Israeli NGO says Israel, not ‘divine providence,’ responsible for quashed Palestinian economy
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Israeli NGO says Israel, not ‘divine providence,’ responsible for quashed Palestinian economy

Gisha rebuffs theories by Mitt Romney on why Israel’s economy boomed while the PA’s faltered

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

A Palestinian farmer gathers tomatoes for export in Khan Yunis, the southern Gaza Strip, March 2, 2011 (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash 90)
A Palestinian farmer gathers tomatoes for export in Khan Yunis, the southern Gaza Strip, March 2, 2011 (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash 90)

An Israeli organization specializing in Palestinian freedom of movement on Tuesday criticized comments made by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney concerning Palestinian economic performance.

During a breakfast fundraiser in Jerusalem Monday, Romney compared the gross domestic product (GDP) of the Palestinian Authority to that of Israel. Romney found Israel’s GDP to be more than double that of the Palestinians’, which he attributed to Jewish culture, an innovative business environment and “the hand of providence.”

But Gisha, an Israeli organization specializing in Palestinian freedom of movement, said that poor Palestinian economic performance had much more to do with Israeli policies than with inherent cultural characteristics.

“Palestinian economic performance is less influenced by culture than it is by the occupation, surges in violence over the past 15 years, and the movement restrictions imposed by Israel,” Gisha director Sari Bashi told The Times of Israel.

Using economic graphs, Bashi demonstrated that as Israel gradually tightened its security grip on the Gaza Strip beginning in the mid-1990s, the Strip gradually began losing its economic vitality and gaps in GDP between Gaza and the West Bank gradually grew larger. If in 1994 Gaza’s GDP was $1,327 according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), at the Gaza flotilla incident in 2010 it had already dropped to a mere $877 following years of Israeli closure and export restriction.

‘Palestinian economic performance is less influenced by culture than it is by the occupation, surges in violence over the past 15 years, and the movement restrictions imposed by Israel’

Bashi cited Israel’s prevention of Palestinian workers from reaching jobs in Israel; the banning of sales of goods outside the Gaza Strip; and the limited import of raw materials and energy into the Strip as the main factors in Gaza’s economic collapse.

“Even in the West Bank, the economy has only recently climbed back to slightly above its level in 1999, and in Gaza GDP per capita is still lower than it was 18 years ago,” Bashi noted.

Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in a violent coup in June 2006, leading to a tightening of Israeli travel and trade restrictions.

Israel withdrew its forces and dismantled all the settlements in the Gaza Strip in 2005, but continues to maintain a naval and air blockade, limiting the export of agricultural produce. In May, UNRWA chief Fillipo Grandi claimed that Israel’s export ban has “obliterated” Gaza’s economy.

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