A friend of mine confided that an intifada is coming in September. While I value his analysis over any ink the New York Times decides to spill on the issue, I’ve heard such things from him before. He’ll tell me to keep an eye on the frog in the pan, that he’ll jump soon enough, that the water can’t get much hotter. For what it’s worth, the steam is rising and the frog is shifting noticeably, but we can hardly tell which way he’ll jump if he decides it’s a good idea.
I gave my first university lecture to some students yesterday on the topic of Gaza and its treatment in the media. I felt hope that so many of them expressed real and serious outrage over what was going on and rode the feeling all the way back to the office and to the computer. I don’t read the New York Times, but a friend pointed out an article published regarding the financial situation in the West Bank and my heart fell 10,000 feet:
“This is, without doubt, the worst financial crisis the Palestinian Authority has ever faced,” said Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, generally known for a can-do, upbeat attitude. “This could not have come at a worse time. I don’t know how this ends. I don’t have an answer.”
The immediate cause of the crisis is the failure of foreign — especially Arab — donors to fulfill promises of aid. But the budget crisis is intertwined with a diplomatic one as the Palestinians and Israelis maneuver ahead of an expected push to recognize Palestinian statehood at the United Nations in September. Different donors have opposing agendas, so the Palestinian Authority’s decisions in the coming weeks will anger one set of donors or another.
Without enough money to pay salaries, a big concern is the loyalty of the Palestinian security forces, which have brought law and order and created conditions for stability and economic growth in the past three years.
Palestine depends on foreign aid. Scrambling for dollars lowers Palestine more than the Israeli occupation, drones, strip-searches, and sniper’s nests all together. Let’s do everything Thomas Friedman’s way, hand everything to this guy named Fayyad, and watch the market lift Palestine out of occupation! they told us. Friedman himself even gushed this year over the progress that Palestine has made in terms of markets. The IMF and World Bank stood by with proud smiles as billions of aid was funneled into housing schemes, convention centers, and let’s not forget into the deep pockets of elite Ramallawis!
In the past year, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the United Nations have issued reports saying that the Palestinian Authority under Mr. Fayyad was fully prepared for statehood because of institution building and fiscal discipline.
That view is coming under scrutiny. Last month, in the journal Foreign Policy [ed: Cheney’s rag], Nathan J. Brown of George Washington University wrote: “Fayyad’s main achievement has not been to build the structures of a Palestinian state, but to stave off the collapse of those structures that did exist. An equally important achievement was his ability to persuade Western observers that he was doing much more. In the process, however, he raised expectations far beyond his ability to deliver.”
Now that Palestine is doing it the way the West wanted – wearing suits and jetting around raising money for sweatshops in Betunia – why, they think they’re one of us now! Adorable, really, coming hat in hand to the United Nations in September and begging a state of their own. Rather than humiliate the United States by forcing it to veto the rest of the world on such a tender issue, Uncle Sam will bring his Arab dogs to heel and threaten to cut the purse strings to Baba Fayyad’s Great Ramallah Experiment.
What results? A populace who was forbidden to rally in support of their Egyptian brothers and sisters as they were cut down by Mubarak’s bullets now is asked to halve their salaries in the interest of foreign donors, in the interest of solvency and in boosting the confidence of foreign investors/donors. I have friends who work for as-Sulta and they are owed thousands already. They know the person who made the decisions that put them into this situation makes 20 times what they do, they understand that elections will probably be postponed yet again, and they understand the Israelis continue to dine on land that belongs to someone else.
If this sounds polemical, it is. My comrades in Palestine – and it is presumptuous for me to call them that, as they fight harder and face more than I ever will – are dignified in their resistance and they deserve a government that reflects and protects that dignity. Foreign money is yet another shackle around the neck of Palestine, and threatening bankruptcy or a coup less they do what Israeli interests say is best is yet another way to humiliate her.
Maybe there is something coming in September after all.