Jerusalem24 – Mohammad Hamayel – Loujain Masrouji – Yoshihide Suga, Prime Minister of Japan, wrote “A strong economy is the source of national strength.” A group of Palestinians have taken those words to heart in their own way. Palestinian activists have been organizing the Palestinian National Economy Week, a general call to support Palestinian products as well as a businesses. The call to action came after the recent wave of protests that shook the streets in the West Bank as well as cities inside Israel.
Jerusalem24 contacted Dr. Amal Nazzal, a coordinator and spokesperson for the campaign. She said that “Its idea is present in all campaigns to boycott the occupation, after the boycott of 1920, so it is not a new concept.” She also added, “what is new, after the political events that took place, is that this campaign covers the whole of historical Palestine.” The current campaign is organized by activists on the ground from the West Bank, from the Gaza Strip, surely from Jerusalem and from the lands occupied in 1948 in what is now Israel.
Without any official body or party adopting the campaign, Palestinian activists roam the streets talking about small Palestinian business projects and goods that families can purchase. While such a campaign is not new, the geographical expansion across historical Palestine is. The campaign is full of messages, and goals; whether to the Palestinians or the world. “The goal of the campaign, is to work on the saying that if the people want liberation and independence, we must boycott the occupation and its products,” says Nazzal. She continues , “our message is to to enable all Palestinian economic movements, which empowers the political movement, because economic empowerment is also a form of social empowerment and political empowerment as they are directly related.” The campaign not only calls to boycott Israeli products, but also identify alternatives to those products.
One of the main objectives of the campaign is supporting small and medium businesses, entrepreneurial projects that can be family businesses. ” this economic support gives opportunities to owners of projects to grow larger, and also reduce economic dominance in some areas,” stated Nazzal. In 1968, for example, while GDP per capita in Israel (at $1,674) was 10 times higher than that of WBGS, the gap became wider in 2015, with Israeli per capita income (at $35,728) more than 12 times higher than the Palestinian one (at $2,866).2 The absolute gap in GDP per capita between the two economies, however, is much more revealing. While the difference in GDP per capita between Israel and the WBGS was only $1,500 in 1968, the absolute difference jumped to close to $33,000 in 2015. Put differently, while GDP per capita in WBGS increased by only $2,700 over the entire five-decade period, Israel’s GDP per capita increased by more than $34,000 over the same period.
“We are working to keep this from being a seasonal act,” said Nazzal. Expressing her hopes that this campaign will be ongoing long after the end of the Palestinian National Economic Week. According to the World Bank in 2006, “the capacity for the West Bank and Gaza to generate fast economic growth has been eroded, even if the Israeli closure regime becomes less oppressive.” The World Bank recommended four requirements that must be met to enable the Palestinians to strengthen their economic basis and attaining long term growth as follows: 1) Total control of natural resources; 2) control of national borders, including land, airspace and territorial waterways; 3) a viable territorial link between Gaza and the West Bank; and 4) Control of national economic policymaking.