Friday, December 25, 2009

Can they give Britain a loan, please?


by  Melanie Phillips


The choir of Clare College, Cambridge and its pro-'Palestinian' conductor are reported to have cancelled a planned performance in 'east' Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria because they are also performing in Israel.


The Palestine Solidarity Campaign wrote a letter, signed by more than 200 people, asking that the choir cancel its tour of Israel or risk, in their words, 'appearing indifferent to Palestinian suffering'. As a result, the PA asked the Bishop of Jerusalem to withdraw the invitation for the choir to sing in East Jerusalem and Bethlehem.


Betty Hunter, the general secretary of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, says that desire to travel to the West Bank does not excuse the choir's tour of Israel. That tour, she says, is 'surprising and shocking' - something which, in her words, 'promotes Israel as a normal state rather than one which represses Palestinians'.


Is that so.  Here is the parlous state of the Palestinians of the West Bank:

For the time being, International Monetary Fund officials say economic growth in the West Bank could reach as much as 7 percent in 2009 if Israel continues to relax restrictions, notably the removal of roadblocks.


Here is more evidence of the appalling conditions the Palestinians are suffering:

The economic situation in the West Bank has improved steadily since 2007 in every area, Leibovich pointed out. Here are some of the numbers:


           As security has been strengthened in the West Bank and suicide bombings have virtually disappeared -- thanks overwhelmingly to Israel's much criticized security fence -- the tourism industry in the Palestinian areas has rebounded nicely. The city of Bethlehem saw 1 million tourists in 2008, an increase of 500,000 from the previous year. The city of Jericho saw 500,000 tourists in '08, an increase of over 100,000 from 2007. To put it in perspective, the entire state of Israel had 1 million tourists in 2008.


           The unemployment rate in the West Bank in 2002 was a whopping 31 %. This was during the second Intifada, when Palestinian terrorism was at its peak, and the Israeli security fence had not yet been erected. Today, that unemployment rate stands at 15 %. To put it in context, Israel's unemployment rate right now is at 9%, and the U.S. rate is hovering around 10 %. In the longtime West Bank terror hotbed of Nablus, which has now become an unlikely shopping destination, unemployment has dropped all the way down to 6 %.


           229,000 trucks passed between Israel and the West Bank in the first half of 2009, a 41 % increase from 2008. This has helped lead to a 29 % increase in fuel deliveries to the West Bank between '08 and '09.


           In 2008, there were just over 2,000 cars imported into the West Bank. In the first half of 2009, there were 5,472. There has also been an 18% increase in imported cement, from 466,000 tons in 2007 all the way up to 611,000 tons so far in '09.


           The number of employment permits that would allow Palestinians to work inside Israel has more than doubled, to almost 661,000, since 2006. Overnight stays for Palestinian employees have increased significantly, and the Allenby Bridge on the Israel-Jordan border is now open 24 hours a day. This helps facilitate the movement of goods to and from the West Bank.


           Since 2007, some 170 roadblocks and checkpoints have been dismantled. You can now drive from Jerusalem to the West Bank city of Hebron (site of the Tomb of the Patriarchs, which is the second holiest site in Judaism) in 40 minutes and not hit one checkpoint.


           There are even plans to build a new city, called Roabi, near Ramallah in the West Bank. The city would be designed to attract young, educated professionals.

And here is yet more evidence of the Palestinians' agony:


         Growth continues in the West Bank. Fayyad recently addressed the growth of 8% or more that is projected for 2009. In an interview with the New York Times on November 11, Quartet emissary Blair anticipated that the Palestinian economy might reach a double-digit growth rate in 2009.


         The second cellular company in the West Bank, Wataniya, commenced operations at the beginning of November with 3.8 MHz and 40,000 subscribers. According to various publications, the company is expected to bring investments estimated at about $700 million into the West Bank, and to bring revenues of $354 million into the treasury of the Palestinian Authority, while providing thousands of jobs.


         Stock market: A 12.5% rise since the beginning of the year.


         Foreign investments in the West Bank: A six-fold increase (!) compared with the corresponding period last year, as a result of the economic conferences that were held in Bethlehem and Nablus, and of the improved security in the area (this figure was provided by the Palestinians and the Joint Economic Conference held on September 2).


         Truck traffic between Israel and Judea and Samaria: A 41% increase in the first half of 2009 compared with the corresponding period last year. There was a 22% increase in the crossing of goods into the Gaza Strip between September and October, and an additional 14% increase from October to November (source of data: COGAT).


         Palestinian sales to Israel: From 2007 to 2008 there was a 6.8% increase, from $530 million to $566 million. In the first quarter of 2009, there was an 8% increase, from $136 million to $147 million (source: Central Bureau of Statistics).


         Palestinian purchases from Israel: From 2007 to 2008 there was a 25% increase, from $2.6 billion to $3.25 billion. In the first quarter of 2009, there was a decrease of 9.5% compared with the corresponding quarter in 2008, from $796 million to $720 million (source: Central Bureau of Statistics).


         General Palestinian foreign trade (including with Israel): Imports in 2008 totaled $3.7 billion, of which 72% was from Israel. This is a 20% increase compared with 2007. Imports in 2008 increased by 3%, and reached $529 million. The PA's total trade in 2008 was $4.3 billion - a 17% increase compared with 2007.


Need I go on? I'm sure we'll all agree that this unremitting picture of wretchedness, destitution and sheer hopelessness (the photograph above is of a shopping mall in Jenin) is just too painful to absorb.


Melanie Phillips

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


1 comment:

Salubrius said...

Try this link to a Palestinian Mall which shows a cornucopia of food and other goods available to those "poor starving Palestinians".

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