Monday, August 25, 2008
EU aid to Palestine is funding the conflict
Telegraph. Co. UK
The EU is to increase its aid to the Palestinian Authority by €40 million, in order to pay the salaries of government employees. The first sympathy of any Eurocrat is, of course, always and everywhere with the public sector worker. If, in some bizarre parallel universe, the EU were to run out of money, you can bet its last euros would be spent on its own apparatchiks. Still, the EU's generosity with our money - it has paid the Palestinian Authority €256 million so far this year - creates two problems. First, the PA is run by Hamas, which is on the EU's list of designated terrorist operations. Under Brussels rules, funding such an organisation is a criminal offence. Euro-lawyers have sought to circumvent the letter of the law by funnelling aid money through NGOs, but this is sheer sophistry. Many of the PA's officials are Hamas militants, whose salaries are being paid while they serve their sentences in Israeli jails.
Second, it is becoming increasingly clear that overseas aid is arresting a political settlement in the region. (This goes equally for American subventions to Israel which, as Ron Paul argues, have sapped the enterprise of the Jewish state; but that's another story.) Palestinians receive more assistance, per capita, than any other people on Earth, and live in one of its most violent spaces. The two facts are connected.
The idea that aggression can be buried under a landslide of euros sounds reasonable, but it is based on a false premise, namely that political violence is caused by economic deprivation. This notion derives ultimately from Marx and, like many of his ideas, it looks plausible on the page, but turns out to be specious.
Most of the world's revolutions have taken place, not at times of rising poverty, but at times of rising wealth and aspirations. Put bluntly, people who are worried about food and shelter have little time to go on demos. It is when they have time to sit and brood that their thoughts turn to bloodshed.
A welfare state is thus the perfect terrorist habitat. Think of the two London Tube bombers who had been living on income support and housing benefit. Had this option been closed, perhaps they might have had to go out and get jobs, and so been too busy to work themselves into a suicidal rage.
Sean O'Callaghan, the former IRA volunteer, recalls talking to the republican leader Brian Keenan. "The Brits are very clever," Keenan told him. "The only thing they don't get is the Fenian thing. We speak their language, are the same skin colour, live in their council houses, take their dole and still hate them." Might it have been precisely because of the council houses and the dole that they hated us?
It doesn't have to be this way. Palestinians are a naturally enterprising people who, in other Arab states, often form the professional and administrative class. A capitalist Palestine, in which citizens looked to themselves rather than to the state, would be more stable. Its propertied classes would have a stake in civil order. Its businessmen would have an incentive to remain on cordial terms with their customers, including those in Israel.
None of this will happen, however, as long as Palestinians remain trapped in the squalor of dependency. The EU, in its well-intentioned but doltish way, is fuelling the conflict.