The ILO issued a deeply flawed, misleading and misrepresentative report on the Palestinian territories.
Last month, at the 103rd session of the International Labour Conference, the International Labour Organization (ILO), the UN agency dealing with labor issues, presented their 2014 report on “The situation of workers of the occupied Arab territories.” The report, however, is deeply flawed, misleading and misrepresentative of realities on the ground.
The report puts sole responsibility for the economic hardships, poor working conditions, stalled growth and deteriorating markets of the Palestinian’s economy on the Israeli “occupation.” The report echoes the President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas, who proclaims, with simplicity, “The economic situation is really difficult, and the main reason is the Israeli occupation.”
- The ILO report holds only one party responsible for “Barriers to economic development in the West Bank” — Israel.
- The report blames Israel for the “Deepening of Gaza’s six-year siege [which] paralyses [the] economy.”
- In a section titled “Rising tensions and violence,” the report discusses in depth violence against Palestinians throughout the West bank. This includes discussions of:
- “Violent acts and intimidation by Israeli settlers against Palestinians and their property.”
- “Serious concerns are being expressed that occupation and settler activity is leading to a dangerous culture of impunity.”
- “In addition to settler violence, there is a worrying trend of violence linked to confrontations between Israeli armed forces and Palestinians.”
- “A recent United Nations report notes that Israeli settlement-related activities and settler violence are at the core of most of the violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the right to freedom of movement, work, health, education, housing and an adequate standard of living (UN, 2014b).”
However, the ILO does not present the whole and honest truth and instead submits a careless and sloppy work that is seemingly offered as part of the habitual castigation of the State of Israel.
- IGNORING CORRUPTION OF THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY IN THE WEST BANK: While the report places the blame on Israel for Palestinian’s economic woes, outside observers find that corruption plays a pivotal role in Palestinian struggles. Last year, Britain’s Sunday Times reported that “Billions of euros in European aid to the Palestinians may have been misspent, squandered or lost to corruption, according to a damning report by the European Court of Auditors, the Luxembourg-based watchdog.” The auditors found that the Palestinian Authority wasted almost €2 billion ($2.7 billion) in European aid. Additionally, the Palestinian Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC), has received 65 corruption cases regarding Palestinian misconduct and notes that the commission is currently investigating several senior officials in the Palestinian Authority. There are also disturbing reports of misuses of international aid to the Palestinian Authority.
- IGNORING CORRUPTION OF HAMAS IN GAZA: The ILO, which places blame on Israel for the faltering economy in Gaza, makes no mention of Hamas throughout their entire report. Instead, what solution did the report provide for fixing the Palestinian economy? “Ultimately, the blockade must be lifted.” Hamas — a group many governments have designated as a terrorist organization — remains a corrupt institution which has a chokehold on the Palestinian economy. Reports of Hamas corruption include accusations of graft and other illicit activities, including embezzlement of funds, purchases of exorbitant sports cars, looting of public resources and outright theft. This includes accusations from the Palestinian Authority Minister for Religious Endowment Mahmoud Habbash that Hamas has stolen “800 million dollars from the poor, through front companies for investments.” Even more disturbing are United Nation’s reports that Hamas has directly stolen UN aid. Hamas irked the ire of the UN after it raided 100 aid trucks entering the Gaza strip and sold the contents to “the highest bidders,” and then, on two separate days, it stole truckloads of goods from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in the Gaza Strip. The UN was thus prompted to halt all aid to the Gaza Strip, before reinstating it a few days later. A few weeks prior, in a separate incident, Jordanian authorities confirmed that Hamas seized 12 trucks full of Jordanian humanitarian aid.
- IGNORING PALESTINIAN TERROR: Although the report does not shy away from asserting that there is “increased settler violence” in the West Bank, it refuses to explicitly mention any violence committed by Palestinians against Israeli civilians. The report additionally does not mention Palestinian extremism or terrorism. While the report is highly critical of the Israeli blockade, the report neglects to mention that the reason Israel maintains a blockade on the Gaza Strip is because thousands of rockets and mortars have been fired into Israel directly targeting, injuring and killing Israeli civilians.
- IGNORING ISRAELI EFFORTS TO IMPROVE PALESTINIAN ECONOMY: The report remains silent on Israeli efforts to aid and assist in the improvement of the Palestinian economy. These efforts range from small scale efforts to large scale initiatives. For example, in order to ameliorate the Palestinian economy, Israel has lifted restrictions on importing most building materials to Gaza, increased the gas and fuel imports into Gaza, expanded the number of work permits issued to West Bank residents and opened several border crossings — including the opening of the Kerem Shalom crossing in Gaza. There has been international praise for the larger efforts of the Israeli government in reaching out and working with Palestinian authorities including from the World Bank and the EU. Currently, commerce between Israelis and Palestinians is estimated at $20 billion USD annually and the International Chamber of Commerce and the Quartet have recently taken initiatives to strengthen economic relations between the two. Most notably is the Initative for the Palestinian Economy (IPE), which is led by Quartet Representative Tony Blair. The Quartet states that the ultimate goal of the initiative is to continue to lead Palestinians on a path of growth and development — something the current Palestinian leadership has failed to do.
Ultimately, the facts show that the ILO presents a slanted and partial view of the economic situation of the Palestinians and disregards substantial truths, data and information. While the ILO is quick and thorough in scrutinizing, criticizing and exaggerating Israeli actions and inactions, it remains quiet on the Palestinian responsibility for their own failures and lack of success.