Thursday, July 26, 2012

Investment without Divestment Entrenches Occupation

When the Presbyterian Church USA passed a resolution earlier this month encouraging "positive investment" in the Palestinian economy instead of divesting from Caterpillar, HP, and Motorola Solutions for profiting from Israel's military occupation, it highlighted a continued major flaw in thinking about how to end Israel's military occupation. 

The idea that economic development alone can help bring about peace may have gained traction a few years ago when the Palestinian Authority and its supporters were boasting of the various state development projects taking place in the West Bank. But as Palestinian-American business development consultant Sam Bahour points out in his piece "Palestine's Investments Require Divestment," today various international organizations including the World Bank and International Monetary Fund admit that Israeli control over all aspects of Palestinian life severely restricts economic development. "Over the years, not only has Israel prohibited the emergence of a new Palestinian economy -- it structurally and systematically has made certain that even the buds of such a productive economy would never see the light of day," he writes. 

The idea of an economic peace, which Bibi Netanyahu insisted back in 2008 would help make a political solution more accessible, seems even more ludicrous today. Settlements continue to expand and an Israeli-government appointed commission recently declared that Israel’s presence in the West Bank is actually not occupation. About 85 percent of the apartheid wall, which Israel started constructing ten years ago, will be within the West Bank when it is completed, annexing 530 sq km of Palestinian land- the area of Chicago- and trapping 350,000 Palestinians between it and the Green Line. And the blockade on Gaza continues, keeping 1.4 million Palestinians entrapped in an open-air prison.

The Presbyterian Church and others can continue investing in Palestine, but without pressure on Israel to end the occupation, no amount of investment will actually bring peace and justice. "After all, we don't want a more beautiful prison to live in," Sam writes. "We want the prison walls dividing Palestinians from Palestinians to come down, and that won't happen unless economic pressure is placed on Israel to end the occupation."