West Bank Prosperity Is a Myth

07/13/2010 04:19 pm 16:19:15 | Updated May 25, 2011

Prominent Zionists have spent recent months crowing loudly about the so-called economic miracle currently underway in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. They proclaim with breathless wonder that Palestinian beer exists, and it's tasty. We're told that the 'good Palestinians' in the West Bank, in contrast to their restive Islamic counterparts in Gaza, are fully embracing the normalization of the Israeli occupation. The idea is that their bubble economy will be permitted to expand modestly through capitulation. Eventually, their state will materialize in that bubble. In any case, a recent Save the Children UK report debunks the prosperity claim. But even if it hadn't, Zionists ought to understand that a Lexus is no substitute for individual freedom and dignity.

Benjamin Netanyahu and Thomas Friedman are prosperity-first Zionists. In one laughably hyperbolic instance, Friedman writes that he's "got a stock tip" for us. He continues by pumping the Al-Quds Index -- an index apparently housed on the Palestine Securities Exchange. To be sure, it's not that I'm opposed to economic prosperity for the Palestinians. The real issue is that some Zionists appear to believe that fattening the colonized is a remedial tactic when it's not even palliative.

The idea that an occupied people who lack the most basic human rights under Israeli apartheid will dedicate their lives to the pursuit of conspicuous consumption is corrupt and subversive. Apartheid regimes seem to think that standard of living improvements can stand in lieu of real human dignity. This idea is borne of out of the comorbid existence of racism and imperial privilege in the occupier's society. The American colonies revolted not because of a dearth of economic prosperity or opportunity. Rather, it was the fact of taxation without representation -- a lack of self-determination -- that precipitated their intifada.

I'm confident that if the Zionists themselves were offered the opportunity to develop condo communities in place of individual and communitarian agency, they'd reject the formula outright. Therefore, their belief that the Palestinians will somehow make do with anything less than a full recognition of their human rights and dignity is the consequence of a belief that the occupied are different -- less human, somehow. In this context, it becomes clear why the chief architect of the 'economic peace' plan is Benjamin Netanyahu -- the leader of the current apartheid government in Israel.

The scheme to reward 'moderate' Palestinians in the West Bank was developed in tandem with a program to beggar the Palestinians in Gaza. The idea was that the troglodyte population there would overthrow the elected Hamas government -- which is anathema to apartheid -- for the sake of LCD televisions. This is one of the chief reasons that the Israeli regime and its American and Egyptian cohorts cannot lift the siege of Gaza. Doing so will demonstrate to the 'good Palestinians' that their craven collaboration with the Israelis yielded only the same results that an enlightened dignity-always path would have.

Anyway, it hasn't worked. The West Bank is not prosperous, and Gaza is not broken. The Palestinian spirit, it seems, will not be exchanged for shiny trinkets.

According to Al-Jazeera, "children living in the poorest parts of the West Bank face significantly worse conditions than their counterparts in Gaza... with 79 per cent of the communities surveyed lacking sufficient food -- a greater proportion than in blockaded Gaza, where the figure is 61 per cent."

Salam Kanaan, Director of Save the Children in the occupied territories told Al-Jazeera that, "Palestinians in the West Bank are widely thought to enjoy a higher standard of living but tragically many families, particularly Bedouin and herder communities, actually suffer significantly higher levels of malnutrition and poverty."

To be completely fair, there are pockets of prosperity in the West Bank. While 47% of the Palestinians in Ramallah live in poverty, some are wealthy enough to patronize night clubs and bars. Unsurprisingly, many of those are "government officials." Again, it's not that Palestinians shouldn't enjoy night clubs and bars; it's that those who can enjoy the night clubs and bars typically enjoy them within the context of imperial favors. It appears that to the extent that there is an 'economic miracle' underway in the West Bank, it exists to privilege a small group of elite Palestinian collaborators. In the colonial context, these are the useless and unproductive bourgeoisie that Frantz Fanon spent so much time railing against.

So, the Zionist tale of economic prosperity in the occupied West Bank is largely untrue. But what motivates the writers of the fictive media accounts?

I believe that many of them are compelled by a desire to forestall the end of the Jewish state, as such. They understand that no one is going to remove 500,000 Jewish settlers from the West Bank. Furthermore, Israel cannot relinquish control of the freshwater aquifers that sit beneath the West Bank and Gaza. And an obsessive Israeli paranoia over security means that the Palestinians will always contend with one type of occupation or apartheid. In short, they understand that a Palestinian state will never actually materialize.

Instead, they hope to create an economically prosperous bubble in the West Bank. In their minds, cash will placate a human population whose dignity is being constantly assailed at the end of Zionist guns. What will likelier happen is that the Palestinians will begin demanding their right to vote. Other colonial experiments have demonstrated that prosperity for elite segments of a captive population in no way mitigates the dehumanizing effects of martial law and dominance.

In light of all this, it bears underlining my main point: The Palestinians will one day be prosperous, but not until they're free. Freedom, not wealth, is the more sublime human imperative.