In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Aida refugee camp, home to nearly 4,000 displaced Palestinians, is snugly situated between the ever-expanding separation wall and a dazzling five-star hotel that is only financially feasible to the economically privileged Palestinian elite. Trapped between a vulgar display of wealth and a towering symbol of their 45-year imprisonment under suffocating martial law, Aida’s residents live in conditions which are a microcosm of life under the governance of the Palestinian Authority.
Rather than advancing the struggle for Palestinian self-determination, an economic-peace approach under the direction of Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has greatly hastened Israel’s ongoing colonization of the West Bank.
In 2007, following Hamas-dominated parliamentary elections the previous year, PA President Mahmoud Abbas illegally dismissed the democratically-chosen Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh of Hamas. Under immense pressure from Israel and its Western allies, Abbas appointed Salam Fayyad, a former World Bank economist with extensive ties to Western politicians, as prime minister of a new emergency government. Until today, no elections have taken place.
Abbas’s absurdly undemocratic –and illegal – display of autocracy was prompted by American and European threats to cut off the PA’s financial lifeline. Unsurprisingly, as American and European politicians were delivering speeches chastising countries such as Iran and Syria for their lack of representative governance, they were bribing the PA to abandon its democratic mandate.
Corporate media outlets eagerly played chorus to the choir, shining an almost entirely uncritical light on Fayyad and his plan to establish an independent Palestinian state through an economic peace approach,labeled by many commentators as “Fayyadism”.
New York Timesjournalist Thomas Friedman, who praised Fayyad in a series of editorials, referred to Fayyad’s economic peace approach as “the real Palestinian revolution.” Friedman wrote that Fayyad, unlike America’s other Arab allies, does not “lack both courage and vision,” and is “popular” because he aims to build honest institutions and “effective police and paramilitary units.”
In short, through accelerated industrialization and a concentrated focus on the private sector, Fayyad sought to reach a level of economic independence which once achieved would render Israel incapable of denying Palestinians an independent state in the West Bank (ostensibly leaving Gaza for a later date). His strategy included cleansing the PA of corruption, encouraging nonviolent struggle against the Israeli occupation, attracting investment in urban centers, and close cooperation with the Israelis on security issues. Through all of this, Fayyad boldly pronounced, long awaited Palestinian sovereignty would materialize by 2011.