THE DECEPTIVELY NAMED PEACE PROCESS recently got another boost from the French government. In June 2016, France organized a large international meeting in Paris where none of the participants proposed solutions for any of the critical issues relating to Palestine. In consequence, the meeting produced little besides more evidence of the utter impunity Israel enjoys, and the specter of yet another meaningless conclave in the autumn. At a moment when the international charade of pious intentions and meaningless gestures that goes by the name of the peace process may be about to recommence, it is appropriate that the Journal should devote its current issue to Palestinian economic development, arguably one more cruel hoax perpetrated on the Palestinian people given the conditions of unending colonization and occupation.
Four articles, by Linda Tabar, Adam Hanieh, Leila Farsakh, and Omar Jabary Salamanca, linked together by a thematic introduction by Raja Khalidi, highlight different aspects of the political economy of Palestine under occupation. They treat the ways in which humanitarian aid has served to reinforce the subjugation of Palestinians, and address the distortions pursuant to development under occupation, as well as the politics of international aid and the relation of Israeli settler colonialism to development (as seen in the road infrastructure of the occupied West Bank).
These articles closely examine the flawed assumptions about Palestinian political economy, which a generation of Palestinian and other intellectuals, academics, writers, and analysts held up as gospel for over a quarter century, starting in 1991. The launch of that stage of the grotesquely misnamed peace process was accompanied by the notion that the century-long conflict over Palestine was all but over, that peace was at hand, and that Palestinian self-determination and statehood were within reach. The corollaries included the idea that Zionism was simply a particular kind of national movement; that settler colonialism was no longer an issue; and that Israel could be a “partner” of the Palestinians, to reprise the perverse rhetoric of the era. This way of thinking promoted the normalization of Zionism, settler colonialism, and the State of Israel, all of which were consequently regarded as neutral phenomena in terms of Palestinian development prospects.
The sledgehammer of reality—notably the growth in the number of settlers over the course of a quarter century from two hundred thousand to over six hundred thousand, and with it the intensification of military occupation and land appropriation—eventually shattered the greenhouse of illusion in which this generation of scholars and so-called experts had ensconced themselves. Palestinians and others increasingly realized that the development approaches of the Palestinian Authority, adopted at the prodding of foreign donors and its own neoliberal ideologues, had in fact added to the weight of the chains of dependency and occupation borne by the Palestinian people. And it became clear that partly in consequence of these approaches, peace and Palestinian liberation, far from being at hand, were more elusive than ever.
This cluster of contributions represents a turning away from such approaches and a salutary recognition of their bankruptcy. Beyond analyzing the flaws involved, the four authors lay out alternative ways of thinking about political economy, all of which emphasize that Palestinian economic development can only occur if it encompasses liberation, which was a foundational notion of Palestine’s preeminent and pioneering development economist, the late Yusif Sayigh. As the thematic introduction suggests, now that these accomplished critiques have discredited the neoliberal development paradigm, the time has come for fashioning an approach that aids Palestinians to resist and eventually overcome the oppression they suffer from, and not simply to understand it.
Rashid I. Khalidi