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solidarity

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.

One of the most important concepts is fear in the ‘refugees/migrants versus Europe’ debate. It is not entirely clear whether Europe is against the migrants, or migrants are against Europe. But it is more than obvious that at the level of generalization both sides fear the other contrary to Jean-Claude Juncker’s call for collective courage. He is worried by ‘the fear directed against these people by some parts of the European population’ and concludes that ‘Europe fails when fear prevails’. As if it was simply a matter of choice.

One must admit that we social scientists – just as human rights activists – know very little about fear regardless to our knowledge on its consequences, such as violence, war, population movements, suicide and so on. Politicians, at least as much instinctively as cynically, know much better what fear is about in Europe thanks to the various public opinion polls. The language spoken for example by the Hungarian PM, Viktor Orban is seen much less unrealistic and provoking today than a month ago. His arguments are at least as much, if not better, shared by a significant part of the European public (opinion) and politicians as judged by others, certain media outlets, journalist, politicians, scholars or activists included. Orban’s gambling builds not only on how many people in Hungary think about foreigners coming from remote countries, but also on a more general European resentment rapidly growing against the new-comers let them be migrants or refugees.

When Le Figaro, the second second-largest, right-leaning national newspaper in France asked whether its readers agree with the Hungarian decision to build a fence on the Hungarian-Serbian border (to keep refugees and migrants away), 88% of the respondents said  yes (the sample is not representative, but big enough, the number of voters was as high as 56250). On a more representative side, the latest available Eurobarometer survey (the poll was conducted in May with over 30,000 people interviewed) found that immigration jumped to the top of the most frequently cited EU-level concerns with 38% (+14 points). It is now way ahead of the economic situation (27%, -6 points) and unemployment (24%, -5 points) too. While the immigration of people from other EU Member States evoked a positive feeling for more than half of Europeans, the opposite was true in the case of immigration of people from outside the EU. Their (economically-motivated) immigration evoked a positive feeling for only about a third of Europeans (34%) and a negative feeling for 56%. It is not surprising that close to three-quarters of Europeans said they were in favour of  a common European policy on migration (73%). Results of the next survey (due in November) will likely be even more ‘anti-European’ and fearful in light of the late-Summer developments in Europe.

What is fear?  Fear is a very normal human emotion induced by a threat or any negative stimulus. Neuro- and cognitive science says that fear is automatic, unconscious, spontaneously generalized and resistant to extinction. The perception of threat leads to neural changes in the brain and indirectly in behaviour as well: it leads to hiding, freezing, or running away from traumatic events. It is fear which makes people run away from Syria, Afghanistan or Turkish refugee camps. And it is fear – and not simple hatred – which makes other people, Europeans, reluctant to receive and integrate them in large scale. Is this fear real or imagined? It depends. But new arrivals bring not only their human rights with themselves. They also carry their history, collective memory, tragedies and traumas, culture and religion and a lot else. And while there are generous and ‘fearless’ European individuals being busy with offering a helping hand, a great part of the general public is quite much concerned about opening borders and integrating strangers with complicated past. One of the most important human feeling – fear – seems to be shared by refugees and Europeans as well. Describing fear as abnormal, coward, egoistic or anti-European may take into consideration some significant political events of European history. However, it ignores not only other, less glorious historical facts, but scientific evidence on human nature as well. Fear is not only very normal, but hardly a matter of choice. Equally, it is not simply a matter of moral(ity). If Europe needs more refugees and immigrants – but even if the opposite is true, there is no straightforward answer to this question – it should focus on understanding this very human feeling instead of building further rhetorical fences and trenches.

An OECD-chart reporting on 2014 ODA (as percentage of GNI, DAC and non-DAC donors alike) shows that the biggest donor is the United Arab Emirates (1,17%). Indeed, the Gulf states have become increasingly important (humanitarian) donors in recent years, providing hundreds of millions of dollars to emergencies across the globe. Interesting data – at least in light of the topic of its blog – esp. because most countries (Gulf countries included) tend to fail to deliver aid to the Palestinians.

A recent IRIN-article (referring to a World Bank report to be presented to the AHLC meeting in Brussels next week) says that Gulf Arab states and Turkey have spectacularly failed to fulfill their pledges to Gaza since last Summer (well, since September). Qatar has delivered just 10 percent of the $1 billion it promised, while Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Kuwait between them have handed over just over $50 million of the $900 million they pledged, according to a World Bank report seen by IRIN ahead of its release.

Donors pledged  $5.4 billion formally in Cairo (last September), although only $3.5 billion of it was actually allocated to Gaza. As of late April 2015, donors had given only 27.5 percent of the promised $3.5 billion, or $967 million.

More about it:

Annie Slemrod: Which countries are failing to deliver Gaza aid?// IRIN Middle East, May 22, 2015, http://www.irinnews.org/report/101530/which-countries-are-failing-to-deliver-gaza-aid

The Quartet-report (to be presented next week) is available here: May 2015 report to Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee, http://ht.ly/NbmZm

Both the original World Bank report (Economic monitoring report to the AHLC, May 27, 2015) and its executive summary is available online.

The UNSCO report is also available online as well the IMF-report.

 

 

 

There are more and more articles dealing with the reconstruction hardships in Gaza. It applies to the number of explanations as well. Which factors hinder the progress? Israel, the PNA, the lack of unity between Hamas, PLO/Fateh, donor fatigue, the Winter, corruption… to cite only a few:

Foreign governments (that last October contributed $5.4 billion to a fund for the Palestinians, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and others in Europe) have indicated that they cannot fully follow through on their commitments until the unity government is in charge as a single authority. The Egyptian foreign minister, Sameh Shoukri, points partly to the lack of progress in the indirect negotiations – the aim of which is a permanent ceasefire – between Hamas and Israel. In addition, the “lack of trust” between [Palestinian, Israeli] authorities involved can been explained by the fact that it was agreed that the Palestinian Authority would receive the money after it would resume responsibility in Gaza. ‘Lack of trust’ between authorities halts Gaza reconstruction donations, Al-Tahrir News Network, 29 December, 2014.

‘Escalating tension between Islamist group Hamas and its Western-backed rival Fatah has pushed their “unity” government to the brink of collapse, harming efforts to rebuild the Gaza Strip and complicating Palestinian statehood ambitions. (…) The [Hamas-led] government’s inability to fully carry out its work has stalled rebuilding in Gaza, (…) while the PNA/Fateh says his technocrat government cannot begin to administer Gaza until Hamas fully relinquishes control. (…) Hamas accuses Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who leads Fatah and controls the PA budget, of trying to throttle the group into submission, including by refusing to pay its 50,000 public-sector employees. (…)’. Nidal al-Mughrabi, Palestinian unity frays, hurting Gaza’s rebuilding and statehood aims, Reuters, 14 January, 2015.

All this means that not only the money targeting the Palestinian Authority have not been disbursed , but even the “UN [UNRWA]  programme (to rebuild Gaza and give aid and shelter to more than 100,000 Gazans made homeless by the 50-day summer war) will be suspended at the end of January because world donors have reneged on promises to pay. Sara Helm, UN Gaza Rebuilding to Halt at End of January Due to Lack of Funds, Newsweek, 22 January, 2015.

The ultimate goal of the donor conference in last October was to strengthen the basis of the ceasefire and improving political solution prospects for the conflict by means of (i) strengthening the Palestinian government’s ability to assume its responsibility in the rehabilitation of Gaza Strip; (ii) enhancing the existing UN mechanism for import and export of goods and materials to and from Gaza; (iii) providing the financial support required for reconstructing Gaza Strip. Almost 90 countries and international organizations participated in the conference and agreed on the listed goals and means.

There is no reason to assume that the participants were unfamiliar with the Palestinian political reality and the power struggles between the Palestinian forces. They probably understood quite well what Ghazi Hamad meant my his article titled, ‘Now I understand how and why the Palestinians lost Palestine‘ (well before the piece was published).

What did Nietzsche write in a somewhat different context and age? The [modern] state is an ‘organized immorality’ partly due to the “dismemberment of responsibility”. What would he have said about the international conferences?

 

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: http://www.arabbarometer.org/instruments-and-data-files

 

 

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

To measure the attitudes of the European public towards development aid, EuropeAid commissions Eurobarometer public opinion surveys from time to time. The latest report, published in November 2013, covers 28 EU member states (the ‘old-new’ member states and Croatia) and focuses on four main areas: general awareness of extreme poverty; the perceived importance of development aid and of EU aid in the context of the economic crisis; the commitment of EU citizens to tackling poverty; their awareness of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, and their views on future priorities.

Results show that there are meaningful differences between the Western (Northern) and Eastern (Southern) parts of the EU in terms of evaluating the role EU citizens and EU aid can play in terms of poverty reduction.

While, in general, 83% of respondents think that it is (very) important to help people in developing countries, county-specific data show that eastern EU-countries are less convinced about the necessity of help (Hungary: 66%, Estonia: 68%, Slovenia: 71%) than people living in Western states (Sweden: 95%, Germany: 89%, Luxemburg 87%).

Beside the abstract question formulated on the necessity help, practical capacities were evaluated in a similar way. While 90% of Swedish respondents think they can play an active role in tackling poverty (Ireland: 65%, Luxembourg: 65%, Spain: 65%), people in the Eastern part of the EU have much less (self-)confidence. In Bulgaria only 10% of people think they can play a role in tackling poverty in developing countries (Estonia: 17%, Hungary: 28%).

With reference to the interaction between the donor and the donated, 87% of respondents in Sweden think that tackling poverty in developing countries has a positive influence on EU citizens (Finland: 83%, Denmark: 82%); the ‘causality’ is much less visible for those living in Central and Eastern Europe (26%: Bulgaria, Czech Republic: 39%, Slovakia: 39%).

The most telling data is related to knowledge. Almost 90 percent of the respondents estimated wrongly the magnitude of the problem (to be tackled by development and/or humanitarian aid), ie. the number of people living in extreme poverty.  Two-thirds, ie.  66% of Europeans believe that more than 1 billion people in the world live in extreme poverty (the statistically correct number is between 500 million – 1 billion) and 18% admitted ‘do not know’. The magnitude of poverty was overestimated regardless to the respondents’ nationality, age, profession or educational background (p. 8-9).

COM (2013): EU Development Aid and the Millennium Developing Goals. Special Eurobarometer 405. Publication date: November 2013