Ever since I was a college student, I always heard other Palestinians say, “The Palestinian revolution is the richest revolution in the world.” And yet we wondered with all the financial backing from foreign donors, why are we, the Palestinian people, among the poorest in the world?
The Arab Gulf states—both governments and people—have always acted in good faith and generously supported the Palestinian cause. The early 2000s were a time where Arab states donated monthly amounts of $45 million to the Palestinian Authority, sometimes more. Programs such as the UAE’s Red Crescent Society (RCS) and Kuwait’s Fund for Arab Economic Development have long been vital sources of humanitarian aid and development assistance for Palestinians. This generosity continues even today, with Saudi Arabia and Qatar having recently donated $200 million and $150 million, respectively, for infrastructure and debt relief in Palestine.
But where has all this money gone? What has the Palestinian leadership done with it?
Despite the ongoing foreign efforts to fund a prosperous Palestinian state, government corruption and embezzlement have made the Palestinian people the unfortunate subjects of the Palestinian Authority. Billions of dollars from around the world have been thrown into the West Bank and Gaza, only to be eaten up by the voracious greed of the PA. Between just 2008 and 2012, the EU reported a “loss” of aid transfers to Palestine that were valued around 2 billion Euros. All the while, the everyday Palestinian sees few new jobs—if at all, no new infrastructure, and no new signs of optimism.
The simple truth is that aid in this form is not working. So is there an alternative approach to funding the PA to no end? Is foreign direct investment in the people an option?
Over the next few weeks, I hope to articulate new methods of helping Palestine in a series of blog posts. Solutions where foreign investments take precedence over cash handouts. Where foreign work programs offer Palestinians new sources of income to send home. And where projects in education, health, and social development can empower Palestinians to begin building a more accountable government themselves.
These ideas are not excessively grandiose, nor are they completely unprecedented. But they are ideas that prove sinking large amounts of foreign aid is not the sole option. Only through new ways of thinking will the prosperity of the Palestinian people come to match the richness of their cause.
Photo by: Nicolas Raymond