Left Turn Issue #18
Title: “Cementing Israeli Apartheid: The Role of World Bank”
Author: Jamal Juma’
Al-Jazeerah, March 9, 2005
Title: “US Free Trade Agreements Split Arab Opinion”
Author: Linda Heard
Community Evaluator: April Hurley, MD
Student Researchers: Bailey Malone and Lisa Dobias
Despite the 2004 International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision that called for tearing down the Wall and compensating affected communities, construction of the Wall has accelerated. The route of the barrier runs deep into Palestinian territory, aiding the annexation of Israeli settlements and the breaking of Palestinian territorial continuity. The World Bank’s vision of “economic development,” however, evades any discussion of the Wall’s illegality.
The World Bank has meanwhile outlined the framework for a Palestinian Middle East Free Trade Area (MEFTA) policy in their most recent report on Palestine published in December of 2004, “Stagnation or Revival: Israeli Disengagement and Palestinian Economic Prospects.”
Central to World Bank proposals are the construction of massive industrial zones to be financed by the World Bank and other donors and controlled by the Israeli Occupation. Built on Palestinian land around the Wall, these industrial zones are envisaged as forming the basis of export-orientated economic development. Palestinians imprisoned by the Wall and dispossessed of land can be put to work for low wages.
The post-Wall MEFTA vision includes complete control over Palestinian movement. The report proposes high-tech military gates and checkpoints along the Wall, through which Palestinians and exports can be conveniently transported and controlled. A supplemental “transfer system” of walled roads and tunnels will allow Palestinian workers to be funneled to their jobs, while being simultaneously denied access to their land. Sweatshops will be one of very few possibilities of earning a living for Palestinians confined to disparate ghettos throughout the West Bank. The World Bank states:
“In an improved operating environment, Palestinian entrepreneurs and foreign investors will look for well-serviced industrial land and supporting infrastructure. They will also seek a regulatory regime with a minimum of ‘red tape’ and with clear procedures for conducting business. Industrial Estates (IEs), particularly those on the border between Palestinian and Israeli territory, can fulfill this need and thereby play an important role in supporting export based growth.”
Jamal Juma’ notes that the “red tape” which the World Bank refers to can be presumed to mean trade unions, a minimum wage, good working conditions, environmental protection, and other workers’ rights that will be more flexible than the ones in the “developed” world. The World Bank explicitly states that current wages of Palestinians are too high for the region and “compromise the international competitiveness” even though wages are only a quarter of the average in Israel. Juma’ warns that on top of a military occupation and forced expulsion, Palestinians are to be subjects of an economic colonialism.
These industrial zones will clearly benefit Israel abroad where goods “Made in Palestine” have more favorable trade conditions in international markets. IPS reporter Emad Mekay, in February 2005, revealed the World Bank’s plan to partially fund Palestinian MEFTA infrastructure with loans to Palestine. Israel is not eligible for World Bank lending because of its high per capita income, but Palestine is. Mekay quotes Terry Walz of the Washington-based Council for the National Interest, a group that monitors U.S. and international policy towards Israel and the Palestinians: “I must admit that making the Palestinians pay for the modernization of these checkpoints is an embarrassment, since they had nothing to do with the erection of the separation wall to begin with and in fact have protested it. I think the whole issue is extremely murky.”1
Mekay goes on to note that this is the first time the World Bank appears ready to get actively involved in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. Former World Bank president James Wolfensohn rejected this possibility last year. Neo-conservative Paul Wolfowitz was, however, confirmed as president of the World Bank on June 1, 2005.
In breach of the ICJ ruling, the U.S. has already contributed $50 million to construct gates along the Wall to “help serve the needs of Palestinians.”
Linda Heard reports for Al-Jazeerah that the U.S. is currently pushing for bilateral Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with various Arab states, including members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), as part of a vision for a larger Middle East Free Trade Agreement. President Bush hopes the MEFTA will encompass some twenty regional countries, including Israel, and be fully consolidated by 2013.
Many in the region are suspicious of the divisive trend of bilateral agreements with the U.S. and worry that the GCC will end up with small, fragmented satellite economies without any leverage against world giants. Prince Saud Al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, stated, “It is alarming to see some members of the GCC enter into separate agreements with international powers . . . They diminish the collective bargaining power and weaken not only the solidarity of the GCC as a whole, but also each of its members.”
1. Emad Mekay, “World Bank and U.S.: Palestinians Should Pay for Israeli Checkpoints,” IPS, February 25, 2005.
UPDATE BY JAMAL JUMA’
“ Cementing Israeli Apartheid: The Role of the World Bank” was written last summer as part of Stop the Wall’s campaign efforts to widen attention of those horrified by the construction of the 700 km long wall around Palestinian cities and villages. It aimed to expose the vicious mechanism of control, exploitation, and dispossession devised by the Occupation, but moreover the activities of the international community in safeguarding the Wall and making Palestinian ghettos sustainable.
It opens a chapter in a story that no one wants to hear: the globalization of apartheid in the Occupation of Palestine. Zionism has its own racist interest in ghettoizing 4 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and securing the judaization of Jerusalem. It ensures a Jewish demographic majority and ethnic supremacy over as much of Palestine as possible, working against all UN resolutions and the recent ICJ ruling on the Wall.
Within this project it finds allies in the international community keen to exploit cheap Palestinian labor locked behind Walls and gates. The degree to which Zionism and the international community—headed by the World Bank—work together with the aim of controlling every aspect of Palestinian life has become increasingly evident since the Left Turn article.
The Palestinian Authority’s (PA) role is reduced to the administrators of the Bantustans. The Palestinian people resoundingly said no to Bantustans at the ballot boxes last January.
While the Bank’s initial responsibility was to devise economic policies for the sustainability of a Palestinian Bantu-State, the institution is now facilitating efforts to ensure that Palestinians cannot interfere in the plans of the Occupation and the international community. The World Bank is gearing up to take over the payrolls of various Palestinian institutions, should the PA not comply with Zionist and global interests.
While global IFIs meticulously plan the financial and material survival and political control of the ghettos, Ehud Olmert offers the slogan of “Final Borders” to describe the project. In legitimizing the Wall, annexing Jerusalem, increasing the number of settlers, and denying the mere existence of the refugees, Olmert finds a willing accomplice in the Bank and its policy makers in Washington, who look to cash in on the Bantu-State.
The Palestinian people will never accept the plan, so it is hoped that they will be starved into it. But we will not kneel down. After dozens of massacres, killings, arrests, and almost sixty years of life in the Diaspora, surrender is too high a price to pay. We are not asking for outside institutions to provide us with bread, but to comply with their duties under international law and support our struggle for justice and liberation.
None of the horrific realities of life in Palestine are apparent in the headlines and doublespeak of mass media and international diplomacy, where our ghettoization is called “state-building.” International complicity with Israeli apartheid is dressed up as “humanitarian aid.” Palestinians are supposed to be grateful for gates in the Wall so they can be funneled between ghettos.
Just like Olmert’s schemes with the White House, the media shuns and neglects the rights and voices of Palestinians. Neither the daily killing of our people, nor the destruction of our homes, the dispossession of our farmers, or the sufferings of 6 million refugees make headlines. The consumers of mainstream media outlets are left to discuss the diatribe of “peace” and “borders,” disputed between the protagonists of our oppression, while the racism, ethnic cleansing, and ghettoization continue.