Monday, March 10, 2008

Hegemony through free trade: Interview with Daoud Hamoudi

Stefan Christoff, The Electronic Intifada, 10 March 2008

"Economics is a central element of US-driven military policy in the Middle East. A series of free trade agreements initiated by the US are currently being negotiated or have recently been signed throughout the region.

From Bahrain, to Jordan, to Egypt to Saudi Arabia, these economic agreements aim to crack the long-standing boycott of Israel maintained by the majority of countries in the Middle East. These bilateral trade accords include a condition for countries to recognize Israel.

Apartheid economics is critical to US and Israeli policy in the region, implemented through neo-liberal bilateral trade accords, or on the ground in Palestine where Israel is pushing a plan to build industrial processing zones. Proposed industrial zones will see Israeli corporations' factories operating with a Palestinian labor force, similar to maquiladoras, Mexican factories which became notorious for human and labor rights abuses in the 1990s.

At the recent US-sponsored summit in Annapolis, joint Israeli-Palestinian industrial zone projects were designated as an object of future collaboration and a peace-building initiative between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). Major industrial zones backed by the World Bank and European Union are slated to be constructed in the occupied West Bank.

The proposed industrial projects will see thousands of Palestinians working at Israeli-operated factories in closed military zones where labor laws don't apply. A grassroots movement against these industrial zones is spreading throughout Palestinian society as part of the international boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign. Israel's occupation of Palestine and the construction of the apartheid wall is a huge burden on the Israeli economy; these industrial processing zones are being promoted as economic engines for Israel.

The Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign is organizing against the establishment of these industrial processing zones. Campaigner Daoud Hamoudi spoke with The Electronic Intifada contributor Stefan Christoff on the issue of US-driven free trade agreements in the Middle East and the economics of apartheid in Palestine......."

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