Saturday, July 26, 2008

The 86th Anniversary of the "Mandate for Palestine"

By Eli E. Hertz

86 years ago - on July 24, 1922, the League of Nations (equivalent to today's UN) published the historical document "Mandate for Palestine" that laid down the Jewish legal right to settle anywhere in western Palestine - the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, an entitlement unaltered in international law.

The "Mandate for Palestine" was not a naive vision briefly embraced by the international community. Fifty-one member countries - the entire League of Nations - unanimously declared on July 24, 1922:

"Whereas recognition has been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country."

It is important to note that political rights to self-determination as a polity for Arabs were guaranteed by the same League of Nations in four other mandates - in Lebanon and Syria [The French Mandate], Iraq, and later Trans-Jordan [The British Mandate].

Any attempt to negate the Jewish people's right to Palestine - Eretz-Israel, and to deny them access and control in the area designated as the Jewish National Home by the League of Nations is a serious infringement of international law.

Those claiming that Jewish settlements in the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea are illegally occupied, should answer just one simple question: In 1922 Jewish settlements were perfectly legal - What has changed?

Eli E. Hertz

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

 

Do Palestinians Deserve Statehood? Part I

 

By  Eli E. Hertz

1st part of 4

Links and footnotes in part 4

 

 A case in point - In the eyes of the European Union, the quality of life of its citizens is much more sacred than the security and well being of Israelis.

European yardsticks for Turkey, a peaceful country, joining the EU – demand [of Turkey] far-reaching political and social reform “on the ground”, and 10 to 15 years of negotiations while Turks prove democratic change is “irreversible.”

European yardsticks for Palestinians, a hostile society, joining the Family of Nations - amounts to praise for fabricated non-existent reforms and calls to drop the required incremental progress from the Road Map. End to violence and democratic reform, that Palestinians haven’t even begun is tolerable – all in order to forge the way for immediate establishment of a Palestinian state, one which will endanger the very survival of a free and democratic Israel.

The historic decision of the European Commission in mid-December 2004 that Turkey is now ready to begin full negotiations on joining the European Union is an excellent opportunity to benchmark the way Europeans judge Turks, and how they judge Palestinians.

Keep in mind the goals and the ramifications of each: The Turks’ goal is membership in the European Union – a political union that the Europeans already say will have an iron-clad reversibility clause for Turkey if it fails to live up to its promises. The Palestinians’ goal[1][1] is sovereignty as a State – status for which there is no reversibility mechanism if Palestine turns into a rogue state. Logically, the yardsticks of judging readiness should be at least equal, if not more stringent for Palestinians, a society that consciously and purposely sacrifices its own youth for political gain and tactical advantage, with a leadership that champions suicide bombers. 

Alas, nothing could be farther from the truth.

The Ultimatum to Turkey: Become European in word and deed

For 40 years – since 1963, Turkey has knocked at Europe’s door requesting membership in the EU. The Europeans, however, have been in no rush to invite a Muslim country into their midst, even if it is the most westernized and most democratic Muslim country in the Middle East. Although Turkey is already a strategic partner in NATO and some 2.5 million of its citizens are peaceful and productive immigrants/guest workers in Europe, these facts seem not to persuade the European. Only in 1999, 36 years later, was Turkey accepted as a candidate, with no timeframe for actual negotiations. At the close of 2004,  after five years of far-reaching Turkish constitutional and legal reform, the EU concluded that Turkey had reached a point where negotiations could even commence “under certain conditions.”[1][2] But it is far too premature to break out the Champagne.

Negotiations are expected to take ten to fifteen years, and even then “the outcome is not a foregone conclusion,”[1][3] declared Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission.

Turkey must ‘walk the walk.’ To be more precise, it must meet the EU challenge over which there is no negotiation: ‘Become European’ in thought and deed. The Recommendation states that membership negotiations are conditional to fundamental reform not only on the declarative-structural level, but also regarding realities “on the ground.” Implementation must be “sustainable” and “irreversibility” and reforms must be “confirmed over a longer period of time.” Europeans intends to “continue to monitor” the process and examine it under a microscope every inch of the way.[1][4]

The first yardstick for progress is to meet the Copenhagen Political Criteria adopted in June 1993 by the EU, which states:[1][5]

Membership criteria require that the candidate country must have achieved stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, rule of law, human rights, and respect for and protection of minorities.” 

Olli Rehn, the member of the European Commission responsible for EU Enlargement, made it clear in an address to the European Parliament that there are no ‘discounts’ for Turkey.  

“… These criteria, the fundamental values on which the European Union is based, are not subject to negotiation” and [there will be] “a suspension mechanism in case of serious and persistent breach of democratic principles.”[1][6]

The fundamental freedoms Rehn cites include “women’s rights trade union rights, minority rights and problems faced by non-Muslim religious communities” and “consolidation and broadening” of legal reforms including “alignment of law enforcement and judicial practice with the spirit of the reforms” and a host of other demands. In fact, Europe demands a complete ‘makeover,’ from women’s rights to recycling of trash.[1][7]

If this wasn’t clear enough, President Prodi told the European Parliament the breadth and the tempo negotiations should take:

“We must take the time needed to make sure that all the important reforms adopted become day-to-day reality for Turkish citizens, both men and women.  And we must also tell our Turkish partners clearly and calming that any breakdown in this program towards democracy, human rights, fundamental rights and the rule of law as practiced in the European Union will automatically bring negotiations to a halt.”[1][8] [emphasis, the author’s]

To what degree Turkey has complied or not complied is presented in the minutely-detailed 187-page 2004 Regular Report on Turkey’s progress towards accession,[1][9] released in Brussels in October 2004 in preparation for the vote. “Nothing has been concealed, covered up or distorted, neither the positive nor the negative aspects,” stressed Prodi in his presentation.[1][10] The report seems to be both studious and frank. The judicial system quite naturally, was scrutinized in detail. 

Compliance included making the domestic legal system subservient to a series of overarching EU conventions and courts; rewriting the entire Penal Code. Adopting 261 new laws between October 2003 and July 2004 alone, including abolishing capital punishment; and totally revamping the structure of the courts from abolishment of security courts down to reducing case loads in lower courts, setting new criteria for judgeships and even mandating salary scales of junior magistrates, and providing legal aid.

All this said and done, Enlargement chief Rehn nevertheless underscored:

“These laws cannot yet be considered a reality on the ground; we will need to see how they are implemented.”[1][11] [emphasis in the original]

In contrast with all the other candidate nations – all of them 'European-Christian' countries - Turkey is the only nation whose timeframe for ascendancy is extended and open-ended, with no assurance of acceptance even if it meets every EU dictate. Furthermore, demands have been voiced that any future vote on Turkey’s membership be preceded by referenda in individual countries,[1][12] another unprecedented hurdle. Some parties have already backtracked, such as the Christian Democrat Party in Germany, which suggested blocking full access with a special category of “privileged partnership” for Turkey.[1][13]

This paper benchmarks EU demands of both Turks and Palestinians on a number of key issues. 

Benchmarking strides towards European-style civic society: Turkish society vs. Palestinian society

During four of the five years that Turkey’s very eligibility to sit at the negotiating table with Europeans was being weighed on the basis of whether Turkey met demands for sweeping reforms of its political and legal structure, coupled with European demands that all Turks acculturate themselves to European standards and values – in word and deed.

Palestinian leadership walked away from Final Status talks at Camp David (July 2000) and launched a systematic onslaught of suicide bombers and other terrorist attacks against their negotiating partner which continues – albeit with less success – to this very day. Suicide bombings are a ‘a highly communitarian enterprise’ because they depend on a strong institutional dimension, that are initiated by tightly run organizations that recruit, indoctrinate, train and promise to reward perpetrators and their families – in terms of material gains and enhanced social status in the community-at-large.[1][14] Perpetrators come from all levels of society, and support among rank-and-file Palestinians for such crimes against civilians – equal per capita to fourteen 9/11s – peaked in December 2001 at 86%. Such acts continue to enjoy the support of a solid majority of Palestinians in all walks of life, with 77% supporting a double bus bombing in Beersheva in September 2004.[1][15] 

Palestinian society itself lacks any semblance of internal ‘rule of law’ or civic society.  Palestinian human rights organizations report domestic violence and clan vendettas have intensified, and extortion, gang rule and general misuse of power at all levels have become an enduring feature of Palestinian society since self-rule was established a decade ago. The chief human rights group within the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group (PHRMG), labeled this phenomenon “an Intra’fada.”[1][16]

These ‘realities on the ground’ – hardly consonant with European standards demanded of Turkey -- are totally ignored by the EU in their effort to advance immediate Palestinian statehood, come hell or high water.  A concrete example is enlightening.

 

 Eli E. Hertz

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

Do Palestinians Deserve Statehood? Part II

 

By  Eli E. Hertz

2nd part of 4

Links and footnotes in part 4

Benchmarking EU’s attitudes towards ‘Honor Crimes’: Turkey vs. the Palestinian Authority

Attitudes towards ‘honor killings’ are illustrative of the gross disparity between the treatment of Turks and Palestinians by the EU.

Under directives from Europe, Turkish ‘honor killings’, where men kill women family members for real or imagined sexual indiscretions to‘save family honor’, have been made a felony carrying a mandatory life sentence.[1][17] This is instead of the lighter sentences for “extenuating circumstances” meted out by sympathetic Turkish and other judges common in the Middle East. Under the original Turkish Penal Code,[1][18] “severe provocation is cited as a mitigating circumstance” in cases of ‘honor crimes,’ with provisions for reducing punishment to one-eighth of the original sentence.   Human rights activists reported that this allowed Turkish courts to “reduce a life term to fifteen years,” adding that in practice due to the age of the perpetrator,[1][19] time off for good behavior and so forth, punishment is often whittled down to six years in jail.

In the summary of compliance with the Copenhagen Political Criteria, the EU’s 2004 Regular Report on Turkey concluded:[1][20]

“Significant progress had been achieved in aligning the overall framework for the exercise of fundamental freedoms with European standards.  The principle of equality of men and women has been strengthened and provisions allowing reduced sentences for so-called ‘honour killings’ have been removed.”

But for the EU, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. While the report recognized that “crimes against life that are motivated by ‘tradition and customs’ had been made much more severe,”[1][21]  and praised “…the Diyanet[1][22] instruct[ing] imams and preachers to speak out against ‘honour killings’ during the Friday prayers,” the Report asserts that this is not enough.[1][23]

“…the situation of women is still unsatisfactory:  discrimination and violence against women, including ‘honour killings’ remains a major problem.”

The Report states frankly that “sustained efforts will be required to ensure that women take an equal place in society.”

What about Palestinians?

As early as August 2002 the PHRMG published a special report[1][24] on “honor killings” among Palestinians, charging that there is a “wide scope of the phenomena in the Palestinian society” and warning that “the law is absent – or neglected in [honor crimes].”  The Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC) charged in an investigation of cover-ups of murders[1][25] that “as a whole, the judicial system conspires against victims.”[1][26]  Between 1996-1998 there were 234 cases of women having died, of which 177 files were closed with the cause of death having been ascribed to “fate.” Despite these two damning reports, as well as other similar accounts as recently as April 2004,[1][27] there is no mention of ‘honor killings’ or women’s rights in general in the EU’s discussion of reform in the PA. Nor are human rights violations by the Palestinian Authority against its own people discussed in the EU’s annual reports on human rights. Other countries are cited: Pakistan, for instance, is censured for ‘honour killings.’ The only behavior of the Palestinian Authority towards its own citizens that was raised was to “question the death penalty.” In sharp contrast, the report noted that the EU had introduced numerous condemnations of Israel in the UN Commission on Human Rights for violations of Palestinian human rights.[1][28] 

Even more ‘basic’ reforms such as establishing ‘rule of law’ in the machinery of Palestinian self-rule are subject to a ‘double standard’ between Turks and Palestinians when it comes to benchmarking compliance.

Benchmarking EU devotion to performance-based progress: Turkey vs. Palestinians

Like Turkey’s appeal for EU membership, realization of Palestinian aspirations was supposed to be performance-based.  The timetable embedded in the Oslo Accords for establishment of limited Palestinian self-determination – internal self-rule[1][29] -- was five years (envisioned to be consummated in 1999). The Oslo Process hinged on the Palestinian leadership abandoning armed struggle and negotiating an end to the conflict, and establishing the infrastructure for enlightened self-rule. This proviso was never met.  The latest scheme – the three-phase Road Map[1][30] adopted by the Quartet[1][31]  in May 2003 – speaks of full independence for Palestinians within three years (envisioned by 2005).  Stage II, which supported establishment of an independent Palestinian state with provisional borders and attributes of sovereignty within a 6 month period (!) hinged on compliance with Stage I, which demands “unconditional stoppage of violence” and steps towards comprehensive reform of the Palestinian Authority.

How has the EU benchmarked the reform progress among Palestinians?

In the four years since the outbreak of the second Intifada (October 2000), Palestinians have failed to comply with repeated pleas and pressure from the international community to stop the violence, beyond empty declarations of intent. This includes not only appeals from American and Arab leaders,[1][32]  but also the Europeans themselves. In early April 2003, while on a state visit to Israel, including a meeting with Arafat, German foreign minister Joschke Fischer said there were some 30 European diplomats who wished to meet with Arafat, including the EU’s Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana, assuming they could cajole or pressure Arafat into reining in terrorist groups and reforming the Palestinian Authority.[1][33] The amount of ‘good behavior time’ (i.e. no terrorist attacks) required prior to resumption of negotiations was gradually lowered from six months to one week – but to no avail. Palestinians failed to honor these most basic commitments: (1) to abandon terrorism and their goal of destroying the State of Israel, both in word and deed and (2) to reform their regime along democratic lines, as a precondition for any sustainable and stable two-State solution.

How did the European Union judge the reforms demanded by the Quartet – of which the EU itself is a member, compared to demands made of Turkey by the EU?

EU-Style compliance through fabricated reforms by the Palestinian Authority

In contrast with strict standards for reform to which Turkey is subject, the EU simply pretends that reform is afoot among Palestinians.  Some of the claims are simply pathetic. Treatment of the respective judicial systems of Palestinians and Turks is a good example.

A May 2004 report on The EU’s relations with West Bank and Gaza Strip[1][34] published by the European Union concludes that “…in June 2002, the Palestinian Authority, in response to domestic and international pressure, adopted a wide-ranging program on reform.”  The EU report is full of praise for “important measures”, “significant progress” and “key reform” that only need “consolidation.”

The report cites “important measures … for legislation on the independence of the judiciary” … providing as substantiation the adoption and entrance into force of Basic Laws that like the promise to stop the violence, are empty words.  It lauds the launch of “modernization of the Palestinian judicial system” with EU funding, an ‘achievement’ that boils down to the EU “training judges and prosecutors” and funding “refurbishment of select courts” … as if the problem is chairs or computers. By contrast, Palestinian human rights activists put their lives in jeopardy to expose the true state of the judiciary (and other areas of ‘rule of law’).  A month prior to the EU report, PRMG published a 32-page publication that underscored[1][35] 

“…Although in August 2003, then PA Minister of Justice … came out in support of abolishing the state security courts and to transfer authority to the Attorney General, this step towards more accountability was never implemented” … [and] “… confusion of executive and judiciary” has led to “legal power [being] abused for personal or fractional interests.”  

Likewise, there is nary a word from the Europeans in their report about the corruption,  graft, kickbacks, and extortion cited to be a major blight in Palestinian self-rule by a large majority of Palestinians in opinion polls and in Palestinian human rights reports.[1][36]

Denial is sweeping, even systematic throughout the EU structure. The European Council of Ministers – the most senior and powerful body in the EU – issued a series of ‘conclusions’ that contrast sharply with the strict standards, tempo and provisos the EU demands of Turkey.

The Ministers’ 2002-2004 minutes[1][37] are peppered with praise and support for ‘cosmetic’ or totally non-existent reforms, while seizing the day to call for acceleration of the peace process towards establishment of a Palestinian state. For instance, the Council “noted the progress in the process for the appointment of a Palestinian Prime Minister and the formation of a Palestinian government” – without examining whether power was actually transferred to this new post (April 2002). It expressed support of “the Palestinian Authority’s commitment to make rapid progress on security” – without even one example of where this took place. In a similar vein it praised “the new will on the Palestinian side to promote reform” (June 2003); “continued support for Palestinian reforms and economy” (July 2003) and “called upon the Palestinian Authority to continue their reform programme” (September 2004) – without any substantiation for such ‘achievements’. There is absolutely no relationship between the ‘conclusions’ reached by 25 EU ministers and realities on the ground.

Irony of ironies, these rosy assessments are totally in conflict with the findings of the Independent Task Force on “Strengthening Palestinian Public Institutions” – a body commissioned by the European Commission itself in 1998!  Every year hence,[1][38] the Task Force has monitored reform progress in the PA and published its findings on implementation of the Task Force’s 1999 proposal for reforms.

The Task Force is chaired by a former prime minister of France Michel Rocard and authored by two renowned Palestinian scholars, Cambridge academic Dr. Yezid Sayigh and director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah, Dr. Khalil Shikaki. The most recent report, Reforming the Palestinian Authority: An Update April 2004,[1][39] is scathing.  One by one, the compliance report ticks off attempts at reforms which “remain unimplemented,”  “difficult, if not impossible, to reform,” or “paralyzed” in process. The report concluded that “little was achieved” by the 6-month government led by Mahmoud Abbas (Abu-Mazen) (March 2003-September 2003). At the time of publication (April 2004), the compliance report summed up the pathetic performance of Ahmed Qurei’s (Abu Ala) government (October 2003 – present), saying:

“The most significant process was the cabinet’s decision in February 2004, approved by the president, to cease paying the salaries of the National Security Forces (under the president’s control) in cash and instead to channel all salaries through bank transfers.” [emphasis, the author’s]

In short, Palestinian Authority most revolutionary change was a pay slip in lieu of a pay envelope for State-supported thugs whom the PHRMG have accused of using their authority and weapons for personal clan vendettas and extortion from businesspersons and other strong arm tactics that terrorize the local population. The report put particular emphasis on the total lack of an independent judiciary under then presiding prime minister Abu Ala, charging:

“The interference of the president [EH Yasser Arafat] in the affairs of the judiciary has increased considerably during this period…and the ability of courts to implement their decision, always limited, has diminished even further.”

In August 2004, one of the chief authors, Dr. Khalil Shikaki, told the Council for Foreign Relations in an interview that there still was no progress towards reforming the judiciary[1][40]

“Theoretically, we have an independent judiciary, but the reform process has not yet reached the judiciary. At the moment, the judiciary is in total disrepair, and it hasn't yet been able to function effectively.”

During the corresponding period, as noted above, the European Union’s benchmarking of Palestinian performance babbled on about steps towards ‘an independent judiciary’… One wonders what the Turks would think of this assessment of reform, but alas, the Task Force’s ‘unenthusiastic’ reports regarding “Reforming The Palestinian Authority” appear nowhere on the EU website (www.europa.eu.int). It is only mentioned in passing with no information on its findings, and no hyperlink to copies of its reports archived elsewhere on the Internet, though all of its other documents are rich with links.     

At the same time that it was fabricating Palestinian reforms, hell-bent to establish a Palestinian state ASAP, the EU sought to reform the Road Map. In November 2004, the EU’s foreign and security policy chief Javier Solana penned a confidential seven-page ‘plan’ designed to “ensure a Palestinian state can be established” although no substantive reform had taken place. To overcome this ‘problem,’ Solana simply declared that the performance-based dimension of the peace process - including the reform process, was passé. According to the Voice of America, he called upon the EU’s partners in the Quartet – the United States, the United Nations and Russia to “accelerate the drive for Middle East peace” by abandoning “an incremental approach”[1][41] – shorthand for compliance-based progress founded on genuine reform and an end to terrorism.  The plan, presented to a meeting of EU foreign ministers in early November 2004, was reported to have gained the unanimous support of all the EU’s foreign ministers.[1][42]

Just as duplicitous, the same day (December 16/17, 2004) that the EU took the historic vote to begin decade-long negotiations with Turkey, it also issued a “Declaration on the Middle East Peace Process”[1][43] that called for “seiz[ing] this opportunity (E.H. upcoming Palestinian elections in mid-January 2005) to accelerate the implementation of the Roadmap and re-launch a meaningful political process,” with nary a word about the need for democratic reform, and an end to terrorism and State-sponsored incitement.

Such self-delusion or crass ‘posturing’ on the basis of real politik (in either case at someone else’s expense) is not limited to the fate of Israelis facing a rogue state next door. In the EU’s eagerness to exonerate the PA of any wrongdoing, it even extends it to turning a blind eye to the abuse of children.  

A May 15, 2002 ‘investigation’ by the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union[1][44] into charges that Palestinian children were being subjected to incitement is further evidence of the ‘see no evil, hear no evil’ mindset when it comes to Palestinians. The charge was examined from the narrow perspective of new schoolbooks that had been funded by the EU, enabling investigators to ignore encouragement of children to become martyrs in kindergarten pageants, elementary and middle school summer camps, and video clips for teens on PA-run television of martyrs who beckon viewers to join them in Heaven.  Likewise the EU fails to note the parallel drop in the age of eager ‘volunteers’ for suicide missions to pre-teens, and the rise in the number of teens actually losing their lives as shahids. 

The Turks, by contrast, were taken to task for far less serious sins, such as textbooks that contained gender bias and negative stereotypes of minorities.

 

 Eli E. Hertz

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

Do Palestinians Deserve Statehood? Part III

 

By  Eli E. Hertz

3rd part of 4

Links and footnotes in part 4

Benchmarking combating corruption: Who by European norms, who by Middle Eastern ones?

Judging from the EU’s evaluations, in many areas one would think that Turkey was the despotic and repressive regime, and the Palestinian Authority was the one honestly striving to reform its system. Corruption is a case in point.  It throws into relief the totally different ‘points of reference’ Europeans are applying to Turks and to Palestinians. 

Despite a host of anti-corruption measures, the compliance report on Turkey does not shy away from warning that “surveys continue to indicate that corruption remains a very serious problem,” although a 1,200 word report by the Turkish parliament’s newly established Anti-Corruption Committee called for lifting the parliamentary immunity of “25 former government ministers, including former prime ministers.” 

Widespread corruption in high places in the PA is only alluded to in the EU’s update on its relations with the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It speaks of “significant progress”…with regard to management of the PA’s public finances, and particular, the strengthening of financial control.” It cites “full responsibility placed on the Finance Ministry for managing the Palestinian Authority payroll” as one of the “achievements [that] have advanced reform in the PA more than any other initiative in the period since 2000.”  The credibility of such a sweeping claim is countered by many of the findings of the EU’s Task Force – for instance, that “in the area of public administration efforts to restructure ministries and government agencies have come to nothing.”[1][45] Moreover, Forbes revealed that Arafat became one of the richest leaders in the world due to lack of fiscal controls,[1][46] and to his dying day in late 2004, the PA chairman never relinquished the power of the purse. Even more pathetic is the EU’s praise for “transparency in the PA’s public finances”…which boils down to “publication of the budget on the Internet” – all the more hollow, considering that only a tiny percentage of Palestinian households and businesses have computers, not to mention Internet access. 

Even more fundamentally, the EU chooses to employ entirely different ‘points of reference’ for benchmarking Turkey and the Palestinian Authority.

Turkey is judged by high European standards of enlightened government, with no discounts for geography. In September 2004, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) issued a press release to this effect that underscored:

“The EESC reiterates that Turkey should meet the same political criteria as other candidate member states before negotiations can be opened and that its performance in the reform process should be measured by the same standards as those used for other candidate member states.” [1][47]    

Palestinians, by contrast, are judged by standards in the Middle East or by how much an utterly corrupt regime has ‘progressed.’  Thus, the EU’s Palestinian report praises:

“…significant progress … with regard to the management of the PA’s public finances,” noting that the PA’s “level of fiscal responsibility, control and transparency … rivals the most fiscally advanced countries in the region.” Compare to: Syria … Saudi … IranSudanEgypt ?

The EU’s benchmarking of the relevance of economic disparities – for themselves and for Israel

Lastly, one cannot simply ignore the fact that one of the three pillars for Turkey joining the EU is Turkey achieving a sustainable, stable robust market economy. Eligibility is based on the “acquis” – how a candidate nation’s economy meshes or doesn’t mesh with the EU’s legal and institutional framework. Half of the EU’s 187-page 2004 report on Turkey’s compliance evaluates 28 domains, from uniform standards for scientific research and requisite corporate law such as anti-trust legislation, to free movement of goods, persons,[1][48] services, and capital. Suffice it to say, the summary of Turkey’s status is studded with phrases such as “in the very early stage, “little progress” and “very limited.”  The bottom line: Turkey has a long way to go. 

Comparison of demands that Israel embrace the Palestinian economy demonstrate that Europe’s ‘double standard’ in political and social norms is no less blatant in the economic sphere.

There is genuine anxiety among Europeans that consummation of Turkish membership in the EU will have serious ramifications on Europe’s economic wellbeing due to Turkish demographics and a host of disparities with Europe such as standards of living and levels of unemployment.[1][49] Fears are reflected in French warnings by Jacques Chirac’s party that Turkey’s accession would “dilute” Europe.[1][50]  Public opinion polls published in Le Figaro found two-thirds of the French and 55% of the Germans[1][51] oppose Ankara becoming an EU member.[1][52] There are similar sentiments – that Turkey is “simply too big, too difficult and too poor” to join the EU – being voiced in Austria, Denmark and Cyprus.[1][53]  Even the European Commission’s President Romano Prodi, citing Turkish demographics, Turkey’s level of economic development and other factors, stated frankly a few weeks before the historic vote that the disparities “call for profound reflection and clear precaution.”[1][54]  Put bluntly, a large percentage of Europeans don’t want Turkey thrust into their lap ‘hat in hand.’ Yet, there is no such caution exercised where Israel is concerned. 

The EU (and others) unjustly blame Israel for the present state of the Palestinian economy, although most of the Palestinian reversals to the level of a poor Third World nation have nothing to do with Israel and the disruption to economic life caused by closures and other security measures. The real cause is a decade of ineptitude and greed under Palestinian self-rule exacerbated by four years of local chaos brought on by living in a war zone of their own creation, and runaway population growth that eats up all economic gain in housing, creating a 5-6% per annum surge in the labor force that is impossible even for highly developed economies to grapple with.”[1][55] Disregarding all these factors or any reference whatsoever to context, the EU charges that the “unprecedented collapse in the Palestinian economy since September 2000” including “high levels of unemployment, a collapse of investment, a fall in exports and a sharp decrease in labour income from Israel” – were the result of “[Israeli] closures and curfew, restricting movement of both goods and people … and destruction of infrastructure and the collapse in domestic revenue.” Consequently, it calls upon Israel to ‘undo the damage’. One of the five elements of the European Council’s plan to accelerate the peace process is “facilitation of rehabilitation and reconstruction by Israel”…[1][56]

Leaving aside the question of who is responsible for the dismal state of Palestinian society, the EU expects Israel to ‘piggyback’ the Palestinian economy back to prosperity – ignoring the stark disparities between Israel’s European-level economy, and the bleak economic indices that the EU published in its May 2004 report on the situation in the West Bank and Gaza.[1][57]

Israel’s GDP was 20 times that of the Palestinians (and half the Middle East, for that matter) even prior to the second Intifada. The EU’s  double standard’ is clearly evidenced:      

- The EU worries that Turkey’s per capita GDP is $6,700, compared to $24,457 among the 25 members of the EU, and a third that of the EU’s 15 charter members. It is unconcerned that Palestinians’ per capita GDP is less than $1000, compared to $18,900 in Israel. 

- The EU 25, with 454 million persons, is reluctant to wrestle with absorbing 66.5 million Turks into their economic structure, but sees nothing incongruous in expecting Israel's 6.7 million population to address the economic needs of about 3 million Palestinians currently residing in the West Bank and Gaza (and an estimated 8.7 million worldwide – 5 million of them UNRWA-registered refugees – 56% of them under the age of 25,[1][1][58] and most of whom expect a Right of Return).   

- The EU worries about Turkey’s high annual birth rate of 2.3% - labeled “staggering” by Newsweek which threatens Europe’s near zero population growth, but it remains unconcerned that the Palestinian birth rate in 2002/3 spiraled to 9%, a world record[1][59] -  from ‘regular’ run-away rates of 5% in the West Bank and 7.1% in Gaza.[1][60]  The birth rate among Israeli Jews is just under 3%.    

- The EU worries it will be flooded with Turkish workers in light of Turkish high unemployment rates (13.2%)[1][61] and a burgeoning workforce, it is unconcerned that unemployment among Palestinians is 30%, with a negative economic growth of -25% (Minus twenty-five percent).   

A final disparity is Romano Prodi’s plea for “profound reflection and clear precautions” in Europe, saying it is imperative for Europeans to prevent Turks from “weakening the structure we have been building for over 50 years.”[1][62] The same sensitivity and prudence is hardly evidenced when it comes to dangers that Palestinians will weaken the structures Israel has built in the past 50 years that have propelled it from the ‘developing nation’ status it occupied in the early 1950s, to membership among the ‘important emerging economies’ today.

Europe – Fair and Balanced - Practice what you preach.

 

 Eli E. Hertz

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

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