Chatham House has published a new research paper (The ‘myth’ of a Palestinian economy by Sami Abdel-Shafi) on the EU’s donor policies (based on the Oslo Peace Process). The core objective of the paper was worded as “to persuade the European Union (EU) to shift its policy from supporting the current framework of Palestinian economic development, which in effect subordinates the economy to a political process that has become stalled and dysfunctional. It calls for the decoupling of economic development from the peace process, irrespective of the political roadblocks – or possible future progress – in the latter.” One of its recommendation (p25) concerns “a joint review by the EU and the PA of the extent to which aid has achieved its aims seems timely. Similarly timely would be an assessment of how effective it has been for the EU to divert funds from development aid to humanitarian aid and budgetary support to the Palestinians.”

Everyone being familiar with the history of aid to Palestine knows that there are serious problems with the way how the EU supports the Palestinian statebuilding. The EU – the international donor community – has been busy with “building” a Palestinian state, the territories of which is partially occupied by Israel and controlled by the Hamas. For some more or less obvious reasons the EU has been pouring money to the Palestinian territorries (adminstration, statebuilding, security cooperation with Israel, supporting refugees, and victims of the Gaza wars). From an academic perspective the exciting question is why policy-paper writers, activists, scholars, researchers constantly feel compelled to write papers on the EU’s incompetence and urge it to change its policies? The EU – let it mean anyone – knows well the situation, each and every fact created on the ground; the EU has closely monitored and documented the “developments” since the early 1990s. Various European bodies and authorities published exhaustive “self-reflective” reports and papers throughout the years (see for example the evaluations prepared by the European Court of Auditors), to mention only the most recent one prepared to the EC:

Evaluation of the European Union’s Cooperation with the occupied Palestinian territory and support to the Palestinian people 2008 – 2013, Vol I (main report) + Vol II (Annex). Evaluation carried out on behalf of the European Commission, May 2014

This paper sincerely and explicitly concedes that “notwithstanding ardent declaratory policies, massive financial support, dialogue and deployment of other instruments, EU Cooperation had little demonstrable impact on the main obstacles to achieving the Two-State solution. The Evaluation collected abundant evidence that the goals of the EU have been seriously hampered by “binding constraints,” the most significant being the Israeli restrictions in relation to occupation and allocation of resources for settlements, but also including Palestinian political divisions and an absence of democratic process. While these binding constraints have been highlighted in EU statements, the evaluation findings indicate that the EU has been neither willing nor able to address these constraints squarely, with an effective political response” (Vol I. page VIII).

The EU knows everything. The Palestinians – Israel alike – know that it knows everything.


The fact that  the US prioritizes Mubarak-era security arrangements over (transition to) democracy according to a draft version of a bill (Making appropriations for the Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016, and for other purposes) does not reflect more (nor less) that ties and bonds do matter as long as (i) there is a common enemy to win over or dangers to overcome (ii) democracy is not a sacred cow. Fear matters more than political ideas.

Reading p 133-134 (paragraphs on Egypt) it is clear how “foreign aid” is linked to regional considerations and donor interests: “Funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act that are made available for assistance for the Government of Egypt may be made available notwithstanding any provision of law restricting assistance for Egypt, except such funds may only be made available if the Secretary of State certifies and reports to the appropriate congressional committees that such government is (A) sustaining the strategic relationship with the United States; and (B) meeting its obligations under the 1979 Egypt- Israel Peace Treaty.”

AL-Monitor quotes panel member Dutch Ruppersberger, justifying the proposed bill this way: “If you have an ally you work with them. You don’t tear them down, you build them up (..) if we walk away, do you want China, Russia to move in and take them over? That’s kind of the things you have to look at.”

The objective of foreign (development, military) aid practices is to perpetuate the bond (Furia 2015, 4) as long as the bond is seen as a means or guarantee to prevent non-desired outcomes.


Julian Pecquet: “Congress seeks to lift last restrictions on aid to Egypt” Al-Monitor, June 1, 2015 available at

The last post has been about the EU’s ‘perpetual’ position and argument on the necessity of keeping the peace process alive. People in the region are much less sure about the viability of this idea:

Arab Barometer, wave III (2012-2104), q708 on the future of the peace treaty/process vis-a-vis Israel (Jordan, Egypt, Palestine)

Arab Barometer, wave III (2012-2104), q708 on the future of the peace treaty/process vis-a-vis Israel (Jordan, Egypt, Palestine)

The public opinion is the most critical in Jordan and Palestine. It is interesting that such numbers (opinions) are not incorporated into foreign and aid policy decisions and aid continues to flow for sake of the ‘peace process’ – or keeping silence and stability – without interruption.

There are eight relevant questions asked by Nora Murad (posted by al-Shabaka):

1. Does aid to Palestinians help Israel evade its Fourth Geneva Convention obligations?

2. Do aid actors “give effect” to Israel’s illegal blockade on Gaza when they accommodate procedures that hinder humanitarian or development assistance?

3. Is providing military aid to Israel, which it uses to violate Palestinian rights, a violation of Common Article 1 of the Fourth Geneva Convention?

4. Does aid actors’ accommodation of discriminatory national anti-terrorism policies violate the humanitarian principle of impartiality?

5. Does aid to the Palestinian Authority entrench denial of Palestinian rights?

6. Do aid procurement policies that allow Israel to profit from its abuse of Palestinian rights actually incentivize further violations?

7. Does treating Israel as a “special case” erode the fundamental notions and universality of international humanitarian law?

8. Does international disregard for humanitarian principles send a message that Palestinians have no rights and Israel has no obligations?


One more question can be added in light of the public opinion: does aid promote something which is not desired by the majority? Or does it serves externally defined donor (Western) objectives, interests and values?


Sources: Nora L. Murad: ‘Donor complicity in Israeli violations of Palestinian rights‘ Al-Shabaka Policy Brief, October 2014; Arab Barometer Data is available at:



“Sanctions against third countries, individuals or entities, are an essential EU foreign policy tool that it uses to pursue objectives in accordance with the principles of the Common Foreign and Security Policy. (…) In general terms, the EU imposes its restrictive measures to bring about a change in policy or activity by the target country, part of a country, government, entities or individuals. (…) The political objectives and criteria of the restrictive measures should be clearly defined in the legal acts.”

Defining political objectives, measures and legal acts seems to be (un)likely. In the shadow of the events marking the likely start of a third intifada (or something similar) in Jerusalem, there are more and more articles reporting about the ‘red lines’ the EU wants to define. A confidential document – being prepared and distributed in at least 28 copies – discussed the hard-liner ‘restrictive’ actions the EU would take if Israel continues to build settlements especially in the E1 area. The potential proposed measures can be listed as follows: recalling the EU ambassador, restricting free-trade agreements between the EU and Israel, limiting cooperation with Israel in general, and/or marking products manufactured in the settlements for sale in EU supermarkets.

The EU’s official position has remained unchanged. The EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has denied the claims, saying that the EU has no intention of imposing any sanctions, on the contrary: ‘the core of our worries and of our efforts is and will be not to react to negative steps, but to engage in positive processes ‘, EEAS Press Release, remarks by High Representative, Federica Mogherini, Brussels, 17/11/2014, Q&A section: Il n’y a pas de plan de ce type. J’ai vu un article d’Haaretz qui fait référence à un document de travail  et le publie. Il s’agit apparemment d’un document de travail interne demandé par les États membres il y a quelques temps, je dirais durant le mandat qui a précédé le mien, mais qui ne forme qu’une hypothèse de travail technique. Ce n’était pas sur la table des ministres aujourd’hui.).

The situation on the ground has also remained unchanged (or if changed, then to the worse). I would not be surprised if Israel would somehow ‘sanction’ the EU development projects in the Palestinian Territories, if the EU went too far in ‘discussing’ restrictive measures. The EU leadership seems to be aware of it. The philosophical question is whether it reflects on its wisdom or incompetence?

Sources: Christopher Harres, ‘European Union Gears Up For Sanctions Against Israel Over Settlements‘, International Business News, 17 November, 2014; Barak Ravid, ‘EU document suggests recalling envoys if Israeli settlements threaten two-state solution‘, Haaretz, 17 November, 2014; Forward, ‘Europe Insists No Plans for Anti-Israel Sanctions‘, The Forward, 17 November, 2014; i24news, ‘EU ‘deplores’ Israeli settlement plans but says no sanctions‘, 17 November, 2014;


Two notable paragraphs from a book on gifts, corruption and philanthropy. The excerpts are from chapter 2 (the ethics of a gift):

‘Charity becomes a powerful tool for those searching for public relations kudos, or even for real power. The ambivalence of the gift re-appears: the principle of solidarity is used to access or establish a position of power in one way or another, either to be nominated as “the most generous,” or as “the biggest contributor” or to reinforce strong socio-political and business bonds between the acclaimed donor and the ‘miserable’ receiver (who might temporary escape his material deprivation only to find himself trapped in a dependent position vis-à-vis the generous donor). Philanthropy – behavior where intentions could be termed ‘good’ per se becomes a part of public relations/business conquest. Charity may be employed as a very powerful and even manipulative tool to bind people to a (spiritual) goal or mission, or even more blatantly to lock the receiver into one’s self-interested (but often disguised) political-economic objectives’ (Verhezen 2009, 60).

‘The logic of abundance does not directly aim for reciprocity but incites it. Unfortunately and ambiguously, unilateral gifts evidently generate envy and may even trigger violent reactions because the logic of social obligations has been broken as the recipient is in no position to give back’ (Verhezen, 2009, 61).

Verhezen, Peter (2009) Gifts, Corruption, Philanthropy: The Ambiguity of Gift Practices in Business. Bern: Peter Lang

… this is how Adam Taylor started his article published in The Washington Post in early October. The article is an entertaining attempt to summarize the complexity of relations in the Middle East by collecting all those images, charts and graphs that have been drawn during the past years to explain the relations among various actors. One of the first such attempt was published in the Financial Times last year (22 August 2013):

A Short Guide to the Middle East (from Mr K N Al-Sabah)


This and the remaining eight attempts illustrates well why it is senseless to raise questions about the impacts or efficiency of foreign aid. The ‘civil society’, NGOs or the population in general are not part of the game. Not even in the graphic-drawing minds.

Jihadist friends and foes; The Economist, 15 September 2014

Jihadist friends and foes; The Economist, 15 September 2014

Source: Adam Taylor (2014) ‘9 attempts to explain the crazy complexity of the Middle East’, The Washington Post, 1 October, available at


There has been a long piece published in Al Jazeera by a World Bank ‘responsible’ Inger Anderson yesterday. The article is about her impressions gained during her visit to Gaza. The way she formulated the (solution to the) problem (namely, the vicious cycle of construction and deconstruction, Israeli siege and occupation), illustrates well the abstract being of sovereignty and that of responsibility. It is our collective and historic responsibility to step up support and mobilise a response. (…) I am convinced that the World Bank Group can play a transformational role in the Palestinian territories (…) As a development institution, it is both a mandate and a responsibility. (…) In cooperation with the Palestinian Authority (PA), and in coordination with the EU, UN and other international partners, the World Bank Group intends to play its full role and assist the Palestinians in mobilising the resources with a view to short and long term needs.

It is like a mission statement issued by a business-enterprise. However, the real tragedy of the Palestinian people is the number of sovereigns disposing over their past, present and future. Israel, the PNA, Hamas, the international community, each and every actor claims to control the decision-making, set real and abstract borders, define priorities and spend the collected taxes and foreign funds according to their own priorities.

‘When the population of a particular area obeys more than one institution or controlling authority’, multiple sovereignty emerges (Tilly 1973/1975, p 67-78). Theda Skocpol doubts  the way Tilly links ‘multiple sovereignty’ to revolutions, and argues that it can explain civil wars, international conquest (even the EU enlargement for that matter) and national (separatist) movements as well (Skocpol 1994: 109). Trying to define the undefinable, Krasner (1999) listed four components of sovereignty: international legal sovereignty (recognition from states); Westphalian sovereignty (non-interference in IR); domestic sovereignty (the ability of a state to maintain the monopoly of the use of violence within its territory) and interdependence sovereignty (the capacity of a government to control the intra-borders movements and processes such as globalization).

Building on Krasner’s categorization, sovereignty is not just multiple, as illustrated by the Palestinian case, it can be multi-layered as well. Indeed, the relations between the international organizations, Israel, the PNA (masters of sovereignty) on the one hand and the Palestinian people (subjects of sovereignty) on the other hand are complex enough to see the difficulties of defining sovereignty and the difference between its descriptive and normative understanding (Karp 2008). It applies to responsibility as well. It sounds nice in a journal article or policy paper (normative understanding of responsibility), but makes no sense to people (descriptive version of responsibility) that hardly experienced any sovereign being able to take real, personal and legal responsibility for the Palestinian sovereignty (independence, self-determination). If sovereignty also belongs to the people as argued by Karma Nabulsi and if the related authority is exercised by the people (through resistance to repressive and unrepresentative rule), a real ‘tragedy of commons’ problem emerges:

Sources: Andersen, Inger (2014) ‘What I saw in Gaza’ Al-Jaazeera online, 6 November, 2014; Karp, D. J. (2008) ‘The utopia and reality of sovereignty: social reality, normative IR and ‘Organized Hypocrisy’’, Review of International Studies, 34 (2), 313-335.; Krasner, S. D. (1999) Sovereignty: organised hypocrisy. Chichester: Princeton University Press; Nabulsi, K. (2004) ‘The struggle for sovereignty’, The Guardian, 23 June, 2004; Skocpol, Theda (1994) Social Revolution in the modern word. Cambridge; Charles Tilly (1975) From Mobilization to Revolution. New York: McGraw-Hil (to see the original paper from 1973: Revolution and Collective violence).