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Article from Oxfam International: http://www.oxfam.org/en/policy/briefingnotes/bn070413_palestinian_aid_boycott
Published: 13 April 2007

Poverty in Palestine: the human cost of the financial boycott

 

In April 2006, key donors including the USA, EU, and Canada suspended international aid to the Palestinian Authority government (PA), following the overwhelming victory of Hamas in parliamentary elections. Israel had previously suspended the transfer of the tax and customs revenues it collects on behalf of the PA. However, the decision to suspend aid to the PA and withhold tax revenues has led to immense suffering. One year later, the number of Palestinian people living in poverty has jumped by 30 per cent, essential services are facing meltdown, and previously unknown levels of factional violence plague Palestinian streets. If this situation continues, the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) risk becoming a ‘failed state’, destroying the chances of achieving a two-state solution. Oxfam believes that donors and Israel should urgently resume direct financial transfers to the PA.

Introduction

In April 2006, key donors including the USA, EU, and Canada suspended international aid to the Palestinian Authority government (PA), following the overwhelming victory of Hamas in parliamentary elections. The Government of Israel had previously suspended the transfer of the tax and customs revenues it collects on behalf of the PA.1

Donors and Israel stated that their actions were in response to Hamas’ refusal to recognise the state of Israel, renounce violence, and accept previous political agreements including the Road Map.2 Donors and Israel argued that their goal was to pressure Hamas to change its platform, not to punish the Palestinian people.3

However, the decision to suspend aid to the PA and withhold tax revenues has led to immense suffering. One year on, the number of Palestinian people living in poverty has jumped by 30 per cent, essential services are facing meltdown, and previously unknown levels of factional violence plague Palestinian streets.4 If this situation continues, the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) risk becoming a ‘failed state’, destroying the chances of achieving a two-state solution.5 Oxfam believes that donors and Israel should urgently resume direct financial transfers to the PA.

UN Special Rapporteur John Dugard states that ‘the Palestinian people have been subject to economic sanctions — the first time an occupied people have been so treated’. Israel, he notes, has violated its obligation as an occupying power to provide for the welfare of the Palestinian people.6

Three months after aid was suspended to the PA, the EU established the Temporary International Mechanism (TIM), which was designed to provide direct support to Palestinians without going through government channels.7 While supporting some of the poorest people, TIM has been unable to prevent the growing humanitarian crisis caused by the financial boycott and by the violence.

Aid alone is not a panacea for Palestinian poverty, nor will it deliver peace: that requires intensified efforts by all parties to seek a two-state solution. However, Oxfam has witnessed a rapid rise in suffering and insecurity as a result of the boycott of the PA. Many programmes operated by Oxfam and its partners in the water, health, and agriculture sectors have been placed in jeopardy.

Following the creation of a National Unity Government, the new Palestinian finance minister, Salam Fayyed, has called for the resumption of international aid to the PA.8 Norway has already agreed to resume this assistance, while Russia, France, and a number of other European governments considering financial transfers to the PA in order to improve the lives of Palestinians. It is imperative for Israel and other donors to follow suit.


Poverty in Palestine: the human cost of the financial boycott (Arabic) (pdf 339kb)

Footnotes

1. See Agence France Press, ‘Washington cuts direct aid to Palestinians’, 7 April 2006, Jerusalem: AFP; and Agence France Press, ‘EU suspends funding to Palestinian Authority’, 7 April 2006, Jerusalem: AFP. The Palestinian Authority was established in 1994 under the Oslo peace agreements. It is the nominal authority of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, but it can only operate partially given the continuing Israeli occupation. Aid to both local and central government has been suspended since April 2006. 2. Ibid. While the Government of Israel and the Quartet have adopted the same three principles, many donors do not accept Israel’s witholding of Palestinian tax and customs revenues. The European Union has repeatedly issued statements calling for these funds to be transferred. 3. See, for example, Erlanger, S., ‘Aid to Palestinians rose in 06 despite international embargo’, 21 March 2007, New York Times, New York. 4. Costy, A., ‘Middle East experts review international response to Palestinian needs’, 6 February 2007, Doha: UN General Assembly. 5. Oral evidence from David Shearer, Head of UN OCHA Jerusalem on 28 November 2006 to the UK Parliament’s Development Select Committee. See Development Select Committee (January 2007) ‘Development Assistance and the Occupied Palestinian Territories Vol II’, London: House of Commons. 6. Dugard, J. (January 2007) Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied since 1967, Geneva: UN Human Rights Council. 7. Quartet Statement, 17 June 2006, at http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2006/68003.htm (last checked by the author 1 April 2007). 8. Fayyed, S., ‘Palestinian hope held hostage’, 31 March 2007, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles.
Date of original publication: April 2007