Lia Tarachansky, Middle East reporter for TRNN, answers questions put to her by viewers
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore. And we’re continuing our special programming for the spring/summer fundraising campaign. And in case you haven’t heard me say this yet, we have a $50,000 matching grant, and if you click on the “Donate” button, every dollar you donate will be matched until we reach $100,000. It’s a critical period of fundraising for us. We hope you will support work like Lia Tarachansky’s, reporting from Israel and Palestine, or Jihan Hafiz, reporting from Cairo, or soon David Dougherty will be reporting from Bolivia and Venezuela, and of course all the work we do in the United States, increasingly in Canada, and especially our coverage of the student struggle in Quebec. So lots of work that needs your support.
Now joining us again from Tel Aviv is Lia Tarachansky, who runs our Israel-Palestine coverage. Thanks for joining us again, Lia.
LIA TARACHANSKY, TRNN PRODUCER: Thanks for having me, Paul.
JAY: So as I’ve said before, these segments are about asking questions viewers have sent in for this. And I’m going to read another question for Lia. So Iris Wall writes:
Palestinian or PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad says that his regime is short of funds. Can you please explain to me why 20 years after the Oslo agreement and billions in dollars in foreign aid, the Palestinian Authority has still not built modern hospitals? Or, rather, why do the donor countries pour money down the PA drain without expecting even some face-saving results?
And the viewer also says, how come we don’t report more about all of this? So what’s your take, Lia?
TARACHANSKY: Well, first of all, I think that the Oslo agreement itself actually stipulated something in terms of economic independence for the Palestinians that’s very important, which is, first of all, all donations to the Palestinian Authority have to go through Israel. And Israel uses this system in order to control the PA. So, often whenever the PA does a political move that Israel disagrees with, such as going to the UN to demand to be recognized as a state, Israel simply stops the flow of donations to the Palestinian Authority. So the Oslo agreement has actually stipulated a lot of the systems of control that Israel exercises over the economy of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Hamas regime that controls Gaza.
At the same time, what we’re seeing in the Palestinian Authority is a lot of oversight by the donor countries. So I think that it’s actually not true that there’s no oversight. At the same time, a lot of the aid that’s given to the Palestinian Authority is given with the stipulation of Salam Fayyad instituting neoliberal economic policies. So a new tax law that was recently passed in the West Bank actually changes the Palestinian economy in a way that puts a lot more burden on the people of Palestine, while at the same time taking a lot of control from unions, taking that control away. So I think one of the biggest corruptions actually happening in the Palestinian Authority-controlled areas is that the prime minister, being someone who was educated in the same sort of school of economics under Milton Friedman, is trying to institute the same sort of disaster-capital neoliberal policies that we’ve seen fail all over the world. And this is happening with donor money and with donor approval.
As far as corruption in the PA, a recent survey on corruption, global survey on corruption, recently found that Israel is actually a lot more corrupt as a country than the Palestinian Authorityâ€”for example, the former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who’s facing serious charges over a corruption scheme over some real estate in Jerusalem. The current foreign minister is facing very serious criminal charges that have been dragging on for four years and will probably even see him in court. So we haven’t actually focused on Israeli or Palestinian corruption. And in terms of the level of corruption, it’s actually much, much bigger inside Israel.
JAY: Now, that being said, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot of crony capitalism in the West Bank and the PA. I know when we’ve driven around Ramallah, you see beautiful condos going up, and people living in, you know, the rich sections of Ramallah rivalsâ€”I can’t say Beverly Hills, but, boy, they look very, very rich and wealthy. And a lot of people have made money out of the sort ofâ€”what do you callâ€”the reconstruction business or the NGO business in Ramallah. And so the viewer does have a point here to some extent, no?
TARACHANSKY: Certainly, and that’s completely true. At the same time, this new economic class, a new class of oligarchs in the West Bank, it’s not exactly a result of corruption. It’s the result of neoliberal policies that created a very, very small political elite that is taking advantage of this crisis mode, this lack of real political independence in the West Bank, to institute neoliberal policies that actually take power away from the people and economic power away from the people, and create economic monopolies on everything from water to cell phone companies to real estate, while at the same time bankrupting the Palestinian population. And when you look at the average wage of Palestinians in the West Bank and the average economic strength, people in Palestine are actually now poorer than they’ve ever been.
JAY: Now, we’ve done a fair amount of coverage of the Hamas-Fatah relationship, and recently there was another sort of signing of some kind of peace accord or agreement with Hamas and Fatah. Where is all this? And isâ€”you know, when you talk to Palestinians about the sort of lack of more lively or stronger opposition protest movement or resistance movement, they usually point to this discord between Hamas and Fatah and that they want national unity. But where is that at, and what’s in the way of that?
TARACHANSKY: It’s actually quite incredible that an agreement was signed for unity between Hamas and Fatah, considering the massive crackdown that the Israeli Defense Forces instituted all over the West Bank, arresting anyone who was participating in this unity, something that is a throwback to the beginning of the Oslo process when Israel arrested 800 Palestinians only for opposing the Oslo agreement. For the same political reasons, Israel has been arresting people who are trying to push for a unity agreement. And despite of all of the obstacles in the way, Fatah and Hamas actually managed to sign a unity agreement that many people on the ground still see as a shell without any content behind it.
I think that the politics behind it have a lot to do with the Arab Spring and with Hamas’s bankruptcy and their economic situation, having to move their headquarters from Syria to Egypt, and trying to understand how to navigate in the new Middle East.
JAY: Another question we got from a viewer was to what extent does the Israeli media report on the reality of the situation in the West Bank and in Gaza. Like, you know, when people are arrested, or even when people are killed by Israeli security forces, do most Israelis know it? Does the media report it as news?
TARACHANSKY: Not a single one of Israel’s newspapers has a full-time Palestinian journalist in the West Bank. Only the Haaretz newspaper has one woman, who’s an Israeli journalist (her name’s Amira Hass) who actually lives in the West Bank. And, of course, no Israeli journalist has been allowed in Gaza since 2005, and you don’t see Israeli journalists protesting this restriction. So in a way the only access the Israeli media has to reporting on what happens in the West Bank, refusing to trust Palestinian journalists to cover their own lives, is the press releases the government sends out.
So something that I’ve noticed a lot working in the West Bank is when an incident happens, which is on a daily basisâ€”either settlers or soldiers shoot or kill Palestinians, the Israeli army raids homes or arrests children or activists in the middle of the night, these people are forced to appear before military tribunals, sort of the grinding going on of the daily occupationâ€”none of that ever is reported, not in the Israeli press and not in Israeli media or on television. So in a way, Israelis have no real access to the reality, the daily reality in the West Bank. So what happens oftentimes is whenever there’s an incident, I cover that incident, I see that incident, I speak to the Palestinian people who have lived it, I get home and I get a press release from the Israeli government saying, you know, something like our brave soldiers have eliminated a threat, detailing the security reasons behind either a night raid or anything else that has happened, and in the next morning’s papers, that press release from the government, from the Israeli army spokesperson, is reprinted verbatim without any challenge to the narrative, without questioning its legitimacy or even trying to double check the Palestinian witnesses. So there’s very, very little accurate information about what’s happening on a daily basis in the occupied West Bank. So the average mainstream Israeli has no way, no reference to what’s actually going on and how Israel goes about controlling these territories. There’s also weekly bombings of Gaza that are completely absent from the Israeli press.
JAY: Well, one of the things we’re working on now is getting Lia’s reports and some of our other Real News coverage translated into Hebrew. And we’re going to be pushing this a lot over the next few months, to have a sort of Hebrew section of The Real News Network, as well as, of course, an Arabic section and a Spanish section coming soonâ€”and a French section, I hope, coming soon.
So don’t forget we’re in the midst of the spring/summer fundraising campaign. We’re going to be trying to match this $50,000 grant. And without me blabbing on more, what would really help is if you click the “Donate” button, ’cause if you don’t click on that right now, in this moment, unless you already have and don’t want toâ€”perhaps you’ll want to do it againâ€”but if you haven’t, now is a great time to get it over with. If you’re thinking you might donate and you’re kind of putting it off, well, now is the time to do it.
Thanks for joining us on The Real News Network.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.