The Role Of World Bank
By Jamal Juma
08 June, 2007
the violent occupation of Iraq, the US is laying the foundations to
further open the economy of the Middle East for their corporate interests.
Countries once protected by oil revenues are lining up to sign bilateral
agreements leading to a Middle East Free Trade Agreement. MEFTA would
impose free market policies that have enslaved other regions of the
global south to global capital. In Palestine, the World Bank has played
a key role in facilitating the cooperation of global capital and occupation.
In Palestine, international
powers are eager to implement plans to use the apartheid apparatus of
the Israeli occupation—particularly the infrastructure created
by the Apartheid Wall—for the establishment of industrial zones,
guaranteeing economic dependency and exploitation of Palestinian communities
on top of the occupation control.
The Apartheid Wall is a devastating
extension and acceleration of occupation policies, designed to annex
nearly half of West Bank lands and imprison the remaining population
within 12 percent of historical Palestine. The Wall to date has destroyed
thousands of dunums (4 dunums are equivalent to one acre) of land, uprooted
olive trees, displaced families and communities, and separated Palestinians
from their land and other Palestinians. Despite the 2004 International
Court of Justice (ICJ) decision, which took up the Palestinian call
that the Wall must be torn down and affected communities compensated—the
construction of the Wall has only accelerated in the last year.
Global bodies have only increased
their support for the Wall and occupation policies over the last year.
The G-8 controlled World Bank has outlined the framework for this policy
in their most recent report on Palestine published in December of 2004,
Stagnation or Revival: Israeli Disengagement and Palestinian Economic
In the report, the World
Bank adopts the occupation’s strategically misleading terminology
for the Wall, referring to it and its connected infrastructure as a
“security fence” or “separation barrier.” This
move by the World Bank seeks to legitimize the confiscation of Palestinian
lands and obscures the reality on the ground in which 80 percent of
the Wall’s destructive path deviates from the 1967 Armistice Line,
separating Palestinians from other Palestinians, their capital Jerusalem,
land, and essential sources of livelihood.
The World Bank’s vision
of “economic development” evades any discussion of the illegality
of the Wall, the occupation, and the right of return for Palestinian
refugees. To the contrary it takes Israeli “facts on the ground”
as given scenarios and lays the foundations for the economic sustainability
of the Palestinian ghettos created by the Wall. The World Bank thinks
they can circumvent ICJ concerns if it is justified as a humanitarian
Central to the vision of
the World Bank for a thriving and successful Palestinian “state”
is the development of an export-orientated economy in which Palestinian
dispossessed farmers are exploited as cheap labor and dominated by markets
and free trade. Israeli and World Bank interests merge to destroy local
forms of trade, sustainable patterns of agricultural production, and
existing social structures.
the core sector of the Palestinian economy, is barely mentioned in the
report, presumably because the World Bank realizes that Palestinians
will be left with no land. The only mention of a future for agriculture
in areas of Gaza focus on the use of land for export-oriented production,
not local sustainability and consumption.
Central to World Bank proposals
are the construction of massive industrial zones to be financed by the
World Bank and other donors and controlled by the Israeli Occupation.
These are envisaged as forming the basis of economic “development”
built on Palestinian land around the Wall. Previous initiatives in the
Gaza Strip are being used as the “catalyst” and model for
the way in which Palestinians imprisoned by the Wall can be put to work
in industrial zones.
International Financing Institutions
are proposing a series of new or revitalized industrial zones. Primary
among these are the “Green Line” zones which would be located
in areas close to or on the Green Line, including sites close to Jenin,
Tarkumiya and Rafah which already have backing with several European
and US firms. The gates built on the 20 percent of the Wall that fall
on the Green Line are integral to World Bank plans as the existing gates
will facilitate their ability to fund high-tech checkpoints for the
transport of goods and control of people with fewer legal barriers stemming
from the ICJ decision. Further industrial parks are planned in “Seam
Zones” in Palestinian land isolated behind the Apartheid Wall
and the Green Line. Given that 80 percent of the Wall deviates from
the Green Line, there is scope for various projects on isolated land
confiscated by the Israeli Occupation.
One location highlighted
in the Bank’s report is the so-called Tulkarm Peace Park where
construction is already underway. Construction has involved using around
600 dunums of land from the villages of Irtah and Farun that have been
confiscated by the Wall.
The industrial zones are
designed to serve the needs of the industry markets of Israel, whether
by doing the most environmentally destructive production in Palestinian
areas or by providing cheap labor. Additionally these zones would benefit
the Israeli Occupation abroad where goods “Made in Palestine”
have more favorable trade conditions in international markets.
And while the Israeli Occupation
plans to stop issuing work permits in 2008 cutting about 30,000 Palestinian
jobs (adding to the potential labor force in industrial zones), the
World Bank as part of the overall economic plan encourages the issuing
of some permits so the Occupation economy can further profit from Palestinians.
Through the Apartheid Wall,
the occupation and international financing institutions aim to cement
several realities into the future of Palestinian people. Primary among
these is the long-term sustainability of the ghettoization of Palestinians.
This post-Wall vision includes
complete control over Palestinian movement. The report proposes high-tech
military gates and checkpoints, through which Palestinians and exports
can be conveniently transported and controlled. This will be supplemented
with a “transfer system” of walled roads and tunnels to
funnel Palestinian workers to their jobs, while simultaneously denying
them access to their land around them that lies outside the Bantustans
created by the Wall.
The World Bank places these
conditions of imprisonment within a scenario of exploitation of the
workers who will be channeled through the Occupation control system.
Sweatshops will be one of the only possibilities for earning a living
for the Palestinians left in the disparate Bantustans throughout the
West Bank. The World Bank states:
“In an improved operating
environment, Palestinian entrepreneurs and foreign investors will look
for well-serviced industrial land and supporting infrastructure. They
will also seek a regulatory regime with a minimum of ‘red tape’
and with clear procedures for conducting business. Industrial Estates
(IEs), particularly those on the border between Palestinian and Israeli
territory, can fulfill this need and thereby play an important role
in supporting export based growth.”
The “red tape”
which the World Bank refers to can be presumed to mean trade unions,
a minimum wage, good working conditions, environmental protection and
other workers’ rights that will be more flexible than the ones
in the “developed” world. The World Bank explicitly states
that current wages of Palestinians are too high for the region and “compromise
the international competitiveness” even though wages compromise
only a quarter of the average in Israel. On top of a military occupation
and forced expulsion, Palestinians are to be subjects of an economic
colonialism common throughout the Southern hemisphere for inflicting
poverty and misery.
The governments of the G-8
have shown vivid interest in this project of displacement, imprisonment,
and oppression of Palestinian communities under the pretense of development
and humanitarian aid. In breach of the ICJ ruling, the US has already
contributed $50 million to construct gates within these prisons to “help”
serve the needs of Palestinians. Perhaps even more disturbing is the
normalization of such brutal schemes within the programs of donors (such
as USAID), who implement politically motivated projects under the rubric
of humanitarian assistance.
The World Bank, alongside
the US and significant portions of the international community, are
using the Palestinian Authority (PA) as an institution through which
these policies can be implemented and an “attractive environment
for investors” created. The PA is given the role of prison guard,
preventing the Palestinian people from defending their lands and rights.
The responsibility of the PA towards the Palestinian people necessitates
that it stands up against these projects—not by “modifying”
or “only partially backing” them, but by completely opposing
Right to exist
The industrial zones and
Bantustans are not new ideas; they are reminiscent of the economic models
of racial capital promoted by apartheid South Africa in Bantustans like
the Ciskei and Bophuthatswana. They reflect the World Bank’s conscious
choice to support the needs and vision of the Occupation which entails
the destruction of the Palestinian nation. While espousing the politics
of free markets and free trade, the World Bank is not interested in
the creation of a free people. Quite the opposite—its interests
are best served by keeping Palestinians in economic enslavement.
The failure of the international
community and financial institutions to work towards the implementation
of the ICJ decision to tear down the Wall and to ensure the respect
of Palestinian rights has come at an enormous human cost. And yet, against
this bleak and overwhelming reality, Palestinian communities are actively
defending their right to exist. Palestinians are implementing the ICJ
decision with their own hands, where in villages like Bil`in, the Wall’s
cement foundations were physically dismantled in active resistance.
Villages are mobilizing regular
demonstrations against the construction of the Wall in the midst of
violent reprisals by the Occupation Forces and continue to direct their
protest beyond these imprisoned boundaries, towards the international
community at large. As history illustrates repeatedly, attempted pacification
of resistance to Occupation will always be thwarted by a people’s
unrelenting will for self-determination.
Now more than ever it is
crucial that movements step up efforts to isolate the Israeli Apartheid
and support Palestinians in their struggle for their land. It is important
to be prepared to resist new assaults masked in the guise of “development”
and “aid” and stand behind the uncompromising demands of
a Palestinian led movement—not for comfortable ghettos or colorful
walls but liberation and justice.
is Campaign Coordinator for the Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid
Wall Campaign (www.stopthewall.org).
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