Financial Irregularities in the PA
Critique from a Leading Jordanian Diplomat
Hasan Abu Nimah is a distinguished notable on the Jordanian diplomatic scene. A former Permanent Representative for his country at the UN and associate of leading Palestinian figures, he recently wrote a damning assessment of the Palestinian Authority (PA).
He comments on how the PA is finally being forced to investigate if Prime Minister Qureia is profiting from the construction of the Israeli anti-terrorist barrier, especially where concrete is being used. He notes that the French authorities are concerned that Mrs. Arafat has received funds illegally, possibly from donations originally provided by the EU. And he notes how these allegations have always surrounded the PA leadership, especially Nabil Shaath, but Chairman Arafat has consistently refused to take action.
He concludes by noting that until the PA undertakes to reform itself, the average Palestinian will continue to suffer. We can assume that the peace process cannot move ahead.
And the question remains: The EU’s contributions, valued at 4b EUR since 1993, where have they disappeared to?
The following is an extract of his article written for the Electronic Intifada on February 18, 2004, which can be found in full at http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article2432.shtml.
Hasan Abu Nimah
Already on the defensive politically, the PA's position has been further eroded externally, particularly as a result of its inability to meet an undertaking to dismantle "terrorist" groups including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the military wing of Fatah.
With so little room for action on the home front, PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia recently embarked on a tour of Arab and European capitals. Apart from travel for its own sake, as a pleasant alternative to the stagnation and political bankruptcy at home, Qureia might have been motivated by two slim hopes. First, he may have sought to alleviate a severe financial crisis by holding out the hat to European and Arab donors. Second, he was lobbying for help to resuscitate the comatose peace process. Qureia surely recognizes that, under present conditions, resumption of a peace process cannot lead to peace. Rather, the appearance of a peace process is enough to temporarily restore to the PA its raison d'etre.
Qureia's mission met with little tangible success, although he did gain some symbolic verbal condemnations of Sharon's apartheid wall. Otherwise he heard the usual American and Israeli-inspired refrain that the Palestinians "must do more" to dismantle "terrorist" organizations and curb violence. He was also advised to finally hold his much-postponed meeting with Sharon, something that would do neither him nor the Palestinian people any good.
Meanwhile, the PA was further undermined by the eruption of new corruption scandals, involving Qureia and other key leaders.
While the Prime Minister was complaining to European leaders about the Israeli Wall and its devastating effect on Palestinians, the Associated Press (AP) reported that a cement company owned by Qureia's family and based in his home town of Abu Dis, was selling cement to Israeli settlements and for the construction of the very same wall. In an 11 February report, the AP cited Israel's Channel Ten TV showing cement mixers leaving Qureia's "Al Quds" cement company and heading towards the nearby Israeli settlement of Ma'ale Adumim. The TV report also said that Qureia was supplying cement to build concrete slabs for the Israeli barrier right outside his Abu Dis home.
A Palestinian lawmaker quoted by the AP as said "there was evidence that Qureia was selling cement to Ma'ale Adumim," and that his suspicion was strengthened by the fact that Qureia had transferred ownership of the company to another member of his family just a few months ago.
Unsurprisingly, the allegations were vehemently denied by Qureia, but a Palestinian parliamentary committee is investigating the matter. Jamil Tarifi, a Palestinian Cabinet minister is also "among those being investigated," according to unnamed Palestinian officials quoted by the AP report.
If these allegations were not shocking enough, France announced that it is investigating money transfers totalling 9 million euros ($11.5 million) from Swiss banks to private accounts owned by Suha Arafat, the wife of the Palestinian leader. The French concern over possible money laundering may not be the most disturbing aspect of the affair.
What remains to be explained is why the Palestinian First Lady is living in Paris in the first place instead of remaining with her people and sharing their plight. She was happy enough to be in the Occupied Territories when Hilary Clinton and other dignitaries would come to pay their respects. And where did this money come from if it is not money that rightfully belongs to the Palestinian people? And why should such an enormous sum be allocated to one small Palestinian family -- Mrs. Arafat and her daughter -- if not to sustain a lavish Parisian lifestyle? The same amount of money could support almost 6,000 Palestinian families for an entire year, given that many survive on no more than $6 per day.
This article originally appeared in the Electronic Intifada, Feb. 18, 2004.
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