BBC does ‘The Palestinian Authority economy for dummies’

One day, perhaps, a BBC journalist will make a fact-based programme which will explain to audiences the real reasons that lie behind the weakness of the economy in the Palestinian National Authority controlled areas. 

Such a report would of course have to include factors such as the population growth rate, the rise of the dependency of the PA economy upon foreign donations from 10.47% in the year 2000 to over 60% in recent years, the endemic corruption, the lack of investment in infrastructure and means of production, the top-heavy civil service sector, the payment of wages to workers in Gaza who stay at home and convicted terrorists in Israeli jails, the inefficient tax collection, the self-inflicted effects of the second Intifada and the stifling influence on the economy of foreign NGOs and aid agencies – as well as many more contributing elements. 

But until that day, BBC audiences will have to make do with superficial reports such as the one broadcast on BBC News by Zeinab Badawi on November 6th 2012. 

 The accompanying synopsis states that:

“Recent protests across cities on the West Bank against rising fuel and food prices have sometimes turned violent.

Many people blame obstacles put in place by the Israeli authorities.

Despite the problems some Palestinians are trying to do more to boost their own economy, and create more jobs.”

The video report continues with the same theme of gratuitously blaming Israel for the PA’s economic ills with one of the interviewees , Ziad Anabtawi, stating that:

“We don’t have any control over our borders whether it’s coming from the port of Ashdod or Haifa or the crossing from Jordan, it’s always being handled by the Israelis and they have the control over every movement that we make at the border line.”

Seeing as the territory controlled by the PA (both at present and under any future agreements)  is landlocked, the situation regarding sea ports is not going to change unless the PA resolves its differences with Hamas and constructs a port in the Gaza Strip. That, of course, has nothing to do with Israel. 

 As for the border crossings into Jordan, the 1994 Paris Economic Agreement – which some called to annul during the September demonstrations against the economic situation in the PA – includes provisions for PA customs control there. 

 “In the entry points of the Jordan River and the Gaza Strip:

Freight shipment
The Palestinian Authority will have full responsibility and powers in the Palestinian customs points (freight-area) for the implementation of the agreed upon customs and importation policy as specified in this protocol, including the inspection and the collection of taxes and other charges, when due.
Israeli customs officials will be present and will receive from the Palestinian customs officials a copy of the necessary relevant documents related to the specific shipment and will be entitled to ask for inspection in their presence of both goods and tax collection.
The Palestinian customs officials will be responsible for the handling of the customs procedure including the inspection and collection of due taxes.
In case of disagreement on the clearance of any shipment according to this Article, the shipment will be delayed for inspection for a maximum period of 48 hours during which a joint sub-committee will resolve the issue on the basis of the relevant provisions of this Article. The shipment will be released only upon the sub-committee’s decision.”

Unfortunately, of course, the decision by the Palestinian Authority to launch a terror war against Israel in 2000 has had repercussions on all aspects of the Oslo Accords of which that protocol is part. 

Badawi also interviews an olive farmer who states that “After the 1967 war so many young people left because of the lack of job opportunities”. A somewhat less one-dimensional view of the situation at the time can be read here.

Zeinab Badawi concludes her report by stating that the Palestinians:

“…need more backing from their own leaders and fewer restrictions on their economic activities by the Israeli authorities.”

Significantly, she neglects entirely to mention the fact that  – as in the past – the Israeli government has in recent months done much to try to boost the ailing PA economy, including making advance payments of 380 million shekels of tax monies not yet collected and adding a further 5,000 new work permits. 

“All told, some 48,000 Palestinians can now work legally within the Green Line, while some 26,000 work in industrial zones in settlement regions, and an estimated 30,000 more are working in Israel without permits. Thus, over 100,000 Palestinians are earning their livelihoods directly from Israel, receiving salaries that are at least double the salaries paid in the West Bank..”

Badawi also fails to mention the 617 million shekel debt owed by the PA to the Israel Electric Corporation, the PA’s $1.1 billion deficit in 2011, Israel’s appeals to the International Monetary Fund for aid to the PA and so forth. 

By resorting to the all too easy and simplistic default option of blaming Israel for just about any Palestinian problem, Zeinab Badawi displays a blatant disregard for accuracy. It is therefore not surprising that on occasions such as this, the BBC’s impartiality is then called into question. 

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