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Palestinian Donors: What Mission?

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The Palestinians have been too grateful and too helpless for too long to be critical of the political agenda of their donors who have practically nailed them down as political hostages to the donors' money, which was promised initially to help build an independent Palestinian state, but ended as a political instrument effectively used by the Israeli occupying power.

Donors have embroiled themselves in an internal Palestinian political crisis they themselves created when they withheld their aid as a collective punishment to squeeze out of power a political movement not of their liking, which ironically came to power in a fairly and transparently democratic elections that were financed and monitored by none other than themselves.

The internal political crisis is only a result of the deeper economic and humanitarian crisis, which is crushing the Palestinian people to the brink of a "social revolt," especially in the "ticking time bomb" of Gaza Strip, (1) and the donors-sustained Palestinian Authority (PA) to the brink of collapse since the donors tightened the Israeli military siege by imposing a suffocating financial blockade early in the year.

The ensuing Palestinian divide is being further exacerbated by the donors' public siding with one party of the divide, to the detriment of the people whom the donors are trying in vain to reach out for.

On September 1 the donors meeting in Stockholm pledged about $500 million in mostly selective humanitarian "handouts." But how could this meagre amount make any difference when $7 billion could not?

The amount was pledged as an Israeli military court was extending the detention of the Palestinian finance minister, Dr. Omar Abdul-Razeq, an irony which puts in spotlight the overall policy of donors.

The end political as well as the economic result of at least seven billion dollars of donors' aid over the past ten years is raising both Palestinian and international voices to ask whose political agenda the donors are serving, what is their true mission and which role they are playing.

Their initial plan was to bail out a Palestinian Authority representing the 3.5 million Palestinians under Israeli occupation since 1967 -- within the context of the Madrid Middle East peace process in 1991 and the ensuing Palestinian - Israeli Oslo accords in 1993 -- until the end of the Palestinian autonomous interim period ends in July 1999, when the final status negotiations were scheduled to hopefully lead to the creation of an independent Palestinian state living peacefully alongside Israel.

However the bullets that killed the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Tel Aviv "on God's orders" by the "law" student, Yigal Amir, in November 1995 had also assassinated the Oslo accords.

From the start the Israelis have envisioned an autonomous PA as the end goal. Rabin was assassinated to curb whatever "peace" illusions a few of the Israelis might have otherwise developed. And when comatose former prime minister Ariel Sharon announced his acceptance of a Palestinian state in accordance with the U.S. President George W. Bush's vision of a two-state solution he attached 14 conditions thereto and embarked on a unilateral policy, inherited by his successor Ehud Olmert, that negated the existence of a Palestinian partner and downsized the area of the perceived state to 42 percent of the West Bank.

Then, the donors should have posed and reconsidered the framework of their aid, but they didn't.

The donors' money continued to flow nonetheless with or without awareness that thereafter their aid had shifted to serve a completely different and contradictory political Israeli agenda and became an instrument of Israel's foreign policy and thus became part of the problem and not of the solution, without alleviating the Palestinian economic plight.

Donors have turned to finance either the Palestinian submission, compliance, passivity or collaboration and collusion vis-├-vis the Israeli U.S.-backed unilateral plans, with a questionable indifference to the death of the peace process and the reoccupation of the PA autonomy, while showing an astonishing exemplary tolerance towards Israel's destruction of the state-building infrastructures financed mainly by money paid by European and American taxpayers.

Their aid has turned into a tool in Israeli hands to appease disillusioned Palestinian population who are witnessing daily the infrastructure of their promised state either being demolished by Israeli military bulldozers or bombed to rubble by the US-made Israeli Apaches and F-16s, because Israel has decided unilaterally to allow into being only a Bantustan-state in Gaza Strip and to demarcate its borders deep into the West Bank after slicing it into two southern and northern parts by extracting Jerusalem, the heart of any viable and sustainable Palestinian state.

Thirteen years on, the Israeli destructive offset factor, the PA corruption, the high management costs, the conditions attached to their aid, and the political deadlock have all drained the donors' efforts into a zero-sum result economically and politically, leaving the donors' taxpayers as the main loser next to the Palestinians and the Israeli Occupying Power as the sole beneficiary.

The donors have relieved Israel from its obligations under international law as the occupying power and at the same time used their aid to appease the Palestinians. That's why Israel played the fundraiser for the Palestinians, but withheld their dues when their January elections changed the rules of the game.

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*Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist in Kuwait, Jordan, UAE and Palestine. He is based in Ramallah, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.
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