Last Wednesday, Nigel Roberts, the World Bank's country director
for the West Bank and Gaza Strip held a press conference. His remarks
followed the London conference of the Palestinian 'stakeholders'
- or donors. The conference discussed the Palestinian Authority's
commitment to introduce wide sweeping reforms and the support that
they might obtain from the donors.
Everyone announced victory. The European sponsors showed how they
peddle the billions of their taxpayers' money, which has disappeared
into Palestinian corruption and violence, into 'influence'. The
Americans could declare that their war on terrorism was reaping
dividends. The Palestinians declared success - in the form of commitments
to cover most of the huge annual budgetary gap they claim they cannot
cover - without revising the PLO constitution which calls for wiping
Israel off the map, and without having to lift a finger to find
any of the missing billions. With this promise, the Palestinians
could be less concerned about US demands that they pick up the $500
million plus still owed to them by Arab countries, who have been
so reluctant to help their Palestinian brethren till now.
Nigel Roberts, the man who distributes the hundreds of millions
allocated by the west in direct aid to the Palestinian Authority
had some quite controversial things to say. Basically, he said that
any money given to the Palestinians before major changes were implemented
were being thrown down the same cesspool as the past billions. Under
the headline "Money cannot fix Palestinian woes before real
reform", the World Bank specifically said that international
aid will have little or no impact on Palestinian poverty. In the
past, foreign aid was accompanied by a slide in Palestinian living
conditions, brought about by Palestinian policies, violence and
This something that the Funding for Peace Coalition has been reading
between the lines of World Bank reports for a long time. But it
is the first time an official has contradicted popular folklore
so clearly and so publicly.
You would think that this was pretty big news. The World Bank says
that Europe is pouring its taxpayers' money down the Palestinian
drain. Despite this clear professional advice, the money keeps flowing.
So who is interested? The only two newspapers that seem to have
picked up the syndicated report were the Gulf Daily News of Bahrain
and 7days of the United Arab Emirates. Two countries "in arrears"
on their commitments to the Palestinian Arabs. The fact that the
mainstream western press is not interested in reflecting badly on
their politicians' patronage of the Palestinian Arabs speaks volumes
for their sympathies and their concern for the taxpaying readership.
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