When Charity Comes Back to Kill

By Barry Silver, August 9, 2012

 When Charity Comes Back to Kill

Anyone who ever visits Britain should take the time to stop by the British Library. It’s in a rough area of London, but it’s an incredible site with a literal tower of books, a restaurant that serves beer to scholars at lunchtime, and an attached museum. I studied there and one moment stands out to me. I requested a document from a librarian. The British Library has, literally, kilometers of tunnels lined with books and documents. Usually you can get anything within one to two hours, but this time instead of my document I simply got a note that read “destroyed in the Blitz.” It got me to thinking, not that it was extraordinary that a document was lost in World War II, but that it was extraordinary that this was the only document I’ve run across that was destroyed in World War II. Indeed, the whole of Europe is like this.

World War II was exceptionally bloody and the Allied bombing and Soviet invasions leveled entire cities, but if you go to Western Europe you can easily miss the devastation. That’s because the Marshall Plan helped to jumpstart the European economy. The United State provided Europe with 5% of its GDP in loans over four years. Of that money, 40% could be used for imports. Everyone knew that meant imports from the United States. The remainder had to be invested in local industry. During the four years that the plan was in operation Europe’s economy regenerated and when the loans ran out the European states were left with self-sustaining economies that continued to grow for a generation. Israel similarly benefited from foreign funds, with West Germany providing almost 90% of Israel’s state budget as reparations in the 1950s.

Today the United States and the UN provide the Palestinian Authority with billions of dollars of funding, most of which goes missing and none of which builds up the economy. Various explanations are proffered, most of which place the blame on Israel: Israeli blockades, Israeli construction, Israeli warmongering. But that’s clearly not the reason.

Look at this satellite map of the Levant. Israel is well developed and—most importantly perhaps—green. The Israeli government has invested its money wisely and built the infrastructure that allowed individuals to flourish as farmers, traders, bankers, and industrialists. Israel is certainly not without problems, but the government has invested its money sensibly such that the country remains a formidable economic power. In the last generation similar amounts of money have been poured into the Palestinian Authority, but unemployment is astronomical and the Palestinians have very little in the way of indigenous industry. Where does that money go? Why aren’t the Palestinians flourishing? Perhaps it does come down to culture. The “aid” money for the Palestinians goes to purchasing food rather than to purchasing farm land. It goes to lining the pockets of Palestinian leaders instead of to the Palestinians themselves. It goes to fund the construction of rocket factories when the money would be better spent producing goods.

So, with all that waste … why is the United States funding the Palestinian Authority?

 
Barry Silver

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