Tuesday, June 14, 2016

14-Jun-16: In the UK, law-makers (some) worry over the bloodshed funded by their taxpayers

From the UK Parliament's website
Here's a good news/bad news story. On Sunday, one of Britain's mainstream newspapers ran a major report that opened with this startling sentence:
A multi-million pound foreign aid project aimed at promoting Palestinian state building and peace has instead encouraged terrorism and led to an  increase in violence, The Telegraph can disclose. 
The article ["Multi-million pound foreign aid grant spent on encouraging terrorism", Telegraph UK, June 12, 2016] refers to an "official report" into a grant of some £156.4 million provided by the Department for International Development (DFID) to the Palestinian Authority. The context is a debate into the wisdom of Britain’s formal pledge to spend 0.7 per cent of its income on foreign aid. The parliament engaged in this yesterday (Monday). Daily Mail UK gave space last night to this formal defence of the British strategy:
International development minister Desmond Swayne insisted that money given to the Palestinian Authority funds specific civil servants, helping to prepare a government in the event of a two-state agreement... [He] insisted ‘British taxpayers’ money does not fund terrorism’ and defended the thoroughly scrutinised list of aid recipients. He said: ‘Our taxpayers’ money goes to build the Palestinian Authority so that it is able to morph into the government of a Palestinian state when that opportunity arises and we pay named civil servants for the provision of public services.’ 
It's a pathetic, old and by-now discredited line of self-justification. Now there are fresh reasons for rejecting it. The "independent evaluation", says Telegraph UK's report, "suggested" that this generous gift of British taxpayer cash has
led to civil servants being “more likely” to commit acts of terrorism... [T]he five-year project encouraged public sector employees to engage in "active conflict" since their salaries were paid to their families even if they were convicted and imprisoned for criminal acts, including terrorism... On completing jail sentences, civil servants were able to return to their  jobs which had been “kept open when they return from detention”, and  continue to draw a salary funded by the UK taxpayer... DFID’s grant failed to “promote peace or peaceful attitudes” and appeared  to lead to an increase in violence among Palestinians... [T]he more foreign aid money was spent on public sector employment, more “conflict-related” deaths occurred.  
The analysts who wrote this took an econometric view of the evil done with British money:
An increase in public sector employment by one per cent is associated with  an increase in fatalities by 0.6% over this time period." [Expressed in terms of an] “opportunity cost” hypothesis [this means" "conflict, and therefore fatalities, are more likely when the opportunity  cost of engaging in conflict is lowered... For public sector employees, the opportunity cost of conflict is lowered  as their employment will be kept open when they return from detention, and  their family will continue to be paid their salary.” 
Not too many people have looked at the Rewards for Terror phenomenon that way till now. We should. They should.

The Telegraph quotes a senior parliamentarian, Sir Eric Pickles, taking down the Palestinian Authority as "the cheerleader to acts of violence to, at worst,  the operator of a revolving door policy for terrorists... [operating] an  equal opportunity employment policy for convicted terrorists". He restrained himself. 

He is quoted, as well, in a Daily Mail UK report from yesterday, making a key point that Norway's government ministers have self-defeatingly failed to comprehend [see "04-May-16: The PA's Rewards for Terror scheme: Abbas, fobbing off Norwegian criticism, incriminates self"]
[F]unding sent to the Palestinian Authority is used to free up money to pay prisoners who have committed attacks in the Israeli conflict.
It's an important point. Sir Eric added that there were "worrying reports" that certain British charities were "promoting violence on social media pages", and added this common sense observation:
"Surely it is not unreasonable to ask the minister and officials to check what is going on, and to say if you’re going to receive money from the British Government you should unequivocally denounce violence in all its forms... I don’t think it’s unreasonable in times of stringency that we should address the quality of that aid as well as the quantity..." [DailyMail UK]
The author of the official report to the parliament is Overseas Development Institute, "...the UK's leading independent think tank on international development and humanitarian issues" with a mission "to inspire and inform policy and practice which lead to the reduction of poverty, the alleviation of suffering and the achievement of sustainable livelihoods in developing countries". 

It's a pity their services were not sought at an earlier point.

The reality "disclosed" by the Telegraph is not good news, of course. It's tragic at multiple levels. British cash, in very large doses, are found - long after they have been handed over and spent, and despite endless public assurances that nothing could possibly ever go wrong because of all the care being taken to ensure happy endings - to be the enabling factor behind malevolent activities of the most horrible kind - the kind that bring tragic deaths, maimings and despair into the lives of innocent people. 

What's good in a relative sense is that these things are finally being said, and in a serious place, the parliament at Westminster. 

Much less good is that, as "disclosures" go, this is not news. There's evidence of that in many past blog posts of ours - these three for instance (four and five years old) among many others and naturally we're not claiming to be the only people who knew: 
We were glad to see that another parliamentarian, Joan Ryan, made that point. The ODI report and its findings, she said to the parliament,
“adds to the mounting concerns about the support  which DFID [the British government's foreign aid agency] is providing to the Palestinian Authority”, and that she has “no  confidence” in DFID's internal review into UK spending in the Palestinian territories. “This is an issue which has been put to the department repeatedly over  recent years and which it has consistently and repeatedly failed to act  on," she said. 
The reality is the money is gone and cannot be unspent. And there's more being spent on identical programs at this very moment by the very same people. And not only by the British government, enabled by its mostly-trusting and unwitting taxpayers, but by numerous other governments enabled by their taxpayers. 

For British readers seeing our comments for the first time, please know we can offer plenty of context. 

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