|Screen shot from a YouTube clip called "Super Rich Palestinians"|
"Corruption is endemic in the Palestinian Authority, the private sector and NGOs. It is spreading across all sections of Palestinian society."
The work of a Palestinian Arab organization - AMAN, The Coalition for Accountability and Integrity, based in Gaza and Ramallah - the report takes readers on a walk through a depressing landscape, touching on massive misappropriation of funds by senior officials, corrupt actions on the part of the highest-level judges, embezzlement in the Palestinian Arab intelligence agencies, the widespread smuggling of medications, the distribution of counterfeit drugs.
"Stamping out corruption is an urgent need", its authors say.
"There is no doubt that corruption is not new to the Palestinian Authority and that it has been endemic since the very beginning in Ramallah... This corruption began from the first moment that the PA began to gather the Palestinian people’s money and aid and pour it into the Fatah budget, even though this money was given to the Palestinian people, not the PA or its officials who have divided it amongst themselves."
The name of the revered Palestinian Arab leader Yasser Arafat is, not surprisingly, sprinkled among the charges. So is that of the current president, Mahmoud Abbas. And not in a kind and gentle way.
The report was published in 2013. Has progress been made since then? Not if the events unfolding in the current chapter involving vaccines to combat the Covid-19 pandemic are anything to go by.
Jake Wallis Simons, in an exposé publish on March 9, 2021 in The Spectator ["Corruption affects everything in Palestine – even vaccines"], suggests that the situation remains grim.
Visit certain parts of the West Bank and you’ll encounter mansions owned by senior officials in the Palestinian Authority (PA). By any standards – let alone those to which ordinary citizens are accustomed – they are impressive, with arches, colonnades and tall windows. If you’d been watching them in recent weeks, you might have seen vaccines being quietly delivered to these residences in unmarked cars, having been skimmed off the supply intended for medical workers.Those, at least, were the allegations made by a number of Palestinian human rights and civil society groups. Last week, the Palestinian health ministry was forced to come clean. In a statement, the ministry admitted that 10 per cent of the 12,000 doses it had received had been put aside for government ministers and members of the PLO’s executive committee.
The rest, it claimed, had been given to workers treating Covid patients and employees of the health ministry. Aside from the 200 doses that were sent to the Jordanian royal court, that is. And those reserved for presidential guards. And those that had been given to the Palestinian national football team...According to AMAN, a Palestinian anti-corruption body linked to Transparency International, almost 70 per cent of Palestinians believe that their government institutions are corrupt. An EU report found that embezzlement had led to a loss of £1.7 billion of aid money between 2008 and 2012 alone. Huge sums are spent on fake companies and projects, including – in 2017 – a non-existent airline...
It’s high time for those on the Left to stop using the conflict to burnish their own political credentials and consider the real roots of the problem.
Polls are fine and useful and so on but there's another way of gauging public opinion that most of the world uses regularly. When were the last elections in either of the two Palestinian Arab entities? Why are elections such a low priority for people ruled by autocratic regimes, living with significantly un-free media, and ostensibly desperate to have their voices heard? ["03-Nov-15: What do they mean when the Palestinian Arabs say they oppose terror?"]
The most recent PSR poll, published a week ago, is timed to throw light on where Palestinian Arab opinions stands as an exceedingly rare event - Palestinian Authority elections - seems to be appearing on the horizon. The full text of the PSR's Public Opinion Poll Number 79, released March 23, 2021, is online here.
- The perception of corruption in PA institutions: 84%
- The perception of corruption in the Hamas-controlled institutions of the Gaza Strip: 70%
- Asked to assume that the PA (meaning Fatah) wins the elections, 36% of those polled say PA corruption will get larger; 16% say PA corruption will decrease. And though the poll report doesn't say this, we assume the remaining 48% expressed no opinion. If we're right, that's almost half the Palestinian Arab population who would rather not say. That may be the nmost significant statistic to emerge from this study. So now note the next bullet:
- Related to corruption as Jake Wallis Simons explains above, nearly two-thirds of Palestinian Arabs (62%) say the vaccination process in the West Bank lacks transparency and justice. The percentage who say it is transparent and just is 33%. Evidently on vaccination, almost no one lacks an opinion.
- Also COVID-19-related: those dissatisfied with the PA's measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus are fully 50%. (Further break-down: In the West Bank which is ruled by Fatah/PA officials, those dis-satisfied are 61%. In the Gaza Strip which is dominated by Hamas, the dis-satisfied are 34%.) And 47% are satisfied.
There's much more to think about, as there always is, in the PSR poll results. But the only other part we want to highlight at this point concerns overall goals and overall problems. Somewhat surprisingly, the problems and the goals seem not to match up - a phenomenon we have seen over and again among the Palestinian Arabs, (It's worth a short essay but not today.)
Main Palestinian Arab goals, according to PSR:
- "To end Israeli occupation in the areas occupied in 1967 and build a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital: 43%
- "To obtain the right of return of refugees to their 1948 towns and villages": 31%
- "To establish a democratic political system that respects freedoms and rights of Palestinians": 14%
- "To build a pious or moral individual and a religious society, one that applies all Islamic teachings": 11%
And the most serious problem confronting Palestinian society today?:
- Poverty and unemployment: 30%
- Curbing the spread of corruption in public institutions: 25%
- "The continuation of occupation and settlement activities" of the Israelis: 24%
- "The continued siege of the Gaza Strip and the closure of its crossings": 13%
- "The lack of national unity": 6%
We'll know we're getting to a better place with our Arab neighbors when their goals align with their problems. Till then, there's not much room for optimism.
[This post, like many others before it, has been translated into the Polish language ("Co Palestyńczycy w obliczu zbliżających się wyborów myślą o korupcji w ich społeczeństwie?") by courtesy of Malgorzata Koraszewska over on the Listy z naszego sadu website. Our sincere thanks to her, and great appreciation to readers of this blog in Poland.]