal and physical violence. Everything will flow from this. The Israeli Prime Minister has said that Israel is prepared to make hard concessions, providing there is a Palestinian body ready to talk to it peacefully and meaningfully.

November 2003

70   Full details available on Appendix A not printed. Copy placed in the Library. Back

71   Not printed. Copy placed in the Library. Back

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