The economics of justice

Posted on 22 August 2010

I’ve had so many conversations with people about how things are changing. Everyone seems surprised at how much money other people seem to have. There are new shops, new businesses, new restaurants. There are new cars everywhere, and cars are so expensive here. People are going on holidays abroad. There used to be two banks in Bethlehem: I’ve lost count of all the new banks I’ve seen. This is so different to just a couple of years ago.

People are now able to access mortgages, loans and credit cards. But where is all the money coming from? America? Europe? And how will this change a society that has never before lived on credit? There’s certainly debt here, but usually it is to family members who have helped out in times of crisis. And this provided a safety net of sorts, unlike those who are saddled with huge debts or have lost their homes because of overlending in the West.

But talk of a flourishing economy in the West Bank is just an illusion. How can anyone build a functioning economy when nearly all the components required are missing? Freedom of movement: people, money and goods. Freedom to impose and collects taxes and tariffs. Freedom to co-operate and build partnerships with companies of your choosing. Freedom to build manufacturing sites. Freedom to purchase goods and services from where you like. Access to preferential trade agreements with international partners. Israel is forever lurking in the background, controlling everything.

There is a semblance of infrastructure. For example, there is the Palestinian Investment Promotion Agency. But given it’s confused about it’s own history, it’s hard to have any faith in its work.  On the homepage of the Palestine Investment Conference 2010 is a link: invest in Palestine. This is an overview of the Palestinian Economy authored by The Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute. Yet nowhere within the report does the word occupation appear. It’s as if by not referring to the occupation, it disappears. And with it the notion that Palestinians deserve to be freed from the oppression and dispossession of this restrictive political situation also disappears.

When everything is controlled by an occupier, is impossible to build anything. And it is impossible to build anything without political freedom. And without political freedom there can be no personal freedom.

So it seems there’s a choice to be made between justice and finance, and money is well known for buying acquiescence. Palestinians deserve justice and freedom, as do all people. All the countries and agencies that are throwing money at them are ignoring a political reality and prolonging a situation that consigns them to a future where they are destined to remain controlled and dominated by Israel.

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