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Israel and Palestinian Poverty:

Browing around the blogosphere recently, I've noticed that critics of Israel consistently repeat various versions of the following talking point (promoting by false propaganda emanating from sources such as this one): "what do you expect from the Palestinians? Israeli occupation impoverished them, and desperate, hungry people can only be expected to take desperate measures."

The idea that "occupation," per se, impoverished the Palestinians is simply wrong. In fact, it has been Palestinian violence since the first intifada broke out in 1987 that has impoverished the Palestinians, forcing Israel to gradually close its borders to Palestinian workers to prevent terrorist infiltration, creating the need for checkpoints and fences cutting the West Bank and Israel off from Gaza (Palestinians used to be basically free to enter and exit Israel, and Israelis used to shop and tour in the territories), and stifling foreign investment post-Oslo. (Not to mention that Palestinian support for Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War led to the expulsion of Palestinians from the Gulf, and the loss of their remittances.) Meanwhile, billions of dollars of post-Oslo aid were wasted by the corrupt and incompetent Arafat admninistration. I've read that post-Oslo, not a single significant public works project (hospital, road, etc.) was completed in the West Bank or Gaza. In an effort to buy political support, the PA ignored the private economy in favor of employing tens of thousands of employees in do-nothing bureaucratic jobs.

Anyway, here are some facts (source here--this is only one footnoted source, but it comports with numerous paper sources I've read over the years) about the economic consequences of the Israeli administration of the territories following the Six Day War:

--"Private consumption per capita [and per capita includes population growth, which was among the highest in the world in the territories] rose during 1969-1986 at an overall rate of 5% per annum."

-- Outside of regugee camps in Gaza (which Israel wanted to replace with permanent housing, but was prevented so as not to help solve the "refugee crisis" that provided the PLO's reason for existence), "in 1986, 95% of the Households in Gaza had running water and 100% had electricity (compared with 3 percent for water and 14% for electricity in 1974)."

--The percentage individual "with at least 9 years of education has risen from 22% in 1970 to 46% in 1986 in the West Bank, and from 32% to 54% in the Gaza Strip during the same period." Not noted in the paper I'm citing, all of the universities in the West Bank and Gaza were opened during the Israeli administration of the territories. There were none before that.

--As this source (hostile to Israel) acknowledges, as of 1993, per capita income in the Palestinian territories was higher than in Egypt (MUCH!) or Jordan, the countries that previously occupied Gaza and the West Bank, respectively. The logical conclusion from this is that if Israel had not won these territories in the Six Day War, the Arab population would have been much poorer.

And all this despite the fact that the Arab nations boycotting products made in the territories, cutting off local industry from its previous and natural export markets.

As the paper I cite above also points out, Israel made significant errors in its economic administration of the territories. This isn't surprising given that the residents of these territories had no voice in the Israeli government, and that the Israeli government severely mismanaged the Israeli economy itself during this period, resulting in, among other things, 400% inflation in the early 1980s. Also, economic growth slowed down in the territories considerably in the '80s, making it much more plausible to argue that the first intifada was in part the result of a "revolution of rising expectations," than a reaction to gradual impoverishment.

Way back when I was a college student, I took a class on the Arab-Israel conflict. My Israeli T.A., like most Israeli intellectuals, was highly sympathetic with the Palestinian cause, going so far as to justify PLO terrorism. I pointed out the huge rise in the Palestinian standard of living since 1967, and he responded along the lines of "do you think you can buy off nationalist sentiment with refrigerators and t.v.s? The Palestinians want their own country, and don't want to be occupied."

Fair enough. Man does not live by bread alone. But let's get our facts straight. The current wave of violence started in 1987, and has ebbed and flowed ever since, not because the Israelis impoverished the Palestinians, but despite the fact that the Palestinians became much wealthier under Israeli occupation, and despite the fact that it has been Fatah and Hamas violence, and Fatah corruption, that has impoverished the Palestinians since then.

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