Dear Friends,

If you would like to have a link to Rifat Odeh Kassis response to Rabbi Warren, here is one which contains also background on the author.

Please do distribute the letter widely, and also ask your friends to do the same.  It is an important document.

As for the 5 items below, the initial one, though very brief, is of essence. It informs us that our own Dalit Baum, researcher and initiator of Israel’s Coalition of Women website Who Profits ( (referring of course to who profits from the occupation), will testify before the tribunal on Palestine, and will contend that 2 companies (one British, the other French) are complicit in Israel’s occupation. 


Items 2 and 3 treat a single subject: the US ‘guarantees package’ that supposedly aims to bring Israeli and Palestinian leaders back to the bargaining table.  Al Jazzier first reports, the in item 3 Robert Fisk expresses his justifiably angry retort to the US guarantees.


Item 4 is Sam Bayou’s most important analysis of the economic and social aspects of the “the feel-good words of jobs, economic development and Israeli- Palestinian cooperation” used to describe proposed industrial free trade zones.  Although these are touted to benefit Palestinians as well as Israelis and investors, the Palestinians will in effect gain little. 


I would like to add a word to Sam’s excellent analysis regarding a subject that he implies, but does not expand on.   He does say that Israel has seized land to divert it from agriculture to industrial purposes.  But because it is not his subject, he does not enlarge on what is done with that land.  Israel does not merely steal Palestinian land.  In many cases (perhaps most) Israel converts their agrarian use into urban use.  In other words, Israel is urbanizing the West Bank, much the same as it has done for the 78% of historic Palestine that it conquered in 1948-9.  Historic Palestine was prior to the ’48-9 war 70% agrarian.  The West Bank undoubtedly reflected this until Israel began colonizing it.  Most of the colonies are urban ‘suburbs’ of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem or other Israeli cities.  One has only to watch the enormous morning rush-hour traffic and the evening return traffic to realize how much of the colonization is urban rather than agrarian.  This of course furnishes Israel with a large stock of cheap labor with which to work in the industrial zones for Israel’s profit.  Farmers who no longer have land to farm must find ways to feed their often large families. 


If, after the former 4 items,  you still have energy to read item 5, it is a personal story about a woman who wanted to be an Israeli and did her best to become one, but was thwarted by the religious demands of this country.  I do not sympathize with her Zionist views, but regret the pain and unhappiness caused her by theocratic impositions.  Indeed, she was right to return to the United States where, as in most other Western countries, she can be whatever kind of Jew she wishes to be without being penalized.


All the best,



1.  The Guardian,

November 20, 2010


In the dock on Israel


So Israel vows to keep building homes in illegally occupied East Jerusalem (Report, 19 November). Today the British security corporation G4S and the French company Veolia, which collects waste for UK local authorities and universities, will stand accused of complicity in Israeli human rights violations. Israeli academic Dalit Baum will give evidence in London to a tribunal on Palestine that G4S is aiding her country’s war crimes by providing equipment for checkpoints, prisons and illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. Moreover, Adri Neiuwhof, a Swiss-based expert on public contract regulations, will cite Veolia’s profits from the occupation as a partner in the Jerusalem light rail project that links west Jerusalem to settlements.


The tribunal, named after the philosopher Bertrand Russell, will hear from witnesses from Israel, Palestine, Britain, the US and mainland Europe, who will testify before a jury including UK barristers Anthony Gifford QC, and Michael Mansfield QC. Whatever the jury’s verdict on Monday, world leaders must act to ensure a just peace in the region.


2. Al-Jazeera,

19 Nov 2010


US offers Israel written guarantees


After Israel balked at the terms of a deal aimed at restarting peace talks, US says it is prepared to put it in writing.


Israel’s prime minister said the deal had to serve Israel’s “vital interests, with security being the priority,” [EPA] 


The United States is prepared to offer Israel written security guarantees if it would help to restart stalled Middle East peace talks.


“We continue our discussions with the Israelis. If there is a need to put certain understandings in writing, we will be prepared to do that,” PJ Crowley, the US state department spokesman, said.


He declined to say what the details of the package may be.


The US has offered Israel an incentive package for a 90-day moratorium on settlement building in the occupied West Bank, but the proposed freeze would not include building in occupied East Jerusalem.


Security incentives


Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has asked his cabinet to consider the package of security and diplomatic incentives.


Possible incentives

In exchange for a 90-day moratorium on building in the West Bank, the US is reported to be offering Israel:


 Vetoes on resolutions that do not favour Israel.


 A promise that no more settlement freezes will be sought by the US.


 20 F-35 stealth warplanes worth $3bn.


 A comprehensive, signed security agreement with Israel.


 Increasing pressure on Iran and Syria to curb their nuclear and proliferation activities.



But an Israeli official said on Friday the US had not yet provided the guarantees that Israel wanted, with Washington reluctant to commit to paper all the promises Netanyahu says he was offered verbally last week.


The latest snag concerned a pledge that Israel says Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, made to provide the country with 20 stealth warplanes, free of charge. 


Politicians said Washington was backtracking and now wanted some sort of payment for the coveted fighter aircraft.


“It looks like the free stealth fighters have slipped,” Benny Begin, a minister from Netanyahu’s Likud party who is opposed to the proposed US deal, said.


He said that Washington was setting a trap to extract major concessions later down the line.


“One may wonder if you cannot agree to understandings from one week to the next, what could happen over three months,” Begin told Army Radio on Friday.


The Palestinians themselves have expressed outrage in private over reports of the US offer, saying it was a bribe to get Israel to fulfil basic international obligations.


Stopping short of rejecting the deal outright, Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, expressed strong reservations about the proposal because the moratorium on new construction would only apply to the West Bank and not East Jerusalem, the Palestinians’ hoped-for capital.


Erekat said that the US had not officially informed the Palestinians about the details of the proposal, but that “they know we have a major problem in not including east Jerusalem”.


Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, will put the US plan before Palestinian decision-makers and call for an immediate session of Arab League officials before announcing an official decision, Erekat said.


Abbas anger


Abbas told the London-based Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that he refuses to link the troubled Middle East peace process with a US offer of additional military aid to its Israeli ally.


“We refuse to allow the offer of planes be linked in any way to a freeze on settlements,” Abbas said in the interview, which was published on Friday.


“The United States is an ally of Israel and we can not prevent that,” Abbas said.


“But let their aid be carried out far removed from the  Palestinian peace negotiations and not be used as a pretext for giving more weaponry to Israel.”


The potential construction freeze would cover future construction as well as projects that have started since September 26, when the previous 10-month moratorium expired.



3. . Independent,

20 November 2010


Robert Fisk: An American bribe that stinks of appeasement


In any other country, the current American bribe to Israel, and the latter’s reluctance to accept it, in return for even a temporary end to the theft of somebody else’s property would be regarded as preposterous. Three billion dollars’ worth of fighter bombers in return for a temporary freeze in West Bank colonisation for a mere 90 days? Not including East Jerusalem – so goodbye to the last chance of the east of the holy city for a Palestinian capital – and, if Benjamin Netanyahu so wishes, a rip-roaring continuation of settlement on Arab land. In the ordinary sane world in which we think we live, there is only one word for Barack Obama’s offer: appeasement. Usually, our lords and masters use that word with disdain and disgust.



Anyone who panders to injustice by one people against another people is called an appeaser. Anyone who prefers peace at any price, let alone a $3bn bribe to the guilty party – is an appeaser. Anyone who will not risk the consequences of standing up for international morality against territorial greed is an appeaser. Those of us who did not want to invade Afghanistan were condemned as appeasers. Those of us who did not want to invade Iraq were vilified as appeasers. Yet that is precisely what Obama has done in his pathetic, unbelievable effort to plead with Netanyahu for just 90 days of submission to international law. Obama is an appeaser.


The fact that the West and its political and journalistic elites – I include the ever more disreputable New York Times – take this tomfoolery at face value, as if it can seriously be regarded as another “step” in the “peace process”, to put this mystical nonsense “back on track”, is a measure of the degree to which we have taken leave of our senses in the Middle East.


It is a sign of just how far America (and, through our failure to condemn this insanity, Europe) has allowed its fear of Israel – and how far Obama has allowed his fear of Israeli supporters in Congress and the Senate – to go.


Three billion dollars for three months is one billion dollars a month to stop Israel’s colonisation. That’s half a billion dollars a fortnight. That’s $500m a week. That’s $71,428,571 a day, or $2,976,190 an hour, or $49,603 a minute. And as well as this pot of gold, Washington will continue to veto any resolutions critical of Israel in the UN and prevent “Palestine” from declaring itself a state. It’s worth invading anyone to get that much cash to stage a military withdrawal, let alone the gracious gesture of not building more illegal colonies for only 90 days while furiously continuing illegal construction in Jerusalem at the same time.


The Hillary Clinton version of this grotesquerie would be funny if it was not tragic. According to the sharp pen of the NYT’s Roger Cohen, La Clinton has convinced herself that Palestine is “achievable, inevitable and compatible with Israel’s security”. And what persuaded Madame Hillary of this? Why, on a trip to the pseudo-Palestine “capital” of Ramallah last year, she saw the Jewish settlements – “the brutality of it was so stark” according to one of her officials – but thought her motorcade was being guarded by the Israeli army because “they’re so professional”. And then, lo and behold, they turned out to be a Palestinian military guard, a “professional outfit” – and all this changed Madame’s views!


Quite apart from the fact that the Israeli army is a rabble, and that indeed, the Palestinians are a rabble too, this “road to Ramallah” incident led supporters of Madame, according to Cohen, to realise that there had been a transition “from a self-pitying, self-dramatising Palestinian psyche, with all the cloying accoutrements of victimhood, to a self-affirming culture of pragmatism and institution-building”. Palestinian “prime minister” Salam Fayyad, educated in the US so, naturally, a safe pair of hands, has put “growth before grumbling, roads before ranting, and security before everything”.


Having been occupied by a brutal army for 43 years, those wretched, dispossessed Palestinians, along with their cousins in the West Bank who have been homeless for 62 years, have at last stopped ranting and grumbling and feeling sorry for themselves and generally play-acting in order to honour the only thing that matters. Not justice. Certainly not democracy, but to the one God which Christians, Jews and Muslims are all now supposed to worship: security.


Yes, they have joined the true brotherhood of mankind. Israel will be safe at last. That this infantile narrative now drives the woman who told us 11 years ago that Jerusalem was “the eternal and indivisible capital of Israel” proves that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has now reached its apogee, its most treacherous and final moment. And if Netanyahu has any sense – I’m talking abut the Zionist, expansionist kind – he will wait out the 90 days, then thumb his nose at the US. In the three months of “good behaviour”, of course, the Palestinians will have to bite the bullet and sit down to “peace” talks which will decide the future borders of Israel and “Palestine”. But since Israel controls 62 per cent of the West Bank this leaves Fayyad and his chums about 10.9 per cent of mandate Palestine to argue about.


And at the cost of $827 a second, they’d better do some quick grovelling. They will. We should all hang our heads in shame. But we won’t. It’s not about people. It’s about presentation. It’s not about justice. It’s about “security”. And cash. Lots of it. Goodbye Palestine.


4.  Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP) 

[the emphasizing is mine. Dorothy]


Economic Prison Zones



Sam Bahour 


November 19, 2010 


(Sam Bahour is a Palestinian business management consultant living in Ramallah. This essay was made possible with partial support from the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.) 


When a project mixes the feel-good words of jobs, economic development and Israeli- Palestinian cooperation, how can anyone complain? These things are some of what the international community has been promising to deliver through the construction of industrial free trade zones in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The free trade zone model has been promoted locally and globally by powerful third parties like the United States, France, Germany, Turkey and Japan for two decades, but none has much to show for the enormous efforts and amounts of money spent to bring these zones to life. Nonetheless, the project’s proponents expect the zones to constitute the economic foundation for a future Palestinian state. They hope that, by bolstering Palestine’s economy, the zones will make Palestinians less prone to social upheaval, less insistent on their national rights and more amenable to the status quo. The idea is that a peace agreement with Israel will ensue. 


While this expectation is unlikely to be realized — at least not in the way that the projects’ advocates anticipate — these mega-employment projects present a serious challenge to those who strive to build an independent and viable economic foundation for a future Palestinian state.  Because the zones will depend on Israeli cooperation to function, and because they will exist within an Israeli-designed economic system that ensures Palestinian dependence on Israel, they cannot form the basis of a sovereign economy. Relying on them will perpetuate the status quo of dependency. 




The industrial zones currently under construction in the West Bank are: the al-Jalama zone, in the north near Jenin, led by Germany with the support of Turkey;  the Bethlehem zone led by France and the Jericho Agricultural Park (the so-called Valley of Peace) in the Jordan Valley, led by Japan; the Tarqoumiyya Industrial Estate, in the south near Hebron, spearheaded by the World Bank and Turkey. In Gaza, the Erez Industrial Zone along the Gaza-Israel border was abandoned by Israel and is no longer operational. The Gaza Industrial Estate (which Israel calls the Karni Industrial Zone), a Palestinian-developed zone southeast of Gaza City, came to a standstill in 2007, when Israel heavily restricted the passageways into and out of Gaza. South Korea and India are also entertaining the idea of sponsoring a techno-park, [1] which may house more high-tech business, but this notion is the least developed of them all. 


The longest-operating border zone is the Erez Industrial Zone located at the northern tip of the Gaza Strip. It was estimated by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs to employ 20,000 Palestinians, but it never came close to employing a quarter of that number and in 2004, the Israeli minister of defense made a decision to withdraw Israeli firms located in the zone for security reasons. The area became a no-man’s land. The Jerusalem Post reported on January 2, 2006 that Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül visited Israel to sign agreements with Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) governing Turkey’s role in reviving the Erez industrial area. One Israeli official described the project as “the baby” of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoan. But following Hamas’ takeover of Gaza in 2007, Turkey froze the project and the zone remains empty. 


There is also a long-standing industrial area in the West Bank called Atarot, north of Jerusalem along the main road to Ramallah that, today, is split down the middle by Israel’s separation wall. The Atarot Industrial Area is fully operated by Israel and mostly hosts Israeli companies. Atarot sits on the western side of the separation wall, which makes it accessible to Palestinians from the West Bank only by way of a permit from the Israeli military. 


At best, most of these industrial zones promise menial labor-intensive jobs to Palestinians who are extremely reliant on donor funds to maintain their livelihoods. The industrial zone project constitutes a shift from the current internationally funded welfare-like system, characterized by an inflated public sector and heavy subsistence handouts, to a system that is similarly based on foreign funding, but instead requires Palestinians to sell their labor for the benefit of those commercial entities established in the industrial zones, which will depend on Israeli good will to succeed. A closer look at how the zones are being developed, who is expected to profit from them and how they are connected to the global economy is telling. 


Development for Peace 


France is behind the creation of the Bethlehem Multidisciplinary Industrial Park, for which the PA issued title to 500 dunams (125 acres) of public property. French President Nicolas Sarkozy handpicked Valerie Hoffenberg, Paris director of the American Jewish Committee (a group that advocates for Israel), to be his “special envoy to the Middle East” for this purpose. It has been her job to oversee the project’s rollout. 


In a report published in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz on May 27, 2010, in which Hoffenberg was interviewed at length, she told the story of how the industrial free zone project was born at a dinner she attended with Sarkozy and Israeli President Shimon Peres in 2008. According to Hoffenberg, the project was informed by a belief, shared by Peres and Sarkozy, that a viable Palestinian economy would encourage the peace process. Hoffenberg, who works out of the French Foreign Ministry building, describes her work as “a new form of diplomacy.” Before the industrial park’s inauguration, Hoffenberg arranged a meeting between French and Israeli businessmen in an effort to bring them into the project. “I recruited 36 companies, including CEOs of the most important companies, such as France Telecom, Schneider Electric, Publicis, Renault, Sephora, JCDecaux — the whole ‘A-Team,’” Hoffenberg boasted. 


Another nascent enterprise is the German-Turkish industrial zone in al-Jalama, outside the Palestinian city of Jenin, a traditional agricultural area. The project is run by the PA, Israel and the Shamal Company. Bisan for Research and Development, a Palestinian NGO which has organized extensively around the industrial zone phenomenon, notes that the project has faced opposition from farmers in the Jezreel Valley, one of the most fertile areas in Jenin, and may fall apart as a result. The farmers have been refusing to sell their land, partly because it is unclear what kinds of factories will be built and partly because agricultural land has already been confiscated by Israel for construction of its separation wall. 


The al-Jalama project has received scant media attention, but nevertheless, it is the one, along with the Bethlehem project, that is proceeding the fastest. The planning process for the zone started long before the intifada that began in the fall of 2000. Germany’s leading development bank, KfW Entwicklungsbank, was commissioned to conduct a rather expensive feasibility study and, as a result, Germany committed 10 million euros to fund the infrastructure of the zone. But when Israel launched a major military redeployment in all Palestinian cities in 2000, the project was put on hold and Jenin’s infrastructure was destroyed. When the project was revisited in 2005, KfW was commissioned to update the feasibility study and Turkey was recruited to take part in the project. Supposedly, the Turkish side will acquire 75 percent and the Palestinian side 25 percent of the joint venture. It is unclear, however, if and how the diplomatic crisis between Israel and Turkey following Israel’s assault on the Mavi Marmara aid ship will affect the project. 


The US has mobilized to support all of these efforts through various means, most visible among them being support for reforms within the PA in Ramallah. This support is most apparent in PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s second-year program of the thirteenth government titled, “Homestretch to Freedom: Palestine: Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State.” The program, which includes measures for reform in various aspects of government and economics, calls for, among other things, the development of industrial infrastructure by completing infrastructure works at industrial estates in Jenin, Bethlehem and Jericho and establishing three specialized industrial compounds, including for information technology, precious metals, renewable energy and leather industries. This program has received rave reviews from the US government and serves as a framework for the continued injection of donor funds. 


Despite international enthusiasm at what is ostensibly a novel solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, the notion that bringing economic development to the Palestinians will promote peace has its roots in Israeli policy from the beginning of the occupation. After Israel took control of the West Bank and Gaza from Jordan and Egypt in 1967, living standards in the Occupied Territories soared. While this growth was largely attributable to remittances from Palestinian workers in the Gulf and across the Green Line, which divides Israel from the West Bank and Gaza, Israel invested in vocational training and agricultural development on a scale that had not been seen under Jordanian and Egyptian suzerainty. [2] Despite these efforts, and because of continued Israeli military rule and the repression of Palestinian national aspirations, a grassroots uprising spread throughout the Occupied Territories in 1987, and continued up until the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993. Thus it was a political solution, and not an economic one, that ultimately brought peace. 


The notion that business links will foster peace because the economic returns of cooperation will outweigh the benefits of resistance can only hold if both sides stand to benefit equally from collaboration. For the Palestinians, the benefit is hoped to be economic. For the Israelis, the project is expected to promote a more quiescent opponent; but should the endeavor fail, it is unlikely to exact a heavy economic toll upon Israel. If the industrial zones are to form the basis of the Palestinian economy, the Palestinians, on the other hand, will feel economic pressure to bend to Israel’s will.

The project therefore assumes that the Palestinians are the spoilers of the peace process, and that if they can be persuaded to cooperate, a peace deal will be forthcoming. It does not leave room for the possibility that the status quo — separation — is indeed a viable option for Israel. Thus, rather than promoting a final settlement, this industrial zones project risks further entrenching Israel’s occupation. 


Legal Status 


Under the leadership of the late President Yasser Arafat, the PA enacted Law 10 of 1998 regarding industrial estates and industrial free zones. This law established a Palestinian Industrial Estate and Free Zone Authority (PIEFZA), which was to be the “one-stop shop for investors.” The PIEFZA board of directors consists of 11 members: seven PA ministers, two representatives of commercial developers and two representatives of chambers of commerce and industry and industrial federations. The industrial estates law states that PIEFZA shall be responsible for implementing policies pertinent to establishing and developing industrial estates and free zones in Palestine and issuing certificates to investors. Article 39 states that: “Local goods and products supplied to the industrial free zone from any Palestinian territories shall not be subject to any established procedures, taxes or duties.” This exclusion has become a major concern for the local community given the rumor that Palestinian labor laws will not apply to workers who are employed in these zones. Likewise, Article 40 of the law stipulates: “All goods and products manufactured in the industrial free zones and exported abroad shall not be subject to the rules and legal procedures established for export, export taxes and any other taxes.” 


A detailed search of the PIEFZA website reveals no information regarding the policies for establishing and developing zones. A written request for more information submitted to PIEFZA’s director general went unanswered. In addition, and puzzlingly, the investor’s application listed on PIEFZA’s website directs applicants to fax completed applications to a Gaza office, which presumably is now staffed by someone from Hamas’ government. That the process is so lacking in transparency is a poor reflection on the status of Palestinian institutional reforms. What good is investment in public institution building if these mega- employment centers are excluded from the systems being established? 


Legal acrobatics aside, questions like who is importing materials into these zones and who is receiving the exports must be analyzed in much greater detail. Following the money trail will most likely lead to the same few Palestinians who have financially benefited from the Oslo process. One clear indication is the rush by specific economic entities and persons buying land in the vicinity of these planned zones. With the majority of Palestinian lands not formally registered with the Palestinian Land Authority, it would be impossible to understand who actually holds ownership of these lands. 


Who Profits? 


The working assumption is that these zones will be open for business to any Palestinian or international company wanting to establish a factory within them. Although the sectorial theme of each zone is unclear, if existing zones (such as the maquiladoras in Mexico or those in Jamaica) are any indication, the zones in Palestine will host “dirty” businesses — those that are pollution-prone and sweatshop-oriented. Jordan’s Qualified Industrial Zones (QIZs) provide a regional example. The Jordanian QIZs were envisaged as forming the basis of regional economic cooperation after Jordan and Israel’s 1994 peace treaty. To provide incentives for cooperation, products produced in the QIZs fall under the US-Israel Free Trade Agreement as long as they have a minimum 8 percent contribution from Israel. A similar setup can be expected for Palestinian zones, especially given the US desire to promote a Middle East Free Trade Area. While the Jordanian QIZs have generated 36,000 jobs, 75 percent of these have gone to foreign, mostly Asian, workers. [3] Given that the objective of the Palestinian zones is job creation, it can be expected that these zones would indeed employ Palestinian workers, but their special status raises questions about the working conditions that might dominate within them. The Jordanian QIZs, like many others around the world, are notorious for their exploitative labor practices. 


According to two consultants to the Israeli government, the West Bank zones are expected to employ 150,000-200,000 Palestinians, nearly the same number that used to travel daily to Israel for work before the second intifada. [4] Studies from the Peres Peace Center project even higher numbers, estimating that 500,000 Palestinian workers will be employed in joint industrial zones by 2025. Israeli expectations do not stop there. The consultants also predicted that 30 percent of Palestinian businesses outside the zones will refocus their businesses to serve those enterprises located inside the zones. 


In a nutshell, one can see a continuation of Israel’s scheme to reengineer the Palestinian economy away from its agricultural and tourism bases toward an economy that is dependent on Israeli public services and good will. This process has been unfolding since the start of Israel’s occupation in 1967. When the Israeli military took control of the West Bank and Gaza, it altered Palestinian agriculture by controlling the types of crops that could be planted to prevent competition with Israeli produce, seizing land to reduce the agricultural sector and taxing Palestinian exports while allowing Israeli products to enter the territories duty-free. The requirement that all industries obtain an Israeli license limited industrial development, as did higher taxes on Palestinian industries than on their Israeli counterparts. As a result, industries that developed tended to be those that provided Israeli industry with labor-intensive, low-cost products. Palestinian industry, agriculture and labor were therefore developed to suit the needs of Israel’s economy. [5] After the second intifada, when Palestinian workers were barred from traveling to Israel, many returned to the theretofore neglected agricultural sector for work. [6] Today, this economic reengineering effort in the West Bank can be viewed as an attempt to relocate the scores of Israeli settlement enterprises, which depend on Palestinian cheap labor, to these newly created “Palestinian” zones, thus “legalizing” their existence. 


The project fits well with Israel’s policy of separation — a policy that enables Israel to box in the Palestinians while maintaining control of their movements and economic viability. Separation has been implemented gradually since the 1993 Oslo accords, after which Israel tightened its border with the West Bank and Gaza but continued to employ Palestinians in menial jobs within Israel. Closures were used as a form of collective punishment to cut off Palestinians from their jobs across the Green Line. After the second intifada broke out, Israel further tightened its border with the Occupied Territories. Later, Israel built the separation wall physically to divide Palestinian and Israeli populations, but Palestinian governing institutions, industry and freedom of movement continue to depend on Israel, which controls the borders surrounding the Occupied Territories and collects taxes for the PA. Foreigners replaced the Palestinian laborers who previously worked menial jobs in Israel. Foreign workers, however, have proved to be an unsatisfactory solution for Israel, given its overriding prerogative to maintain the Jewish character of the state, as these non-Jewish workers are now attempting to settle permanently. [7] The QIZ scheme would reduce Israel’s dependence on foreign workers by bringing the factories to Palestinian workers now that they are prohibited from traveling to the factories. 


Movement and Access 


As long as Israel controls access and resources in the West Bank, the zones’ operation will remain precarious, perpetually at the mercy of positive relations between Israel and Palestine. Given the existing infrastructure of the West Bank, the water and electricity capacity of these zones will be totally controlled by Israel. Most importantly, Israel will maintain full control of the movement of goods and people between the zones and the outside world. By incorporating Israel’s infrastructure of control within the plans, these projects serve to normalize an illegal occupation and undermine Palestinian political aspirations. 


When former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice flew from Washington to Tel Aviv in 2005 to strike a deal with Israel on Palestinian movement and access, it was clear that the US understood that without freedom of movement the Palestinian economy does not stand a chance, even if the economic framework being promoted has nothing to do with Palestinian economic independence. Although it signed the agreement, Israel refused to implement its terms, and the US failure to confront Israel means that the conditions necessary for Palestinian economic sustainability have not been met. 


The World Bank acknowledges as much when it states repeatedly in its reports that, even while proclaiming 8 percent economic growth, the “critical private sector investment needed to drive sustainable growth remains hampered by restrictions on movement of people and goods.” It is clear that economic growth is not necessarily equivalent to economic development, especially in a politically charged, donor-driven environment like the Occupied Territories under the quasi-rule of the PA. 


The privileged status of the zones also raises ethical concerns. While Israeli restrictions will be eased in order to ensure smooth functioning for foreign investors, indigenous industries will continue to face the same hurdles that have hindered Palestinian industry for decades. Thus, existing businesses will be placed at a comparative disadvantage. 


What Needs to Happen? 


Donor funds and Palestinian efforts would be better placed if such investments targeted Palestine’s natural economic comparative advantages, for example, tourism and agriculture, without trying to confine their activities to closed zones that will, over time, empty large tracts of land of their productive capacity, not to mention create structural dependency on Israeli good will to allow these closed zones to function properly. In a land that is home to the Church of the Nativity, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Dome of the Rock and dozens or other historic attractions, it makes sense to preserve and develop these existing assets, which have the potential to serve as a pillar of a future state economy. 


Converting the industries in the Atarot industrial zone into something more complementary to the historic city of Jerusalem, for example, could serve to underpin Palestine’s tourism sector as well as preserve the sanctity of the greater Jerusalem vicinity. Rather than building new industrial zones, Palestinian interests would be better served if the Atarot zone were returned to Palestinian control. Adjacent to the Atarot complex is the idle Qalandiya airport. The airport, which operated prior to Israel’s occupation in 1967, would be a crucial component in efforts to build Palestine’s tourism sector. 


Similarly, confiscating agricultural land to make way for large industrial projects not only strips farmers of their livelihoods, but structurally adjusts a key segment of the labor force that, over time, will lose its skills. Agricultural development in Palestine is not in need of a “zone,” but rather requires Israel to comply with international law, to release Palestinian water resources and remove the myriad of access and movement restrictions that do not allow people or products to travel freely within Palestine and abroad. Trying to concentrate agricultural growth in a limited “zone” merely opens the door for farmers outside of the zone to become economically disenfranchised by public policy, instead of being equally supported regardless of their physical location. 


Singing the song of massive job creation in industrial zones without analyzing all of the ramifications could be detrimental to Palestine’s economic and political future. Placing such zones of economic activity closer to population centers and rehabilitating existing near-city industrial areas makes more sense today given the volatile political situation and the need to upgrade existing in-city and near-city zones, many of which pose health and environmental risks to their surrounding communities. Building high-tech zones in the vicinity of university campuses would be a strategic starting point. Better yet, bringing such investments into the universities themselves, which are in dire need of modernization and sustainable development, would have a more lasting impact and be  a better deterrent of political turmoil. 


While they might benefit a certain elite, the planned economic zones cannot benefit Palestinian strategic interests. The notion that political differences can be solved through job creation is fundamentally flawed and will not change the reality: 60 percent of Palestinians are internally displaced or dwell in refugee camps just hours from their homes and properties; 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza survive under siege conditions; hundreds of thousands have been illegally detained by Israel; and the economy is micro-managed by a foreign military. The development projects proposed by the international community only normalize the illegal occupation, by working in partnership with Israel to fine-tune its mechanisms of control. 


[1] Ma‘an News Agency,

February 2, 2010. 


[2] Neve Gordon, Israel’s Occupation (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2008), pp. 62-69. 


[3], April 19, 2010. 


[4] Leila Farsakh, “Palestinian Labor Flows to the Israeli Economy: A Finished Story?” Journal of Palestine Studies 32/1 (Autumn 2002). 


[5] Neve Gordon, Israel’s Occupation, (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2008), pp.72-5 


[6] Anne Meneley, “Time in a Bottle: The Uneasy Circulation of Palestinian Olive Oil,” Middle East Report 248 (Fall 2008). 


[7] Ynet, November 8, 2010.



5.  Jerusalem Post,

November 20, 2010      


 Broken dreams





How the Jewish homeland failed in its primary mission, and broke a young woman’s heart.  


Jessica Fishman says she doesn’t want to talk politics. The slender 30-yearold would rather talk about the past, about her dreams to make aliya, her service in the IDF Spokesman’s Office, her years as a student at Herzliya’s Interdisciplinary Center and as a 20-something living in Tel Aviv. She would rather talk about almost anything instead of discussing the story’s end, where dejected and defeated, she left Israel with her life hanging in tatters around her.


But for the past few months, Fishman has forced herself to do just that, to show how Israel’s current conflict between the definition of who is a Jew for the purposes of immigration and who is a Jew for the purposes of marriage ultimately led to the collapse of her Zionist dream.


On a brief visit, Fishman discussed just that, reflecting on her experiences leading up to her return to the US, and about the warm hug she received from Israelis only as she was about to leave. And she tried to explain how she planned to pick up the pieces, spending the months after her return finishing the book that she started on her experiences as an immigrant, and resettling her life in Colorado, light years away from the white city on the Mediterranean that she had called her home for almost a decade.


She grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, in what she describes as “a very Zionistic family.” Her parents were pillars of the Jewish community – her mother was the regional president of Hadassah, her father was president of the local Jewish community center and their synagogue. The Fishman children followed a classic route of synagogue on Shabbat and Jewish day school education. The Fishman family’s first trip to Israel was when she was 13, and she fell in love.


Her family’s support of Israel was strong enough to bring her back to live in Jerusalem at the height of the second intifada.


THEN A COLLEGE student in the US, Fishman decided that unlike most foreign students, she wasn’t intimidated by the bombs, and participated in a Hadassah-sponsored Hebrew University study abroad program whose numbers had been decimated by low participation due to parents’ and students’ security concerns. Fishman was one of 10 young women out of the 40-person program who participated in the 2001-2002 session, continuing her studies at the Hebrew University even after a bombing in the Frank Sinatra Cafeteria killed nine people and wounded more than 70.


She returned to Israel again, this time immediately after graduating college. She participated in the year-long Otzma volunteer program, teaching English to Ethiopian immigrant children in absorption centers in Ashkelon and Migdal Ha’emek. By the end of the year, it was clear to her that her future was here, and she decided that the next step would be to realize her dream of serving in the IDF.


“Everyone told me that I was too old to join the army, but I knew that I wanted to work in the IDF Spokesman’s Office,” she recalled. “I came from a journalistic and marketing background, and I thought that it would be the place where I could make the best contribution.”


Initially encountering obstacles, Fishman contacted future MK and former IDF spokesman Nachman Shai, who helped her realize her goal.


“The army experience gets you ready for Israeli society,” she smiled. “I had some difficult experiences, but the army gets your ready for Israeli society in terms of dealing with bureaucracy.”


But although she thought that she had met – and defeated – the bureaucratic beast, she soon discovered that it was lying in wait around the corner.


After her release from the army following a full-length term of service, Fishman worked hard on getting a firm footing in Israeli society.


“I was in ulpan and worked very hard at getting my Hebrew right – I felt like I was finally getting into Israeli society. I did my MBA at the IDC and I finally met an Israeli boyfriend and I thought that things were going well. I had always planned on living here, on starting my family here. After the army, that was the dream that I wanted to realize.”


Her burgeoning relationship seemed to provide the fulfillment of that dream as well. “Even though I knew how hard it would be without having my family here, his family became mine. It was nice to finally not be alone on a Friday night,” she said. “I saw my future falling into place after all the years of trying to be a part of Israeli society. But when it became time to discuss marriage, everything began to fall apart.”


THE FIRST TIME the two discussed her mother’s decades-old conversion to Judaism, “it was completely by accident. His cousin was dating a young man and he said, ‘He’s not really Jewish, his mother converted,’ and then I told him that my mom also converted and I see myself as Jewish, even more so than many Israelis because in Israel the rabbinate is a governmental body, meaning religious identity is black or white. But in the US, there is a rainbow of different kinds of Judaism – there are more shades.”


Following that conversation, Fishman’s idyllic relationship began to take a wrong turn. Her boyfriend began to demand that she convert – this time through the rabbinate. The topic became the dominant one, and they began to fight over the issue on a daily basis.


“I spent a lot of time looking for solutions,” she said. “I found a rabbi who was willing to do an easier conversion, but I couldn’t bow to the rabbinate and say that they had the right to choose my identity. I couldn’t really accept the authority of the Chief Rabbinate, not over me or over Judaism. They don’t own our minds or our Judaism, and I could not give up my principles on that issue.”


Her boyfriend, she complained, understood little of the complex situation surrounding conversion before leaping to judgment. “I had to explain to him the laws and history of the ‘who is a Jew’ question in Israel starting with [David] Ben-Gurion – I explained the duality, that on one hand there is one definition under the Law of Return, and another definition that is rabbinic, which is the strictest possible. In the Jewish sources, it is written that you’re never allowed to remind a convert that they’re a convert, but the rabbinic authorities here do just that. According to the state, I have the obligations of a citizen, but I am not entitled to my full rights and privileges, such as being able to be married here.”


Acquaintances suggested that if her boyfriend consented, the two should simply go to Cyprus for a civil wedding that would be retroactively recognized. “I asked why I should have to go to Cyprus in order to receive more rights there than in Israel, the country for which I gave up so much to live in. It is infuriating and really wrong for a democratic country to maintain such a situation.”


WITH THEIR RELATIONSHIP at a stalemate, the two broke up. “I was brokenhearted,” Fishman recalled. “Losing my future with someone that I loved so much and at the hands of this country that says it is the home for all Jews, but so totally isn’t. It is willing to take money and support from Jews all over the world, but not to see them as full citizens. This attitude is detrimental to the country’s security; we need a Jewish homeland for all Jews, but the threat from the Chief Rabbinate is as big as any external threat, because they are the ones dividing the Jewish people around the world.”


The breakup, together with her painful realization that her mother’s conversion would shadow her entire new life in Israel, proved too much for Fishman. Her family in America saw her emotional turmoil, and her mother and sister flew in to help her pack. “I couldn’t do it on my own – it was like cutting off one of my arms,” she reflected, her eyes studying the view of the Mediterranean. “But I just didn’t have the strength to be here any more.”


A few days after Independence Day, and eight years after immigrating, Fishman returned to the US.


Before returning, she began to search for a way to make sense out of the sudden demise of her dream. After reading an article in The Jerusalem Post that mentioned Hiddush, an organization that supports religious pluralism, she contacted the group and told her story.


“Throughout this whole process, I felt like I was wearing a scarlet C of ‘convert,’ just like Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter. I felt initially like Hester that I had to hide my letter, but now I feel empowered.”


In her last days in Israel, with the conversion issue in the Knesset warming up, Fishman agreed to an interview with a Hebrew-language newspaper. The article was published a week after she returned to America, and she found herself greeted by an outpouring of support from the society that she had felt rejected her.


“People tracked me down on Facebook and wrote me letters about how sorry they were – as well as some making marriage proposals,” she smiled for one of the rare moments in her story. “They told me that they agree that the rabbinic authorities are overstepping their bounds.”


AFTER LEAVING, Fishman said, she “threw myself into the process of writing a book about aliya and my aliya experience.” In the ensuing months, she has finished a first draft with the help of a mentor she met in Israel, devoting hours a day to writing. “It is a book about all of the difficulties, the bureaucracy, but making light of it – using my personal experience, but in a light-hearted way.”


She said that she discusses the conversion issue, but “tried to make as much light of it as I can.” She doubts she will ever return to live here, but will not completely rule it out. “There are parts of me that love the country, but other parts of me that are so disappointed. I hope that my story does not deter people – it is a great country, but it has its problems, and we need to work on fixing them. In Israel, I can get into a taxi, argue with the driver over five shekels, and a moment later, he’ll invite me to dinner and try and set me up with his son. Once I was talking to my banker, and crying about financial issues, and she ended up inviting me over for Rosh Hashana dinner when she found out that I had nowhere to go.”


What Fishman is certain of, however, is that she will stay active in the Jewish community wherever she lives and “work specifically with this issue to prevent other stories like this one.”


When asked what steps she believes need to be taken to prevent other such stories, she is initially uncomfortable, emphasizing that she is not a politician, but then warms up to the issue. “There needs to be more pluralism in Israel – I’m torn – I want this country to stay a Jewish state, but it also needs to be democratic.


I think its time for Judaism within the government to be more progressive, pluralistic and democratic. That requires not having a monopoly in the rabbinate, placing rabbis, but also other professionals in a body like the rabbinate where there are more options for marriage.


The marriage that the rabbinate performs is not a marriage that I want. I don’t want to be bought like a slave. I don’t want to have to get a get. I think its very primitive.”


EVEN BEFORE she and her boyfriend broke up, Fishman had told him that they would need to find a Conservative synagogue for their family, an idea that she says is foreign to many secular Israelis. “There need to be more options. In the US, we’re used to paying for religious services, whereas in Israel its all sponsored by the government, and so people do not experience the other streams.”


Having more options available, she thinks, would not only have solved her crisis, but would actually strengthen Judaism here by “helping to create a more unified and more Jewish country that would be less polarized.”


Jewish unity, said Fishman, should be valued.


“Jews abroad sometimes feel like they don’t have the right to speak up, but without a strong Jewish Diaspora, we won’t have a strong Jewish state – it goes both ways. We need a strong Jewish community that goes back and forth.”


That, she said, is part of the message that she now carries with her. “Now that I”m speaking out, maybe the pain and sorrow I went through can bring about some kind of change.”


The [by]Law of Return


In her last weeks in Israel, Jessica Fishman worked closely with the organization Hiddush – For Religious Freedom and Equality in Israel, in an effort to try to get her story out.


“They were so supportive of me, and were good friends when I was going through everything,” recalled Fishman.


Rabbi Uri Regev, director of Hiddush, says that Fishman’s story may be unique, but that the context is much greater.


“This story should drive home for both Israeli and overseas leadership the fact that people like Jessica can make aliya under the Law of Return, but that doesn’t mean that they will necessarily have the full rights of citizens. When one asks the question of who is a Jew in Israel, there is unfortunately no one answer. The State of Israel extended its embrace to a broader definition of who is a Jew according to the Law of Return, but did not make the rest of the legislation consistent.


“Jessica was registered as a Jewess and received citizenship, but the embrace ends there. When you look at recent developments, you see that even now some Modern Orthodox converts wake up one day and find out that from the perspective of the rabbinate, they are not Jewish enough. More and more municipal rabbis are refusing to recognize even lenient Orthodox conversion.”


Regev said that the conversion legislation currently being examined in the Knesset would not provide any clear solution to Fishman’s situation.


Instead, he proposed, “the State of Israel should grant full legal recognition of conversions from all major streams, as well as the right to marry through both civil marriage and all recognized streams.”


Regev argued that “the clear majority of Israelis support civil marriage and marriage from all major recognized streams.”


Fishman’s story, he said, points to the fact that the current situation constitutes a “violation of basic rights” by failing to provide her with equal opportunity to be married under the law, and equal status under the law relative to other Israeli citizens. 

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