Americans in Greece (& Who can compete with NGO salaries in the West Bank?)

July 20, 2011

Above: One of Ramallah’s many nice cafes


* “A Russian ship loading grain is spewing grain and dust over the entire area. In addition, the off-loading noise the ship is making is above environmentally acceptable limit, sounding like a bad rock concert playing at the back of the boat! … The U.S. Embassy has done absolutely nothing to help us … NOTHING, ABSOULTELY NOTHING!!!”

* “The billions that pour in here mean the Palestinian Authority does not need to try very hard to deliver the services expected by voters, it also stifles the private sector, inflates wages and causes an internal ‘brain drain’. No Palestinian business can compete with NGOs which routinely triple what a local firm would pay. Many NGOs fork out ‘danger money’ and even ‘hardship payments’ to both local and international staff (who then dine daily at the many expensive West Bank and Gaza restaurants) which further undermines the ability of local private businesses to hire. So the NGOs get the brightest and the highest paid, and the private firms get the rest but without the tax exemptions.”

* While the citizens of America and Europe are presently suffering economic hardships at home, their governments continue to pour money into the West Bank and Gaza where life is not nearly as bad as many Western journalists and NGOs would have us believe.


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CONTENTS

1. Americans in Greece
2. The BBC’s priorities
3. “Awash with money”
4. Email alert from “Gaza Irish Friends” (July 12, 2011)
5. Email alert from “U.S. Boat to Gaza” (July 16, 2011)
6. “Palestine – ‘Occupation Incorporated’” (By Tim Marshall, Sky News, July 18, 2011)


[All notes below by Tom Gross]

AMERICANS IN GREECE

I attach three items below. The first two are emails sent from the boat “The Audacity of Hope” (named after President Obama’s autobiography). The boat, with American activists aboard (they have been dubbed “Hamas’ useful idiots”), remains moored in Greece, where the authorities refuse to let it sail to Gaza.

I sent these emails to some subscribers to this list on the days they were sent (July 12 and 16), but many other people have written since asking me to send them, so I attach them below. (The activists on the boat have in any case stated at the foot of their emails: “Please distribute widely”.)

Despite what the somewhat hysterical emails say, these activists are not “imprisoned” but are free to sail whenever they want, for example to the Greek islands. Or they are free to visit the sights of Athens, or indeed to return home.

They are just not free to sail uninspected to Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas which continues to smuggle in weapons to use in acts of terror – both against Israel and against fellow Palestinians. The European Union (of which Greece is of course a member) has declared Hamas to be a terrorist group.

However, if these activists want to go to Gaza, they could of course travel to Israel or Egypt and then enter Gaza by land, like everyone else who doesn’t mind having their bags searched before crossing borders.

In the second email, one of the activists says “She has been an active participant in the World Social Forum and the UN Conference Against Racism (Durban, South Africa).” – i.e. one of the most notorious anti-Semitic gatherings of recent years.

 

THE BBC’S PRIORITIES


Many more missiles have been fired from Gaza at Israel in recent days, not that you would have heard about this on the BBC, who have broken their near round-the-clock obsessive coverage of Rupert Murdoch’s affairs only to report in the most flagrantly biased way yesterday on the fact that Israeli commandos peacefully intercepted another boat to Gaza, and brought it to the port of Ashdod, where having inspected its cargo, its occupants (about half of whom appear to have been anti-Israeli news reporters) and their cargo were allowed to cross by land to Gaza, having first undergone the regular customs inspection.

You also won’t have heard much on the BBC, or the rest of the international media, about the particularly heavy bombing raids on Libya in recent days by British, French and other NATO warplanes, which resulted in a significant number of Libyan casualties on the ground. Nor will you have heard much about the 21 Muslim Uighur civilians gunned down by the Chinese authorities yesterday. Or about the increasing number of Syrian pro-democracy protestors now being shot dead in Damascus, where the Syrian uprising has finally reached in large numbers. (Even the coverage of USA Today of the Arab Spring has been much better than supposedly superior media like The International Herald Tribune.)

To remind readers, the BBC, the world’s most lavishly funded news network, is under a legal requirement under British law to be balanced in its coverage.

 

“AWASH WITH MONEY”

Thirdly, I attach an article from the Sky News website by Tim Marshall, the Foreign Affairs editor of Sky News (who is a long time subscriber to this list). He observes that “there are well over 200 NGOs in the West Bank and Gaza” (many well-funded by European taxpayers at a time when the continent is undergoing economic difficulties) and “the place is awash with money”.

He writes of the West Bank’s “smart restaurants, sparkling new hotels, and the scale of building work,” adding that “Palestine remains a friendly place, welcoming, hospitable, full of air con, hi-fi, wi-fi and wine. Journalists also take advantage of this state of affairs, writing of the poverty and suffering of Gaza for example, before retiring to very expensive sea front hotels after an excellent dinner in one of the expensive fish restaurants.”

But more importantly, he adds: “Even if the Palestinians declare full statehood in September they would not be truly independent, not only because of the continuing Israeli occupation, checkpoints, lack of freedom of movement of goods etc, but also because Palestine is addicted to aid and as long as you are addicted you are in thrall to your supplier.

Tim Marshall also repeats the quote from my dispatch last week:

“Palestine is the best-kept secret in the aid industry,” a medical NGO worker recently told This Week In Palestine, “People need field experience and Palestine sounds cool and dangerous because it can be described as a war zone, but in reality it’s quite safe and has all the comforts that internationals want.”

-- Tom Gross


EMAIL ALERT FROM “GAZA IRISH FRIENDS” (JULY 12, 2011)

From: Irish
Date: July 12, 2011 5:08:52 AM CDT
To: gazafriends
Subject: [GazaFriends] Demand the release of The Audacity of Hope

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Ann Wright, 0030 694 165 7310
Regina Carey: 0030 694 203 6296

Athens, July 12, 2011, At 10 am today, the shore electricity was cut off to the Audacity of Hope, the US Boat to Gaza, leaving us with no power. The boat has been imprisoned at the US Embassy/Greek Coast Guard dock, near Piraeus, Greece, just outside of Athens since we tried to sail to Gaza on July 1 when the Greek Coast Guard intercepted our small boat and hauled us into this compound.

Its over 100 degrees inside the boat, and a Russian ship loading grain is spewing grain and dust over the entire area. In addition, the off-loading noise the ship is making is above environmentally acceptable limit, sounding like a bad rock concert playing at the back of the boat! Six women are staying on board to protect the boat, since two boats heading to Gaza were already sabotaged in an attempt to prevent us from sailing to Gaza. Four of us are over 60. The Greek naval facility is co-located with a US Embassy compound which has one warehouse exclusively for the U.S. government, as well as a ramp for loading vehicles onto a ship. It also has a parking area for the wrecked cars of Americans who have been involved in traffic accidents plus a secure warehouse compound behind the ubiquitous high fence topped with razor wire and signs printed in both English and Greek in the US government block style lettering

The Greek Coast Guard is probably caught in the middle and may be ready to release us, but government politics seems to wants to keep us in port to appease the Israeli government, since the occupation of Palestine has been outsourced to the Greeks.

Call the Greek Embassy in Washington and .the Greek consulates around the Country and demand that they release the Audacity of Hope

Embassy of Greece
2217 Massachusetts Ave. N.W.
Washington, DC 20008
Tel. 202.939.1300
Fax. 202.939.1324

You can also call Kim Richter at the State Department or write a text message to her at 202-647-8308, insisting that the US release this boat and the six women on board who are making sure she remains safe. Our conversation with Kate Brandeis this morning, acting Consul General for the United States bore no fruit after we told her what was happening on board this boat.

 

EMAIL ALERT FROM “U.S. BOAT TO GAZA” (JULY 16, 2011)

From: U.S. BOAT TO GAZA
Date: Sat, Jul 16, 2011 at 1:23 PM
Subject: July 16th Alert from the U.S. Boat to Gaza

Action Alert, July 16th-

Call State Dept Emergency Operations Center
about Conditions on The Audacity of Hope!

Contact:

Ann Wright 011 30 694 165 7310
Regina Carey 011 30 694 203 6296
Jenny Linnell 011 30 694 224 6648

Athens, July 16, 2011 - Day 16 of the imprisonment of the U.S. Boat to Gaza, The Audacity of Hope, at a U.S. Embassy shared pier near Piraeus, Greece, just outside of Athens.

The U.S. Embassy has done absolutely nothing to help us in 100 + degree heat at a U.S. Government shared pier! No shore power, no alternatives provided (like another pier). No consular visits to see the conditions for themselves. NOTHING, ABSOULTELY NOTHING!!!

This weekend, please call the State Department 202-647-4000 and ask for the 24 hour Emergency Operations Center. Tell them that 3 people are still enduring the inhumane, dangerous conditions on the boat.

All are women--2 Americans and 1 UK citizen. They are:

Regina Carey (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2011/07/06/18683952.php) from San Rafael, California, is a consultant specializing in strategic planning and planned giving. In her lifetime commitment to human rights she has focused her time and energy to the Rights of the Indigenous (original people), Water Rights and Peace. She is a co-founder of the Black/Jewish Dialogue Group in Marin County, California. She has been an active participant in the World Social Forum and the UN Conference Against Racism (Durban, South Africa).

Crew member Jenny Linnell, is a British citizen from Devon, England, and was a Free Gaza crew member in 2008 on the first boat that broke the naval blockade of Gaza. She stayed in Gaza for a year and worked with the International Solidarity Movement. Her exit from Gaza into Egypt a year later took over 6 weeks because she had arrived by boat. She holds a “Day Skipper” license from the Royal Yachting Association and founded a sailing collective called “Learning the Ropes”.

Ann Wright is a former U.S. diplomat with 16 years in the State Department and Deputy Chief of Mission (Deputy Ambassador) at 4 U.S Embassies (Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia) and who got the State Department’s award for Heroism for her actions protecting civilians during the civil war in Sierra Leone. She resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to Bush’s war on Iraq.

GET ON BOARD THE U.S. TO GAZA CAMPAIGN

VISIT WWW.USTOGAZA.ORG

TO ENDORSE AND CONTRIBUTE

Thank you for your support
Please distribute widely
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Forward email
US TO GAZA | PO Box 373 | Bearsville | NY | 12409

 

PALESTINE - ‘OCCUPATION INCORPORATED’

Palestine - ‘Occupation Incorporated’
By Tim Marshall
Sky News
July 18, 2011

blogs.news.sky.com/foreignmatters/Post:9af1d847-da96-4825-9836-47e32000c275

An African UN worker in the West Bank recently remarked to a mutual friend ‘When people see me coming they see a walking ATM machine’.

Driving through Ramallah, and then Jericho, the other day I was reminded of that quip as I looked at the smart restaurants, sparkling new hotels, and the scale of building work.

The Palestinian Authority likes to boast about the West Bank’ s 8% economic growth, so does the Israeli government, which uses it to suggest that a prosperous Palestine would make an easier negotiating partner. They also know the Palestinians have more lose if a 3rd Intifada breaks out.

What they fail to remind us is that there are well over 200 NGOs in the West Bank and Gaza, and 30% of the GDP here comes from international aid. Palestinians are among the most foreign aid funded people in the world and the place is awash with money.

This underlying economic problem is further complicated by the fact that UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees stipulates that not only are the Palestinians who fled their homes in 1948 refugees, but so are their sons and daughters grandsons and granddaughters, great grandsons and granddaughters and so on into the future. In Palestine many people are born refugees. There are people who have a vested interest in this continuing. In 1950 there were 750,000 Palestinians in the Middle East, now there are 4.8 million. UNWRA is considered a ‘temporary agency’.

Even if the Palestinians declare full statehood in September they would not be truly independent, not only because of the continuing Israeli occupation, checkpoints, lack of freedom of movement of goods etc, but also because Palestine is addicted to aid and as long as you are addicted you are in thrall to your supplier.

The billions that pour in here mean the Palestinian Authority does not need to try very hard to deliver the services expected by voters, it also stifles the private sector, inflates wages and causes an internal ‘brain drain’.

The restaurant I went to in Ramallah had a line of expensive cars outside and ranks of NGO workers picking their way through an expensive menu inside. The NGOs do fine work alleviating suffering, helping projects with expertise etc, but they also recruit the best of the local talent and take advantage of their charitable status to get tax breaks.

No Palestinian business can compete with NGOs which routinely triple what a local firm would pay. Many NGOs fork out ‘danger money’ and even ‘hardship payments’ to both local and international staff which further undermines the local private businesses. So the NGOs get the brightest and the highest paid, and the private firms get the rest but without the tax exemptions.

“Palestine is the best-kept secret in the aid industry,” a medical NGO worker recently told This Week In Palestine, “People need field experience and Palestine sounds cool and dangerous because it can be described as a war zone, but in reality it’s quite safe and has all the comforts that internationals want’

Of course that could change. At any moment the West Bank could explode, indeed there are scenarios you can paint which suggest violence this September after the declaration, or non declaration, of statehood. But Palestine remains a friendly place, welcoming, hospitable, full of air con, hi-fi, wi-fi and wine. Journalists also take advantage of this state of affairs, writing of the poverty and suffering of Gaza for example, before retiring to very expensive sea front hotels after an excellent dinner in one of the expensive fish restaurants.

This is not to argue that NGOs are not required, many are, but they distort the situation and fundamentally the Palestinians cannot have properly functioning businesses, nor be fully independent until their leaders are partially weaned off their addiction to other peoples’ money.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.