Thursday, December 30, 2010

Role of Israeli firms raises boycott concerns about Rawabi

AN IMPORTANT PIECE
Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 30 December 2010

"The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) in Palestine, has expressed its concern following reports that Israeli companies have been contracted to take part in the construction of Rawabi, an already controversial Qatari-financed Palestinian real estate development in the occupied West Bank....

The BNC, the coordinating body for the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign said in a statement sent to The Electronic Intifada that, "Given that the Rawabi project has taken several deeply problematic decisions that undermine the boycott campaign and principles of national consensus among Palestinians, as well as promotes a 'business-as-usual' approach to Israel, this latest report requires close scrutiny by Palestinian political parties, unions, NGOs [nongovernmental organizations], and civil society at large."...

However, the BNC added that the "involvement of a Qatari business in a Palestinian project where Israeli companies are also involved is certainly a form of normalization" which "uses the Palestinian side as a bridge to normalize, or a fig leaf to cover up, collusion with Israeli companies almost all of which are complicit in Israel's occupation, apartheid and denial of fundamental Palestinian rights." Qatari Diar (http://www.qataridiar.com/), a major real estate development company in the Middle East and Europe, is the only international investor in Rawabi. The BNC strictly opposes normalization between Israel and Arab countries.


Bashar Masri
[For more on this Bashar Masri, see this post from yesterday] , CEO of the Ramallah-based Bayti Real Estate Investment company, the developer of Rawabi and its other major investor, confirmed to The Electronic Intifada that so far a dozen Israeli companies are suppliers to the project......

But, it added, "There is a twisted logic in some Palestinian business quarters that rationalizes working with Israeli companies, even when there are Palestinian or international alternatives, as a means to assure easier issuance of Israeli military permits, necessary for conducting any form of business." While such quid pro quos could help remove obstacles in the short run, the BNC warned, "the ultimate result is perpetuating Israel's occupation and economic subjugation of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian economy.".....

Masri is passionate about Rawabi and presents it as a necessary project in the development of Palestine, especially to address urgent housing needs. Nor does he see it as contradicting efforts to end the "miserable occupation." But in addition to being a private, for-profit venture, there is an unmistakable political dimension, which the latest revelations of Israeli involvement only underscore.

Writing for The Electronic Intifada last February, Ziyaad Lunat placed Rawabi in the context of the "economic peace" promoted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and unelected PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.....

In addition to concerns about possible boycott violations and normalization with Israel, the Rawabi model raises deeper questions for all Palestinians. Even if Masri has the best of intentions, Rawabi represents an entirely top-down, profit-driven approach to the development of Palestine where the "vision" created by financiers, marketers, international investors and "peace process" officials is substituted for the aspirations of the broader community.

Palestinian nationalism is transformed into a zeal for real-estate deals and the establishment of gated communities rather than a focus on liberating human beings and giving them the chance to decide for themselves how they want to live and what they want their communities to look like......"

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