Battlepanda: Worse than Apartheid


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Worse than Apartheid

I suppose it is hard to work up too much outrage over taxes when both sides of the conflict are lobbing bombs at each other (the delivery device is different), but this is a good illustration of the power (im)balance in the Israeli-Palestinian region:
In the Los Angeles Times today, Amira Hass points out that Palestinians are currently being robbed of their rightful tax revenue by the Israeli Cabinet:
At the ports, Palestinian importers are required to pay the Israeli authorities the value-added tax of 17%, as well as whatever custom taxes are due on goods that come in on their way to the West Bank or Gaza. These transactions (along with direct Palestinian transactions with Israeli firms and merchants) last year yielded revenues of $711 million.

But whose revenues are they?

To judge by the actions of the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday, the money belongs to Israel. The Cabinet announced that it was going to withhold Palestinian tax and customs revenues, at least for the moment, as a response to Hamas' electoral victory. Until the money is released — if it is released — the Israeli treasury will earn the interest.
It's a real problem; under the Oslo Accords, the revenue belongs to the Palestinian Authority—it's not Israel's money to withhold. But as it happens, I don't think Hass goes anywhere near far enough. Without getting into too much finger-pointing, it seems fairly straightforward the tax and tariff system set up by Israel has always been inherently devastating to the Palestinians, regardless of whether the Israel Cabinet is withholding funds or not. The entire system's a travesty.
Hey, since even the neocon wonk's neocon wonk, Francis Fukuyama, is doing it, why shouldn't I indulge in a spot of materialist analysis on this issue? Let me quote Fukuyama here:
What is initially universal is not the desire for liberal democracy but rather the desire to live in a modern — that is, technologically advanced and prosperous — society, which, if satisfied, tends to drive demands for political participation. Liberal democracy is one of the byproducts of this modernization process[.]
I'm not asking Israelis to shower their enemy with the milk of human kindness here. Well, maybe I am. But I am asking them to do it out of self-interest, properly understood. They should be doing everything within their power to keep the Palestinian people Fat and Happy. In general, a Fat and Happy people does not risk their necks for ideology. Marx's revolution failed to take root in the west because the proletariat in western countries were too Fat and Happy. The autocratic regime in China is toeing a fine line -- it knows that a Fat and Happy people would eventually demand democracy, but that forment might come now if it doesn't work on getting its people Fatter and Happier all the time.

So why are the Israelis working doubletime against their own interests to keep the Palestinian people as lean and poor as possible?