[Jerusalem July 19, 2007] In the afternoon of July 18th, this reporter attended a conference sponsored by the Jerusalem based, IPCRI/Israel Palestine Research Center and Information, regarding the prospects of reviving the Palestinian economy.
Israeli Professor Ezra Sadan offered a power point presentation and wishful thinking that recovery of the Palestinian economy is possible in the hands of individuals who will invest and by unknown Israeli politicians who will open land and sea borders so Palestinians can export their wares.
Palestinian Samir Houlaila stated, "Two months ago we talked recovery, today we talk collapse. The problem is deeper than unemployment and GNP. The poverty level is deeper due to Israeli closures all over the West Bank and not just in Gaza. Jenin was once a prosperous agricultural area, but now has a 77% poverty rate. Nablus was once a thriving economic center and now has a 69% poverty rate. The U.S.A. and Israel are responsible for the growing poverty rate in Gaza and the West Bank. Unemployment in Gaza is 85% in the public sector. If security for Israel can only be built on a weak Palestinian economy, I need answers as to how can Israel ever be secure" by destroying the Palestinian economy.
"There are over 500 checkpoints [in the West Bank] and if Israel doesn't take the risk and allow movement of goods through the West bank, then the peace process is in jeopardy and we are all in a mess."
The elephant in the room, the bottom line and the "O" word; Occupation as the root cause of all the evil and the tottering Palestinian economy was not raised until the question and answer period by Palestinian American business man Sam Bahour.
Sam returned from the USA to Ramallah to build a shopping center, but he and so far all the expatriates who also returned to invest in the Palestinian economy are denied the required ID cards that would ensure their freedom of leaving and returning to occupied territory on their own time table.
What got the group most agitated was the word "collapse" applied to the Palestinian economy. With unemployment rates of 69% in the once thriving city of Nablus and 77% unemployment in the agricultural center of Jenin, collapse appears imminent; if not already a fact on the ground.
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