National BDS Steering Committee: Bethlehem investment conference: development or normalization?
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National BDS Steering Committee: Bethlehem investment conference: development or normalization?

The National BDS Steering Committee has released the following statement on the eve of the Palestine Investment Conference in Bethlehem:

Economic and social development in Palestine is crucial, and it is imperative that we should take should steps to improve the current economic and political situation. However, despite the ongoing national and international conferences designed to bring together the national efforts and resources; and despite the support of international solidarity, we believe that the economic conference that will be held in Bethlehem over the next few days, with the attendance of official and non-official Israeli representatives, has a serious political implications that cannot be ignored.

This conference comes at a time when the Israeli occupying power is celebrating an ‘independence’ built on our wounds and Nakba. Also, since the Palestinian people are calling for BDS to be leveled against Israel, we had hoped that the PIC would be a Palestinian conference far away from any joint political and economic cooperation with the Occupation. Our hopes in this regard proved to be misplaced.

This conference has been heavily promoted by the organizers as an opportunity to further Palestinian national development goals, and the basis for a Palestinian economic revival. However, nowhere have the organizers recognized the single most important factor in achieving this goal: ending the occupation, and ensuring independence and political autonomy. Anything else will result in the creation of social and economic conditions that will destroy any hope of Palestinian independence.

The projects that are being promoted at the Bethlehem conference do not support any Palestinian political demand. The conference itself has become a political conference, not simply an economic one. It will play host to official American, Zionist, Arab and PA delegations. The threats of this conference are the following:

• The projects promoted in the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan (PRDP) which forms the backdrop to the conference are all old projects which have previously been promoted by the occupying power. One example is the Japanese project for the Jordan Valley: the research for the feasibility study started in 1999. The industrial zone in Jalame was announced in 1998. The ‘New Cities’ project was floated in 2004 by the Portland Trust, one of the faces of the British Zionist lobby. The tourism joint project being discussed was first raised by an organization called Tourism4Peace in 2004 – a group who promote Jerusalem as the ‘capital of Israel’, a designation that has no validity under international law.

• The Palestinian Authority has allowed foreign institutions and companies to sponsor the conference including Intel, an American company that has around $8bn investments in Israel, and one of whose factories was built on Iraq al-Manchiya, a Palestinian village north east of Gaza that was destroyed and its people were expelled in 1948. Another backer is Booz-Allen-Hamilton, who have a strong relationship with the American intelligence, and specialize in the field of so-called homeland security, producing intelligence and data-collection equipment. The presence of such backers raises serious questions about the agenda for the conference.

• The proposed projects take as their starting point Israeli participation in decision-making, and Israeli control over their legal status. In the proposed Jalame industrial zone, the labour laws that will be implemented on the site will be set on terms dictated by the occupying power, despite the fact that the site of the project is in zone B under Oslo, under the Palestinian Authority jurisdiction. The tourism project to be located south east of Jericho city is termed ‘border area’ project, despite the fact that it will be situated heart of the Jordan Valley, deep into the West Bank. The terms of the project consolidate the Israeli position of refusal to discuss ending the occupation of the Jordan Valley; now the occupation is to exist with the Palestinian blessing.

• The projects are designed to meet the economic demands of the Israeli administration, not those of the Palestinian people. The Japanese agricultural project in the Jordan Valley will be export oriented: it will do nothing to ensure Palestinian food security. The project for recycling sewage water will use Israeli technology, providing an alternative to the Palestinian demand made since the beginning of Oslo to receive its fair legal international share from the Jordan River and underground sources.

• All reports and studies that have been produced concur that the Palestinian humanitarian and economic crisis is caused by the occupation. Yet despite this, the conference is promoted as an event that will discuss only economic, not political issues. The conference puts forward the proposal that the economic development of the West Bank will somehow be achieved without any mention of the cause of crisis: the Apartheid Wall, the invasions, the regime of closure and checkpoints and isolation of Palestinian communities, and the measures imposed on Jerusalem to promote Judaization the city.

The projects proposed in the PRDP have been developed under the supervision of the World Bank and British Department for International Development (DFID), on terms set by them. The extent to which they have determined agenda has in effect made them a ‘shadow government’, setting out the development and economic priorities of the Palestinian Authority.

These are not the development projects we want or need. What we require is a national Palestinian conference with Arab and international support for strengthening Palestinian steadfastness and as a step toward ending the dependency on the occupation and its economy.


Steering Committee of the National BDS Committee
National Committee for the Commemoration of the Nakba