Sunday, May 13, 2007

Pursuing Injustice - Restricting Movement - Part 5

Today is Day 14,274 of the Maintenance of the Immoral (and Illegal) West Bank Settlements and almost the 40th anniversary of the start of the immoral (and illegal) occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Rabbi Akiva - “ ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ (Leviticus 19:18 - this is the major principle of the Torah.

Pursuing Injustice - Restricting Movement Part 5
Causing Poverty and Unemployment and Ruining the Poor

The ruin of the poor is their poverty Proverbs 10:15

So let us take a look at the life of Palestinians in the West Bank and in Gaza as reflected in the executive of reports from the World Bank, the International Labour Organization (ILO), interviews of individuals working with trade union groups and a variety of articles found primarily on the internet. As you read them, recognize that Judaism obliges the Jewish people to show concern for those who are poor.

Leviticus 25:35 “And if thy brother be waxen poor, and his means fall with thee: then thou shalt uphold him: as a stranger and a settler shall he live with thee. Take thou no interest of him or increase but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with there. Thou shalt not give him thy money upon increase, nor give him thy victuals for increase.”

In the footnotes of the Hertz Edition of the Torah are the following explanations of certain phrases in the text:
“uphold him” - Do not suffer him to come down into the depths of misery, for then it is difficult to raise him: but come to his support at the time when his means begin to fall (Rashi); “as a stranger and a settler shall he live”- The great principle of ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself’ must be a reality in Israelite life. The stranger and alien settler are explicitly included in the term “thy brother” and are to be helped by timely loans, free of interest; and “shall he live with thee” - There words can be understood quite literally; it is the Israelite’s duty to see to it that his fellowman does not die of starvation.


A 2003 World Bank report “Two Years of Intifada, Closures and Palestinian Economic Crisis” found that sixty (60), that’s 60 percent, of the population of the Wets Bank and Gaza lived under a poverty line of US$2 a day. The actually number of the poor had tripled from 637,000 in September 2000 to nearly 2 million (that’s two million) two years later. More than fifty (50) percent of the work force was unemployed. Palestinian exports declined by a half, imports by a third and investment shrunk from US$1.5 billion in 1999 to US$140 million. With unemployment rising and incomes collapsing, over half a million Palestinians were fully dependent on food aid. Per capita food consumption had declined by 30 percent in the past two years and the incidence of severe malnutrition reported in Gaza by Johns Hopkins University was equivalent to levels found in some of the poorer sub-Saharan countries. The report found that the proximate cause of Palestinian economic crisis was “closure” – the imposition by the Government of Israel (GOI) of restrictions on the movement of Palestinian people and goods across borders and within the West Bank and Gaza. (In 2005, another report from the World Bank stated “The inability of the Palestinian economy to fully use its productive potential is first and foremost the result of restrictions on the movement of people and goods.”)


In the Appendix of the Report of the Director General presented at International Labour Conference, 95th Session, 2006 is a report entitled “The Situation of Workers of the Occupied Arab Territories”

The Constitution of the ILO says “lasting peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice and that poverty anywhere constitutes a danger to prosperity everywhere holds true in the Palestinian/Israeli context. (NOTE from the footnotes in the Hertz Edition of the Torah to Deuteronomy 16:20 comes this “However, justice is more than mere abstention from injuring our fellow-men." and “the work of justice is peace; and the effect thereof quietness and confidence forever - Isaiah XXXII, 17) The end result of closures is a lower level of economic activity, less employment, lower incomes and consumption and consequently a higher incidence and severity of poverty. … The incidence of poverty was estimated by the World Bank at 20 per cent in 1999 …(and).. 43 per cent in 2005. Four out of every ten Palestinians in the territories are living in poverty on less than US$2.10 a day. The absolute figure is up from 600,000 in 1999 to 1,600,000 in 2005. Only one out of every ten women is able to work outside the home, despite the fact that Palestinian women are among the most highly educated in the world. Open unemployment, plus the large number of workers who have become discouraged from actively seeking work because the search is so fruitless, amount to an estimated 40 per cent of the Palestinian labour force. Two out of five of those in work in Gaza and one in five in the West Bank are employees of the Palestinian Authority. Their wages are estimated to support some 900,000 people To promote decent work in the occupied Arab territories, the removal of barriers to mobility for persons, goods and services within the West Bank and between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and a viable trade regime with Israel and the world, are most important prerequisites. Manifold restrictions on the movement of Palestinian persons and goods within the West Bank, between the West Bank and Gaza, and between them and Israel and the outside world constitute overt discrimination and an impediment to the exercise of basic human rights in the economic, social and labour spheres.”

SO In 2005, 1,600,000 Palestinians, four out of ten, were living in poverty on less that US$2.10 a day and taking into account open unemployment plus the large number of workers discouraged from seeking work, it was estimated that unemployment was forty per cent (40%) of the Palestinian labor force and the main reason was the closures created by the government of Israel to support the settlements.

Exodus Rabbah, Mishpatim 31:14 “If all afflictions in the world were assembled on one side of the scale and poverty on the other, poverty would outweigh them all.”

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