Over the past year, as Arab peoples in surrounding countries erupted in protest against dictators, security regimes, and failed social and economic policies, the Palestinian people living in their occupied homeland have remained quiescent. Neither have mass protests targeted the Palestinian “regime’s” policies or negotiating performance, nor has resistance to Israeli occupation escalated or taken more effective forms.
In contrast to the turbulence and revolutionary potential of the Arab Spring, has neoliberal ideology, through its economic policy content, created a Palestinian constituency for normalcy and risk aversion that could hold back progress in the struggle for national liberation? In exploring the impact of recent neoliberal economic policies of the Palestinian Authority (PA) on living conditions and popular political consciousness, the burning question is whether these have succeeded in creating a people willing to resist encroachments upon their material gains and the liberal way of life.
Intuitively at least, the eventuality of a neoliberal complacency seems unlikely, if not absurd, for a people struggling for liberation from a regime of prolonged Israeli settler colonialism. Any informed observer cannot but be cognizant of the ravages on social fabric wrought by neoliberal policies in many countries, including within the neo/post-colonial range of experiences. To the extent that a the fallout from the world economic crisis may evolve into a backlash that targets neoliberal policies and their impact globally and in the region, even if not necessarily their legitimacy, the need to elaborate a relevant critique in the Palestinian context becomes compelling.
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[Also note this Haaretz interview in which Khalidi — in contrast to many others — does not take issue with the PA’s aid dependency but rather to the uses to which it puts that aid. He also comments that the bloated PA payroll is a consciously Keynesian choice by the PA, the only counter-cyclical tool in its economic policy toolkit. The idea is to exploit preexisting patterns and flows of capital by using state power to build up Palestine’s resistance capacities. Along similar lines, Samer Abdelnour argues that international NGOs and aid organizations “must seriously rethink the claim that their work is ‘apolitical,’ should immediately publicize the extent of potential harm caused throughout their chain of operations, and outline a transparent action plan for eliminating potential harm in their work.” Elsewhere, he, Sam Bahour, and Alaa Tartir offer pragmatic proposals for creating a resistance economy, by creating economic facts on the ground from which Palestinians can project strength. Part of the proposal is using the economic leverage of the Diaspora to re-develop a thoroughly dedeveloped Palestinian economy, trapped in the cage of a political economy defined by growth in the absence of human development. Also see Linah Alsaafin’s reflections on what has happened to the March 15 Movement in Palestine.]