I often wonder how history lovers in the coming years will react to the prejudice of our times.
End of march 2006: A democratically-elected Hamas takes office in the Palestinian areas. As if by sheer coincidence, in Isreal, Kadima wins the elections and is currently deliberating upon to form a new government. How time changes! Both the hawkish Likud and an incompetent Fatah are relegated to shadows. The power equations have changed in the world's powder keg -- the middle-east. Both the Palestinian Legislative Council and Knesset in Isreal have new leaders who are expected to steer the course of their region to peace. Sadly, this is where all similarities end and the bedlam begins.
Isreal has put in place a shameful travel ban between Gaza and the West bank. Ergo, several elected Hamas ministers could not make it to the Gaza Strip and the swearing-in ceremony had to be held through a video-conference link. I couldn't help draw a tiny smile as I watched the surreal spectacle on my TV. It must be hard to be a Palestinian in real terms. Here you have their elected leaders, staring at a screen hanging on a forlorn wall, because the big bully Isreal says you cannot walk in your own land.
The international community -- euphemism for the US -- wants Hamas to recognise Isreal. Now the whole issue of legitimizing Isreal is so very diametrical and complex. I guess holding a gun to Ismael Haniya -- the Palestinian PM -- on the very day he assumes power is a little unjust. Western nations, led by Canada and the US moved quick to cut off funding to the Palestinians, triggering an immediate financial crisis that might delay March salary payments to more than 140,000 public employees next week while almost one in four Palestinians remains unemployed, and 43% live below the poverty line. The Palestinian Authority gets a large part of its $1.9 billion annual budget from overseas sources because Isreal still controls its borders and does not allow it to conduct free trade with other nations.
Most experts agree that the downturn in economic activity has been largely the result of Israeli closure policies -- the imposition of generalized border closures -- which has now disrupted the previously established labor and commodity market relationships between Israel and the West Bank and Gaza Strip (WBGS).
This amounts to a gruesome and abject blackmailing of myriad innocent people who have been reeling under occupation for the better part of their collective memories. Isreal has already cut the tax money it levies for whatever the Palestinians contrive to produce. The taxes amount to hundreds of millions of dollars and rightfully belongs to the Palestinians.
My simple guess is that Palestinians will live through this. They have been witness to unimaginable attrocities inflicted upon them. Once the most affluent of the Arab people, these folks have been rendered penniless through years of systematic oppression. No amount of UN resolutions against Isreal -- asking it to stop the racist discrimination -- could do any good. The US looked the other way. It still does!
I think the Palestinian valor will save them this time also. They have always been a proud nation. On a more pargamatic note, perhaps the Arab league -- ever frightful of the US -- bails them out. Or may be every member of the Palestinian diaspora contibutes a ten dolar bill to her homeland. Or may be all of us who empathise with them!
Israeli military measures in Palestinian Authority areas have resulted in the destruction of much capital plant and administrative structure, widespread business closures, and a sharp drop in GDP. [GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $800 in the West Bank (2002 est.) $600 in the Gaza Strip (2003 est.)] The most serious negative social effect of this downturn has been the emergence of chronic unemployment and average unemployment rates. (UN estimates )