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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review December 11, 2007 / 2 Teves 5768

You owe us bigtime

By Barry Rubin


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The distortion of Palestinian aid politics

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | My favorite sentence of the week is: "Asking for record $5.8 billion in aid through 2010, Palestinians promise fiscal reform." Karen Laub wrote on this subject for the AP, December 5, 2007. The request came from "Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas" to double projected aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA).

What is funny about that opening sentence is that the PA has received so much money before and squandered it. Reform promises have been made and broken for more than 13 years. It is hard to remember the PA has existed that long with so little positive achievement. If Palestinians have such a bad economy it is not due to the "occupation" or to Israel but to their own leaders' greed, incompetence, failure to end violence, inability to present an attractive investment climate, and unwillingness to impose stability on their own lands.

So how does an AP story deal with the unintentional humor of the idea that pouring more money into the PA will lead to any diplomatic progress or that this regime will make better use of the funds? Remember that to a very large extent the United States and European governments are basing their whole Middle East policy on this mistaken idea. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has turned this into a second career.

This is such an extremely important story that it is worth examining in detail.

According to the PA's own plan:

"Seventy percent of the aid is to go for budget support, including $120 million a month to pay wages for the bloated public sector, and 30 percent is to be spent on development projects."

The article at least uses the word "bloated." Budget support is not development aid but simply pays the bill for those unable or unwilling to pay for themselves. But the article does not tell readers this nor that the public sector's "bloated" nature is due to corruption, patronage for buying political support, and a hugely disproportionate military/police apparatus. Staying on a war footing with Israel is the main factor in the PA's employment pattern. These security agencies are certainly not used to stop terrorism against Israelis and they certainly proved ineffective with Hamas. Individual police have often been involved in attacks. In large part, then, the aid would subsidize the Palestinian battle against Israel.

There is also another point here not mentioned in the article. The PA collects fees but has never instituted a comprehensive tax system. It has acted as if it is the job of foreigners, which mostly means the West, to pay its bills. This is not psychologically healthy nor does it encourage politically responsible action. Economic leverage certainly has not been used to press the PA toward peace, much less to nudge it toward fighting terrorism or ending incitement to anti-Israel violence.

The article, then, certainly does not blame the Palestinians' economic problems on themselves. While it does not bash Israel, the responsibility is put mainly on Israel, if only because PA officials are allowed to make statements to that effect without contradiction.

Thus, Palestinian Planning Minister Samir Abdullah says he is aiming for a balanced budget within six years, the story continues — and this is not a direct quote from him — "perhaps even sooner if Israel moves quickly to lift crippling restrictions on trade and travel."

How about these alternative phrases:

  • perhaps even sooner if the PA wages a war on corruption.

  • perhaps even sooner if the PA tries to round up terrorists and elements that keep life unstable and extorts money from its own citizen on the guise of being patriotic organization.

  • perhaps even sooner if the PA really makes compromises so as to reach a peace agreement with Israel.

  • And so on.

Instead, the article continues, "However, the Palestinians are submitting a steep aid request at a time of considerable `donor fatigue.'" But why are the donors getting tired of giving money. According to Laub:

"Since the mid-1990s, the international community, led by Europe, has sent billions of dollars to the Palestinian territories to support peace efforts, but gains were largely wiped out in Israeli-Palestinian fighting. Critics also charge that large sums were siphoned off by corrupt officials in previous regimes."

This is simply not honest. Do the donors say that they are happy to give money but "gains" were wiped out because of the fighting? No, they say: why should we give money when it is just stolen or misused. It isn't just critics charging corruption, as if they are a few loudmouths talking off the top of their head. Could AP find anyone to deny this charge? How about writing:

Everybody says that corrupt officials have stolen a very high percentage of the aid.

Is this really a point that is controversial? One on which there are two sides?

In addition, gains — and there weren't many gains — weren't just wiped out in Israeli-Palestinian fighting as if some uncontrollable war broke out and swept over the countryside. The problem was that Yasir Arafat and his colleagues decided to launch a five-year-long war on Israel (whether or not Arafat planned it in advance or initiated it, he certainly kept it going and made it his strategy). That conflict, which brought absolutely no gain to the Palestinians, destroyed their infrastructure.

But the icing on the cake is the phrase "previous regimes" being responsible for corruption as if the current leadership has nothing to do with it. The current prime minister, a professional economist, may not be corrupt but the PA regime today is a continuation of all the ones before. Personnel have not changed very much. Who licensed AP to give a full pardon to all those PA officials who have been stealing for years and are still in office?

Basically, then, the rules of the game seem to be like this: Israel can be blamed but the Palestinians cannot be blamed. Nor are donors accorded common sense for refusing to throw their money down a pit which ultimately ends in the personal bank accounts of PA officials.

After all, the article claims:

"The international community's decision to impose sanctions after the militant Islamic group Hamas' parliamentary election victory in 2006 caused further economic decline, as money was shifted from development projects to welfare payments."

Consider the ultimate mendacity of that statement. Of course, the sanctions caused further economic decline but guess what:

  • The Palestinians elected Hamas, after all.

  • If Hamas behaves in an extremist and terrorist way than it was not the international community's decision to impose sanctions but rather Hamas's decision to follow radical policies that caused further economic decline.

  • It is a fantasy to think that the money used to go to "development projects" but now had to go to "welfare payments." It always — and this includes budgetary subsidies — went for welfare payments.

  • But here's the worst point of all. The money was cut off before not after the Hamas victory. More than two months earlier the Europeans stopped the aid because of PA corruption. It was the PA, not Hamas, which turned off the donors. This is a matter of public record.

  • And finally, there is an interesting question that the article does not really explore. After all, why does the PA need twice as much money when it is governing only about half as many people? The Gaza Strip, after all, is under Hamas.
The article does point out:

"It's not clear to what extent Gaza would benefit from foreign aid. The three-year plan only commits to providing humanitarian assistance and basic services until Gaza's borders reopen , presumably once Hamas is no longer in power there.

"Under the current arrangement, Abbas' government pays the salaries of 31,000 civil servants in Gaza who do not cooperate with Hamas, and covers Gaza's utility bills."

Nevertheless, the article does not explicitly point out that the PA is basically asking for an increase in the already high — among the highest per capita foreign aid in history — aid donations by a factor of what amounts to 400 percent for the West Bank.

The rest of the article is comprised of the PA's fantasies, which it is allowed to present without contradiction, about its glorious three-year plan. Yet in this material Israel is blamed — again without any balance — for all the PA's economic problems not once but three times:

"We are determined to bring an end to internal chaos and poverty, and the (Israeli) occupation that continues to aggravate this situation," the report said. "We are determined to reverse the impact of decades of conflict and 'de-development.'"

"Economic growth will be closely linked to a lifting of West Bank barriers and trade restrictions, the report said. Israel imposed the restrictions, starting in 2000, to try to prevent attacks by Palestinian militants.

"However, if the occupation regime remains at the status quo, the economic outlook is poor," the report said, adding that such a scenario would lead Abbas' government "to the point of institutional and fiscal collapse."

In short, Israel is blamed four times and Western donors twice for the bad Palestinian economic situation. The Palestinian side is not attributed any responsibility whatsoever.

There are thus three problems with this article as with so much press coverage of Middle East issues:

  • It is neither fair nor balanced.

  • It increases the readers' misunderstanding rather than understanding of the issues.

  • It sabotages attempts to fix problems since if the PA and Palestinians are divested of any responsibility they, and those trying to help the situation, can hardly find solutions since no one focuses on what is really wrong.


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JWR contributor Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, Interdisciplinary Center, and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs. His latest book is "The Truth About Syria".


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© 2007, Barry Rubin