In ‘Ramallah Bubble,’ Gaza and West Bank Poverty Don’t Exist

Writing from the confines of what some Palestinians call the Ramallah bubble (Haaretz, 1/1/09), Thomas Friedman (New York Times, 6/30/10) thinks he knows how to solve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict: quietly support[ing] the Palestinian Authority while it builds a real economy, a professional security force and an effective, transparent government bureaucracy.

Friedman has a curious definition of a Palestinian state, which according to Friedman is in the West Bank and Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.â┚¬Ã‚ Gaza is missing from this equation, and probably not by accident, as Friedman has a history of trying to dismiss Hamas-run Gaza as undemocratic,â┚¬Ã‚ and therefore illegitimate–despite the fact that Hamas was democratically elected and the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority is in power illegally (FAIR Blog, 6/16/10). Friedman seems to be following the West Bank firstâ┚¬Ã‚ approach (New York Times, 6/19/07), first begun by the Bush administration and now followed by the Obama administration, that seeks to shower economic support on the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank while isolating Gaza. If the Gaza aid flotilla affair taught the world anything, though, those looking to end the violence in Palestine canâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢t ignore the situation in the besieged Gaza Strip.

The irony of Friedmanâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s column is that the same day it was published online, Al Jazeera English (6/29/10) reported that a new Save the Children UK report set to come out today paints picture of life in the West Bank, particularly the Israeli-administered zone known as Area C, thatâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s almost an exact opposite to Friedmanâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s cheery view:

“The international community has rightly focused its attention on the suffering of families in Gaza, but the plight of children in Area C must not be overlooked,” Salam Kanaan, Save the Children’s director in the occupied Palestinian Territories, said.”

Palestinians in the West Bank are widely thought to enjoy a higher standard of living but tragically many families, particularly in Bedouin and herder communities, actually suffer significantly higher levels of malnutrition and poverty.”

The organization called for Israel to immediately cease home demolitions and land confiscations in the West Bank and said the Palestinian authority should take “urgent action” to develop services and improve food security in Area C.

“Palestinian children cannot wait for the stalled peace talks between the Palestinian Authority, Israel and the United States to find solutions to this crisis,” Kanaan said.

Friedmanâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s chat with an upbeatâ┚¬Ã‚ Salam Fayyad, the prime minister for the Palestinian Authority, apparently didnâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢t touch on what Save the Children calls grinding povertyâ┚¬Ã‚ in the West Bank. That discussion would surely put the kibosh on any benign and happy view of life under Israeli occupation.