Two sides of one coin.
Posted by Exile on June 16, 2006
Two stories caught my interest today. Both concern money and my favourite abberation: Palestine.
The BBC printed an article about the EU finally coming up with a plan to move 100m euros into Palestine to assist the people of Palestine, but not Hamas.
EU heads in Brussels have backed a plan to resume aid for Palestinians, frozen since a Hamas government took power.
It provides funding for healthcare, power supplies and support for poor families, while maintaining a funding freeze on the Hamas-led government.
EU spokeswoman Emma Udwin said it was considering an initial 100m euros (£86m), and wanted to have the funding mechanism operating by early July.
In a statement on the aid plan, the 25-member EU said it would contribute a “substantial amount” via an international mechanism bypassing Hamas.
The EU statement said the plan was drawn up in consultation with other members of the “Quartet” of Middle East peace brokers – the US, Russia and the UN.
All well and good. I still am not convinced that Hamas will not get something out of all of this but I am ready to accept the “good intentions” expressed by the EU money counters even if I don’t agree with them. I happen to think that there is an awful lot of money in Palestine that could be used on poor families, but never will be.
My other story, found in The Times of London, gives me reason to think that I am correct in this assumption.
The financial crisis enveloping the Hamas government escalated today when unpaid civil servants stormed parliament demanding wages and a minister was stopped at the border carrying $20 million cash in a suitcase.
Mahmoud al-Zahar, the Palestinian Foreign Minister, was stopped crossing into Gaza by presidential guards loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the rival Fatah party.
It was unclear whether he would be permitted to pass with the money: all sums above $2,000 must be declared and their provenance verified. Dr al-Zahar has visited Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, China, Pakistan, Iran and Egypt on a fundraising tour in recent weeks, although the source of the money was not confirmed.
20 million dollars in cash in a suitcase? From the most dubious sources imaginable. Now I don’t know about Ismail Haniyeh or Mahmud Abbas, but I could alleviate a whole lot of human suffering in Palestine with 20 million dollars. But that wasn’t the intention was it?
A final decision on whether to allow the cash into the territory rests with President Abbas, who is locked in disagreement with the elected parliament over his plans for a referendum on proposals for a Palestinian state which would recognise Israel.
Even if handed over, the money would cover only a fraction of the amount owed to public workers, more than 100,000 of whom have not been paid since international aid was cut off and bank accounts frozen when Hamas took power in March.
Ill feeling over the cash crisis exploded during a parliament session in Ramallah today, when dozens of workers burst into the chamber pelting members with water bottles and forcing the Speaker to flee the building.
“We are hungry. We are hungry,” the protesters screamed. “Haniyeh (the Hamas Prime Minister), go home!”
It might only cover a fraction of the wages owed by the PA, but it could have bought a whole lot of bread and cheese or put a lake of soup onto the streets of Palestine. It could have paid for a whole hospital or medicine for the sick.
But no. I think not. This money was doubtless earmarked for some other, and more ignoble, deed. Rockets cost money, and you need to pay the men who make and fire them. You must compensate the families of the terrorists who are justifiably killed by the IDF. War costs money. And you can’t pay them through the banks can you? That would be traceable, and taxable. NO, no. Cash on the coffin please. No matter who’s in it.
And that is why I don’t agree with the EU on this one. There are extreme amounts of cash available in Palestine. Money that we will never hear of or see unless it is discovered, as was this little package. More from The Times:
Meanwhile, Hamas has said that it has raised more than $60 million from international donors but has been unable to transfer it across the border. Last month, a Hamas official was caught as he tried to smuggle about $800,000 into Gaza.
The money was seized, but later returned to the government.
See what I mean?