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Study: At least 78% of humanitarian aid intended for Palestinians ends up in Israeli coffers

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Diplomats may have a reputation for greyness, obfuscation, even hypocrisy, but few have found themselves compared to a serial killer, let alone one who devours human flesh.

That honour befell Laars Faaborg-Andersen, the European Union’s ambassador to Israel, last week when Jewish settlers launched a social media campaign casting him as Hannibal Lecter, the terrifying character from the film Silence of the Lambs.

An image of the Danish diplomat wearing Lecter’s prison face-mask was supposed to suggest that Europe needs similar muzzling.

The settlers’ grievance relates to European aid, which has provided temporary shelter to Palestinian Bedouin families after the Israeli army demolished their homes in the occupied territories near Jerusalem. The emergency housing has helped them remain on land coveted by Israel and the settlers.

European officials, outraged by the Lecter comparison, have reminded Tel Aviv that, were it to abide by international law, Israel – not the EU – would be taking responsibility for these families’ welfare.

While Europe may think of itself as part of an enlightened West, using aid to defend Palestinians’ rights, the reality is less reassuring. The aid may actually be making things significantly worse.

Shir Hever, an Israeli economist who has spent years piecing together the murky economics of the occupation, recently published a report that makes shocking reading.

Like others, he believes international aid has allowed Israel to avoid footing the bill for its decades-old occuption. But he goes further.

His astonishing conclusion – one that may surprise Israel’s settlers – is that at least 78 per cent of humanitarian aid intended for Palestinians ends up in Israel’s coffers.

The sums involved are huge. The Palestinians under occupation are among the most aid-dependent in the world, receiving more than $2bn from the international community a year. According to Hever, donors could be directly subsidising up to a third of the occupation’s costs.

Other forms of Israeli profiteering have been identified in previous studies.

In 2013 the World Bank very conservatively estimated that the Palestinians lose at least $3.4bn a year in resources plundered by Israel.

Further, Israel’s refusal to make peace with the Palestinians, and as a consequence the rest of the region, is used to justify Washington’s annual $3bn in military aid.

Israel also uses the occupied territories as laboratories for testing weapons and surveillance systems on Palestinians – and then exports its expertise. Israel’s military and cyber industries are hugely profitable, generating many billions of dollars of income each year.

A survey published last week found tiny Israel to be the eighth most powerful country in the world.

But whereas these income streams are a recognisable, if troubling, windfall from Israel’s occupation, western humanitarian aid to the Palestinians is clearly intended for the victims, not the victors.

So how is Israel creaming off so much?

The problem, says Hever, is Israel’s self-imposed role as mediator. To reach the Palestinians, donors have no choice but to go through Israel. This provides ripe opportunities for what he terms “aid subversion” and “aid diversion”.

The first results from the Palestinians being a captive market. They have access to few goods and services that are not Israeli.

Who Profits?, an Israeli organisation monitoring the economic benefits for Israel in the occupation, assesses that dairy firm Tnuva enjoys a monopoly in the West Bank worth $60 million annually.

Aid diversion, meanwhile, occurs because Israel controls all movement of people and goods. Israeli restrictions mean it gets to charge for transportation and storage, and levy “security” fees.

Other studies have identified additional profits from “aid destruction”. When Israel wrecks foreign-funded aid projects, Palestinians lose – but Israel often benefits.

Cement-maker Nesher, for example, is reported to control 85 per cent of all construction by Israelis and Palestinians, including the supplies for rebuilding efforts in Gaza after Israel’s repeated rampages.

Significant segments of Israeli society, aside from those in the security industries, are lining their pockets from the occupation. Paradoxically, the label “the most aid-dependent people in the world” – usually affixed to the Palestinians – might be better used to describe Israelis.

What can be done? International law expert Richard Falk notes that Israel is exploiting an aid oversight vacuum: there are no requirements on donors to ensure their money reaches the intended recipients.

What the international community has done over the past 20 years of the Oslo process – inadvertently or otherwise – is offer Israel financial incentives to stabilise and entrench its rule over the Palestinians. It can do so relatively cost-free.

While Europe and Washington have tried to beat Israel with a small diplomatic stick to release its hold on the occupied territories, at the same time they dangle juicy financial carrots to encourage Israel to tighten its grip.

There is a small ray of hope. Western aid policy does not have to be self-sabotaging. Hever’s study indicates that Israel has grown as reliant on Palestinian aid as the Palestinians themselves.

The EU noted last week that Israel not Brussels should be caring for the Bedouin it has left homeless. Europe could take its own advice to heart and start shifting the true costs of the occupation back on to Israel.

That may happen soon enough whatever the west decides, if – as even Israel is predicting will occur soon – the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas collapses.

Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His new website is

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12 Responses

  1. Ossinev on March 8, 2016, 12:18 pm

    A timely and informative article which points to the inevitable upcoming Battle of the Zionist “Titans” between the fundamentalist fruitcakes who are straining at the leash to destroy the status quo and the faux Zionists who want to underpin the SQ for as long as possible to further line their coffers – using the “need” for a “peace process” and “direct negotiations” as convenient camouflage. The battle will be hastened of course if Abbas and his Vichy cronies are finally forced to give up the charade and “hand over the keys”.

    Would be fascinating to learn after it all how much the Yahoo and his various cohorts over the decades have managed to squirrel away in foreign bank accounts and foreign investments.

    • Blairstation1000 on April 25, 2016, 7:30 pm

      Chances are you would be a fundamentalist fruitcake too if you were under zionist occupation.

  2. a blah chick on March 8, 2016, 1:11 pm

    “The EU noted last week that Israel not Brussels should be caring for the Bedouin it has left homeless. Europe could take its own advice to heart and start shifting the true costs of the occupation back on to Israel”

    They could also start with eliminating idiotic anti-BDS legislation.

  3. amigo on March 8, 2016, 1:57 pm

    This will change as does the percentage of Israel/Palestine land distribution.It too was at 78% to Israel and 22% to the Palestinians.In keeping with zionist dreams , the eventual outcome will be all humanitarian aid to Palestinians will match the percentage of land they will end up with .


  4. oldgeezer on March 8, 2016, 2:14 pm

    I’m not the least bit suprised that Israel profits from Palestinian aid. That has been clear for a long time. Not just the day to day aid but they profit prolifically from their lawn mowing exercies. Murder and theft for fun and profit.

    For years we have had to put up with propaganda crap how Israel tends to this or that Palestinian person in an Israeli hospital.

    The fact of the matter is that Israel is totally responsible for the health, welfare, education and economic opportunity in those areas it occupies.

    Like the rogue state it has always been Israel ignores these legal requirements and forces those of us in the west to cover their shortfall while our own poor suffer due to lack of funds.

    No more theft by Israel. No more criminal behavour. No more crimes against humanity. BDS until the rotten corrupt pile of crap dissolves.

    Israelis have an oversized sense of entitlement that the rules don`t apply to them and that the world owes them. Evidenced not only by this theft of our money while putting down Palestinians for needing aid but also by the fact they feel the US doesn`t support them enough despite all the billions in aid and every veto. No more. No more death under their jackboots.

    A criminal regime, rotten to the core.

  5. Stephen Shenfield on March 8, 2016, 4:44 pm

    Is Shir Hever’s report available in English? Do you have a link to it?

  6. Boomer on March 8, 2016, 4:52 pm

    This is disturbing, but not, on reflection, surprising. If Israel is willing to steal land and homes from the Palestinians, even willing to kill them, then naturally it is willing to skim aid intended for them, and profiteering off them in whatever way it can.

    re: “The EU noted last week that Israel not Brussels should be caring for the Bedouin it has left homeless. Europe could take its own advice to heart and start shifting the true costs of the occupation back on to Israel.”

    Israel will just pass the cost on the U.S., our pols will be happy to pay (with our money, not their own, of course). Uncle Joe is on his way now, with bags of our money, ready to do the donkey.

  7. ritzl on March 8, 2016, 5:19 pm

    I wonder how Palestinians feel about the process of shifting the burden of occupation onto Israel-the-occupier. As the article points out (Ramallah aside) they are in dire straits. If humanitarian aid was cut off would Israel make those circumstances worse?

    Would the displaced Bedu (inside Israel) simply starve while Israel plays the “see what your policies have done” game?

  8. amigo on March 8, 2016, 6:11 pm

    This is a very useful report to use when zionists accuse the Palestinian leaders of stashing billions of aid money into foreign banks .Think Mrs Arafat.

    Now we know where most of it ends up.

    • oldgeezer on March 8, 2016, 6:55 pm


      Yes those corrupt Palestinian politicians. Whereas on the other side of the border the position of PM has become a brief stopover on the journey to a penitentiary. Heck Mrs Nutty even went for nickle amd dime bottle returns. (I personally write that off to pure stupidity to be fair bit who knows)

  9. eljay on March 10, 2016, 12:26 pm

    || MaxNarr: … 100% of aide should be confiscated by Israel until Hamas is Disbanded … ||

    Fair enough. And 100% of aid to Israel should be confiscated until it:
    – ends its on-going occupation and colonization of land outside of its / Partition borders;
    – withdraws to within its / Partition borders;
    – honours its obligations under international law (including RoR of refugees); and
    – dismantles its religion-supremacist “Jewish State” framework and replaces it with a secular and democratic framework.

    || … and Israel is recognized as the Jewish state from the river to the sea. … ||

    Not even within its / Partition borders should Israel be recognized as a religion-supremacist “Jewish State”. No state has a right to exist as a supremacist state of any kind.

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