Empirical data collected in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (last summer, so far unpublished) reveal that (at least) two “aid industries” exist in parallel. As expressed by one of our respondents (leader of an Islamic charity, Sept 21, 2015, Gaza Strip):

“We don’t get any support from European and American donors, these donors don’t deal with us, they are ashamed to deal with us. While they know the we are association providing services for wounded people, they think that the wounded people are military personnel; on the contrary, all the wounded people are civilians. They have been injured during the years of the Intifada and during the wars or the bombing of the Israeli army for many places and houses in Gaza. There are is a very sensitivity to the word ‘wounded’ or ‘injured’ or ‘prisoner’ by those donors (European and American), these donors are boycotting all the Palestinian associations dealing with these category of people wounded or prisoners.”

The one which is “ashamed” to deal with the other has also been accused of promoting neoliberal ideas at the expense of local, Palestinian national (nation-building) interests.

With reference to this complex world (of opinions and realities) two recent publications deserve attention:

Marie Juul Petersen (2015): For Humanity Or For The Umma?: Aid and Islam in Transnational Muslim NGOs. London: Hurst and Co

The book explores how Muslim NGOs conceptualise their provision of aid and the role Islam plays in this and offers insights into a new kind of NGO in the global field of aid provision. It also contributes more broadly to understanding ‘public Islam’ as something beyond political Islam. The book is based on empirical case studies of four of the biggest transnational Muslim NGOs, and draws on extensive research in Britain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan and Bangladesh.

Linda Tabar and Omar Jabary Salamanca, eds (2015): Critical Readings of Development under Colonialism. Towards a Political Economy for Liberation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Ramallah: Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and Birzeit University’s Center for Development Studies

The point of departure of this latter publication is to elaborate on “the critical development discourse in Palestine” that has “become part of the overall debate of development under colonial settings.”



Al-Monitor published an article – authored by Uri Savir (Aug 30, 2015) – stating, among others, that “waiting for the international community has become synonymous with “waiting for Godot”, mostly because the peace process looks hopeless. It may be the case from a diplomat’s perspective, but researcher find this subject increasingly interested (if measured by the number of publications published in academic journals recently).
Two pieces from the Journal of Peacebuilding and Development (August 2015) – both are concerned with impacts and context of peacebuilding in Palestine:

Joanna Springer: Assessing Donor-driven Reforms in the Palestinian Authority: Building the State or Sustaining Status Quo

[Abstract] “Official development assistance for statebuilding provided to the Palestinian Authority (PA) has increasingly been focused on technocratic governance reforms that fail to address the root causes of conflict between Israel and Palestinians. A prime example is an emphasis on preparing mediumterm development plans despite the fact that the ongoing occupation prevents their effective implementation. The donor community is bound by the Fragile States Principles to strengthen state capacity to help prevent recurrence of conflict. Drawing on publicly available data and government documents, as well as interviews with stakeholders in PA development policy, this article identifies shortfalls in statebuilding strategy benchmarked against the Fragile States Principles. In order to fulfil their peacebuilding mandate, it is crucial for the donor community to address the role of the Government of Israel in governance failures in the occupied Palestinian territory and engage civil society more effectively.”

Ned Lazarus & Michelle I. Gawerc: The Unintended Impacts of ‘Material Support’: Us Anti-terrorism Regulations and Israeli/Palestinian Peacebuilding

“This briefing illustrates the problematic impacts of MSC regulations on peacebuilding through the examples of US-funded NGOs working in the Israeli-
Palestinian context. Drawing on testimonies from dozens of Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding initiatives, the briefing highlights local NGO experiences with MSC regulations such as the Partner Vetting System (PVS) and the Anti-Terror Certification (ATC). As emphasised herein, the MSC regulatory regime complicates the struggles of peacebuilding organisations to attain legitimacy in their societies, affecting their ability to recruit participants, to build partnerships, and to achieve the impacts envisioned by donors and practitioners alike.”

Source and link: Journal of Peacebuilding & Development 10 (2),


Most Palestinians have firm opinion on how international (understood as Western) development cooperation works. Local experts’ publications, op-eds and blogs as well as qualitative interviews with local informants and activists being familiar with international aid seem to echo the same opinions and critiques: donor aid serves foreign interests and is not free from conditions in Palestine. The main argument, as summarized by Nora Murad, remains the same: ‘there is literally no aspect of the economy that is independent of Israeli control and international influence. (…) The PA answers to international/Israeli orders, and has almost no accountability to local communities. Sadly, international NGOs fail to live up to their civil society mandate. Instead, they compete with local NGOs for funding, staff and beneficiaries. (…) There is a massive and self-perpetuating ‘humanitarian’ system that not only constrains local agency, but also undermines traditional systems for interdependence and self-reliance” (Murad 2014). Note, that the quoted and other (Nakhleh 2004, Nakhleh 2012) local interpretations place ‘Israeli’ and ‘international’ next to each other: international development cooperation and the Israeli occupation seems to complete each other, even if the officially foreign aid is provided for keeping the ‘two-state’ idea alive.

In theory, foreign aid has aimed at improving the Palestinian socio-economic conditions and building institutional system of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). Its utmost objective has been sustaining the Oslo Peace Process since the 1990s and supporting any Israeli-Palestinian efforts for returning to the negotiation table for the past decade.[i] Conditions became open and visible in the Palestinian case in 2006 when the donor community (the Quartet) set three conditions in exchange for accepting the results of the parliamentary elections.[ii] However, donors provided foreign aid, in form of official development assistance and humanitarian aid for getting something back since the early 1990a: to see their agendas and conditions to be met (Nakhleh 2004; Le More 2008; Taghdisi-Rad 2011; Paragi 2012). Due to the consequences of the elections (Hamas takeover in Gaza, Israeli measures and restrictions, Fayyad’s development and reconstruction plans) and perhaps due to the ‘senseless’ being of the conditions formulated in 2006, the donor community has been very cautious to ask anything formally in exchange for aid since 2008. The structure, channels, forms of international assistance – provided partly through the PEGASE mechanism and from EU budget – has not changed regardless to the Arab Spring and the ‘more for more’ principle: conditionality officially and intentionally is not applied (cf. ECA 2013).

Further reading: Brynen, R. (2000) A Very Political Economy: Peacebuilding and Foreign Aid in the West Bank and Gaza.Washington: United States Institute of Peace (USIP); ECA (2013b) European Union Direct Financial Support to the Palestinian Authority. Special Report 14/2013 (Luxembourg: European Court of Auditors); LeMore, A. (2008) Political Guilt, Wasted Money International Assistance to the Palestinians after Oslo. London: Routledge; Murad, N. (2014): An alternative to international aid.; Nakhleh, K. (2004) The Myth of Palestinian Development. Political Aid and Sustainable Deceit. Jerusalem: PASSIA; Nakhleh, K. (2011) Globalized Palestine. The National Sell-out of a Homeland. The RedSea Press; Paragi, B. (2012b) The Spiritual Essence: Palestinian Perceptions on Foreign Aid, Conditionality and Reciprocity. Journal International Political Anthropology 5 (1) 3-28; Taghdisi-Rad, S. (2011) The political economy of aid in Palestine: relief from conflict or development delayed? London: Routledge


[i]The principal aim of the donor community was to support the Oslo Peace Process in line with the spirit of the Declaration of Principles (DOP) signed by Israel and the Palestinian Liberalization Organization (PLO)by adjusting to the background provided by the multilateral regional framework established after the Madrid Conference (1991).As worded in the Co-Sponsors Summary of the first meeting conveyed by international actors in the shadow of the DOP ceremony, the donors officially sought to pursue ‘twin goals’ in terms of immediate and longer term actions: to have a short term impact on economic prospects and living standards, to ensure that longer-term assistance lays the basis for launching sustained growth (Conference to Support the Middle East. Co-Sponsors Summary 1993). More on international support and foreign aid channeled to the PNA.

[ii] Two legislative elections were held in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since the beginning of the Oslo Peace Process, the first in 1996, the second in 2006. In the January 2006 parliamentary elections, Hamas (List of Reform and Change) won a decisive majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council (it gained 74 seats of the 132) defeating the PLO-affiliated Fatah party, the main partner for peace with Israel and partner for cooperation with the donor community. Reactions from Israel and the Western (OECD DAC) donor community led to governmental crisis and the split between Hamas (gaining control over the Gaza Strip) and Fatah (keeping its position in the West Bank). In June 2007, Mahmoud Abbas dismissed the government led by Ismail Haniye, and appointed Salam Fayyad as a prime minister. This move and the reforms implemented by Fayyad (and financed by the donor community) led to further rifts between the leadership sponsored by the international community and the PLO/Fatah.

In their contracts and internal documents foreign governments are often explicit about what they expect from the research groups they finance. The article written by Eric Lipton, Brooke Williams and Nicholas Confessore and published by NYTimes (Foreign Powers Buy Influence at Think Tanks,, September 6, 2014) tracks how foreign governments try to influence research in not so innocent manner:

Even if there is a public debate and outrage, it must be kept in mind that money matters and it is part of our daily lives. Donor ‘influence’ is part of the game even at the lowest research/researcher levels. EU Marie Curie grants, such as the one behind this blog, cannot be obtained unless the applicant is able to ‘outline the benefit that will be gained from undertaking the project at Community level and how the integration grant will contribute to enhance EU competitiveness’ (copy pasted from ‘Instructions for preparing proposal Part B for Marie Curie Grants’). The benefit and competitiveness – in most fields/disciplines of social sciences – is ‘something political’ or at least ‘policy-related’. And it applies to any research on value-sensitive topics, such as human rights, governance, democracy, religion, violence, foreign aid, etc. If a government (a private person, for that matter) is motivated to influence masses in the Middle East, it has to support Islamic charities and/or movements. In the West, one can win more by giving money to research establishments and researchers, because their (our) activity, academic and intellectual independence, legitimacy is perceived to be sacred. Motives and mechanisms are the same.

It was perpahs in December last year, that the EU first offered „unprecedented” political and economic aid as an incentive to push Israel and the Palestinians into resolving their decades-old conflict and to promise them better access to European markets. As repeated by EU foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton in Munich at the beginning of February the EU would give an ’unprecedented package’ of aid to Israel and Palestine if they reach a peace accord. She spoke after a meeting of the Middle East ’Quartet’ trying to support Israeli-Palestinian talks. To complete the picture, a sort of blackmailing was also in the air illustrated by Lars Faaborg-Andersen’s words (EU ambassador to Israel): “We have made it clear to the parties that there will be a price to pay if these negotiations falter.” Most Palestinians disliked this message. Ordinary people feel in humiliating – cf. the causes of the ‘Arab Spring’ as analyzed by Telhami, S. (2013) The World Through Arab Eyes –  their leaders find it highly, perhaps even increasingly risky. As formulated by Wasel Abu Yousef, a member of the PLO executive committee: that “any Palestinian leader budging under financial pressure from the US or EU would lose public support, and if and when this happens, that leader is finished.” These perceptions have not found their way to Brussels so far.

An even more creative offer was formulated last week: the EU would be willing to provide financial compensation for Palestinian refugees and their descendants who renounce their ’right of return’ in a final peace deal with Israel. It appears to be the first time that a senior EU official, Faaborg-Andersen, publicly announced-endorsed such an offer. This will likely be part of the framework (see previous paragraph) of an “unprecedented new partnership” offered to Israelis and Palestinians if they sign a permanent peace treaty. As reiterated by Faaborg-Andersen, Brussels would be willing to significantly upgrade commercial and trade cooperation with both sides – provided that they will finally be ready to forget their history and look ahead. Assuming  good intentions, the EU somehow fails to acknowledge that money, let it be aid, can spoil man and ruin relationships as well.

Ahren, R. (2014) EU ready to pay Palestinians who renounce right of return. The Times of Israel,  Jerusalem, 24 March 2014

Amayreh, K. (2014) Palestinians denounce ‘financial blackmail’. by Al Jazeera,, Hebron, 31 January 2014

Reuters (2013) EU offers ‘unprecedented’ aid to help Israeli-Palestinian talks. Brussels, 16 December 2013,

EUObserver (2014) EU repeats offer of ‘unprecedented’ aid for Israel and Palestine. Munich, 01 February 2014,

Eurobarometer surveys have reflected increasing public support for conditionality for the past decade. Exploring the public attitudes towards development aid, the European public was asked in late 2004 whether the level of aid should be linked to the efforts taken by the recipient countries to encourage and sustain democracy. Findings showed that there was a widespread consensus among respondents that the level of aid should be dependent on recipient countries efforts, even if the word ‘condition’ was not used in the survey. The proportion of EU citizens considering that development aid should be used as an incentive for encouraging sustainable democracy rose between Autumn 2002 and 2004 by 5% points to 74% (Eurobarometer 2005, 44).

Years later, already after the ‘Arab Spring’, the majority of respondents (84%) believed that developing countries should follow certain rules regarding democracy, human rights and governance as a condition for receiving EU development aid (Eurobarometer 2011). Similarly, 80% of Europeans were in favour of establishing a link between EU development aid and other European objectives, for example, management of migration flows, access to energy and raw materials and trade opportunities. While there was broad approval for both governance-related conditionality and linking to other EU objectives, there was more support for conditionality (answer “yes, definitely”). At a time when many Europeans were reassessing the intensity of their support for development aid, the emphasis on democracy, human rights and rule of law may prove to be an important element in maintaining support for development aid in future. As the report noted, this may also be related to the events of the Arab Spring, where movements for reform and democracy have swept an entire region (Eurobarometer 2011, 28-34; 56-57).

Eurobarometer (2005) Attitudes towards Development Aid. Special Eurobarometer 222. Conducted by TNS Opinion & Social at the request of Directorate-General Development and Cooperation – EuropeAid,

Eurobarometer (2011) Making a difference in the world. Europeans and the future of development aid. Special Eurobarometer 375. Conducted by TNS Opinion & Social at the request of Directorate-General Development and Cooperation – EuropeAid,

Slightly before the Palestinian report on Pegase, the European Court of Auditors prepared a similar one analyzing the effects of EU aid on the Egyptian governance. The auditors evaluated the EU’s support for governance in Egypt as “well intentioned, but ineffective” adding that “the main human rights programme was largely unsuccessful. Equally, Women’s and minorities’ rights were not given sufficient attention by the EU, whereas the Egyptian authorities by and large ignore them. The effectiveness as the report points it out “depends on the local and regional political environment and comes in combination with the authorities’ commitment in the area.” The judgement clearly reflects the limits of external assistance, the constraints to be taken into account. Unlike in the case of the Palestinian ECA-report, virtually all the recommendations of the Court’s report (see paragraphs 80 to 82) have been accepted by the Commission and the EEAS; the conclusions were formally adopted in October. Improving the effectiveness of EU policy dialogue on governance on the one hand and strengthening the management of the budget support instrument on the other hand was reiterated, while at the same time the Commission reshaped the internal rules for granting budget support (see next paragraph). It was also stressed by the Commission and the EEAS that “in the context of the design of a new State-Building Contract under AAP 2013,  (the ongoing dialogue) will include democratic governance indicators.” However, even if the democratic transition in Egypt continues to be supported, there are more and more who fail to see much improvement in the situation in Egypt.

As the recent two Conclusions of the Council of the European Union (August 2013, February 2014) on Egypt prove, budgetary assistance is not available to those governments that are not ready to cooperate with European norms (cf. the military takeover in Summer 2013). The conclusions list at length the democratic values and principles in order to explain that only “assistance in the socio-economic sector and to civil society will continue” (EEAS/EC 2013). After the Council reiterated its position in February 2014 (EEAS/EC 2014), the Egyptian Ministry of Planning issued a communication on the Egyptian reading of the story: “the EU appoints itself as a judge or guardian to assess the political and social developments in Egypt, and thus it interferes in the management of the transitional phase. This is an unacceptable and incorrect approach by the EU, rejected by the Egyptian people who carried out two revolutions to achieve genuine democracy and to be able to determine their future on their own” (MEM 2014).

ECA (2013): EU cooperation with Egypt in the field of governance. Special Report 4/2013. Luxemburg: European Court of Auditors.

EEAS/EC (2013) Council conclusions on Egypt. The Council of the European Union, Foreign Affairs Council meeting, Brussels, 21 August 2013, (12-01-2014)

EEAS/EC (2014) Council conclusions on Egypt. The Council of the European Union, Foreign Affairs Council meeting, Brussels, 10 February 2014, (12-02-214)

MEM (2014) Egyptian foreign ministry slams EU council conclusions. Middle East Monitor, February 11, 2014,