The World Bank has quantified in clear terms this week what most have known for years: Israeli restrictions keeping Palestinians off some of the West Bank’s most fertile ground are costing the Palestinian economy billions of dollars.
The dollar figure – $3.4bn (Dh12.5bn) – is bad enough for the direct cost of not being able to access the 61 per cent of West Bank land known under the Oslo Peace Accords as Area C. It was supposed to have been transferred to Palestinian control by 1998.
But it is what that money represents in human terms that shows the rank injustice of what is happening in what has become, in effect, an open prison on the West Bank.
It means more Palestinian families are struggling to make ends meet when they should be working their way towards prosperity. It means more Palestinian youths who cannot find work and thus become more susceptible to the appeal of violent radicalism, and it means an economy reliant on handouts rather than on hard work and entrepreneurship.
To the rest of the world, the World Bank report also provides a clear demonstration of the apartheid-like aspects of the occupation. At its heart, Israel’s policies are costing many Palestinians the simple dignity of being self-sufficient, which is why keeping a class of people in deliberate poverty is seen as a very clear restriction on their freedom.
The origin of the report from a trusted and impartial international organisation rather than one of the partisan pro-Palestinian groups, adds considerably to the reporting of the real “facts on the ground” on the West Bank.
This report should be publicised far and wide to show that the desperate Palestinian plight is caused in large part by the Israeli occupation rather than it being one of their own making.
It is just the latest in a steady succession of reports that point to the utterly unbalanced nature of the one-state solution Israel has been working towards while seeking to maintain the pretence of negotiation.
This is why public opinion has been steadily turning against Israel, particularly in places like Europe, where Israel’s right to exist is accepted, but its treatment of the Palestinians has been rightly condemned.
This report will further that shift in opinion. If it begins to change a majority of minds in the United States as well, we might see real progress.