Palestine Pays Hefty Price for Eid

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Israeli policemen stand guard as a Palestinian man exits the compound which houses al-Aqsa mosque, known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City 5 October 2012. (Photo: Reuters - Ronen Zvulun)

By: Fadi Abu Saada

Published Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hundreds of thousands of entry permits are expected to be granted to Palestinians during Eid al-Adha, but the move is likely to hurt Palestine economically as well as undermine the standing of the Palestinian Authority as the effective power.

Ramallah - The Palestinians have not yet forgotten those images published by all Israeli newspapers and Palestinian websites of the beach in Jaffa, teeming with thousands of Palestinians during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, after the occupation authorities issued thousands of entry permits.

Yet it seems that the occupation stood to benefit, both politically and economically, from this move, which may explain why Israel has decided to do this again this Eid al-Adha, for an even larger number of Palestinians.

Hundreds of thousands of entry permits will hence be issued. While Israel claims it is doing so for the occasion of Eid, to make life easier for the Palestinians, the fact of the matter is that its real goal goes far beyond being a show of good faith.

Al-Akhbar spoke to economic expert Hisham Awartani, who said that if these permits are to be granted this would lead to a sharp decline in revenues for the Palestinians in favor of Israel. Particularly so, he asserted, when it is well known that Israel’s real intention is not to ease the blockade, but rather to make huge profits from the entry of large numbers of Palestinians to the territories occupied in 1948 [the territory claimed as Israel].

Awartani stressed that this would greatly impact the local and national economy, as it would hit commercial activity during the holiday season, which the retail sector eagerly awaits each year, adding that this would be felt by everyone.

The Palestinian economist then wondered why Palestinians go on to purchase Israeli services when similar Palestinian services are offered, perhaps even at a superior level of quality. Why not take trips to Jericho towards the beach, he asked, where the Palestinians would be simultaneously supporting local tourism and their national economy, while denying the occupation their hard-earned cash?

Issa Rishmawi, a local resident, told Al-Akhbar that choosing between the Israeli and local markets should not be a difficult choice for a people that have suffered so much under the occupation – the main source of this people’s tragedies and miseries. Rishmawi said that while Ghandi managed to convince the Indian people to weave their own clothes and grow their own food, the Palestinians continue to squabble over the Israeli permits.

Rishmawi added that every shekel lost to the Palestinian market goes to Israel, and is therefore the equivalent of a donation to the latter, not to mention the profits this adds to the entire economic cycle. He also spoke about the psychological factor, where Israel has managed to implant a feeling that entry permits are a blessing from God, when in fact they only reflect pure Israeli interests.

Faris Arouri, a Palestinian activist, believes that the issue goes even further than that. He told Al-Akhbar that Israel has apparently changed the strategy it uses in dealing with the Palestinian Authority (PA) in general.

According to the activist, these visit permits, in addition to the marked increase in work permits and Israel’s return to issuing travel permits through Lod Airport, all serve the general purpose of “weakening the standing of the PA as the central authority in the West Bank.”

Arouri said that the economic angle of this issue is particularly important for the Palestinian side.

The fact that Palestinians are going to the lands occupied in 1948, he argued, poses a great challenge to the Palestinian market, especially clothing retailers, who should learn a lesson from what had happened during Eid al-Fitr, when shoppers left town in pursuit of lower prices, and adjust their prices for the coming Eid al-Adha.

The activist stressed that Palestinians cannot be blamed for wanting to visit the Palestinian interior and shop there, like one would during any tourist trip inside or outside one’s country.

Concerning the political implications of the issue, Arouri urged the PA to take notice of the Israeli efforts to undercut its stature as the central authority, since the majority of entry permits are being arranged directly by the Israeli liaison offices, rather than the PA’s General Authority for Civil Affairs, which usually handles such matters.

It has been reported that these liaison offices have relabeled the signs on their entrances and restored their old title of Civil Administration Office, to make it appear as though the jurisdictions pertaining to entry permits and Israel’s management of the territories occupied in 1967 – particularly the West Bank – have since been modified.

In addition, it is now common knowledge that municipal elections were imposed on the Palestinian Authority, pushed for by foreign entities (mainly the United States.)

Effective from next year, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will double its budget for municipalities and local councils, at the expense of allocations for the central authority. The autonomy of Palestinian towns and villages is encouraged at the expense of the central government, weakening the position of the central authority.

Al-Akhbar toured the old souk in Bethlehem and met with many shop owners. These retailers said that there is a severe downturn in the market on account of the delays in paying the salaries of the PA’s employees, the chronic lack of job opportunities, and the unprecedented high costs of living – all factors that dramatically impact consumer spending.

Speaking to Al-Akhbar, Hossam Qumsiyeh, a shop owner, confirmed that the entry permits debacle will cause huge losses to the local market, and may even lead to the closure of several outlets. This is not to mention the lack of capital for new investments in light of the current political and economic situation, he added.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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