Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"Bombs in Gaza, Parties in Ramallah"

That's the title of an article by Rinat Malkes for Pajamas Media, and the parties in Ramallah are not celebrating death--they're celebrating life:

...While the Palestinian political world remains in turmoil, the West Bank still struggles for normality — and achieves it, but only selectively. While northern West Bank cities like Nablus and Jenin remain tense, in the heart of Palestine the city of Ramallah seems more effervescent than ever — full of tourists, crowded coffee shops, and active daily life even as the headlines spell trouble; it is as if the city is in a strange quiet before a storm.

The violent escalation over the past week may challenge Palestinian and Israeli analysts who are currently asking themselves whether the situation can deteriorate even more, but the news doesn’t seem to bother Ramallah’s citizens. Many new and trendy Western-style coffee shops and restaurants have opened this summer, tourists came back to the streets around al-Manara Square, and despite the price index high of 10.20% during the first quarter of the year, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, commerce is buzzing.

It’s easy to notice a huge variety of languages, cultures, and Western faces among the crowded tables of Cafe de la Paix, next to Ramallah’s city hall. Pilgrims, foreign NGOs’ personnel, journalists, and Palestinians from other West Bank cities have found a perfect place to spend some quality leisure time. The peace is broken only when nearby mosques play the muazzin calls for prayers.

Palestinian analyst and businessman Sam Bahou says the city is definitely going through a “five-star occupation,” pushed by the resumption of hundreds of millions of dollars received by the Palestinian Authority by international donors. Besides that, the recent high oil prices have created additional revenues for oil-rich countries like Qatar and other Gulf nations, which are investing: music festivals and other cultural activities haven’t been so lively in the past few years, says Mohammad B, a shop owner.

“I know it sounds like a cheap cliché, but trust me, it’s true. Life here can be good and we are working to make it a better place. Even though there’s no extra money in the Palestinians’ pockets, at least in Ramallah we still can have some fun, go out for a good dinner, watch a movie. If it depended on politics and politicians, we would sit at home in deep depression. We have to improve our lives ourselves. We can’t stand this political impasse anymore, so trying to have a normal life is kind of an obligation. We have fun, move forward, and forget the official mud we are immersed in. If we can’t go to Manhattan, we at least decided to bring a bit of Manhattan here,” he laughs.

Read the whole thing.

I blogged earlier this week about how contrary to the West that insisted on pouring more millions into the Palestinian Authority to no effect, the Arab countries knew better and have resisted giving money to the PA that they have previously promised. Now it seems that the Arab countries are even smarter than that--they have approached the situation as capitalists, investing in the people instead of squandering it on the leaders.

In the earlier post I concluded: "The Arab world knows what they are not doing."
I was wrong--the Arab world knows exactly what they are doing.
Let the Arab world invest in the Palestinian people even more (and even less to the terrorists).

Update: Meanwhile, the US still does not get it:
The United States remains the largest single state donor to the Palestinian Authority. We have provided $562 million in total assistance in 2008, surpassing our pledged level of $555 million. This includes $264 million in project assistance through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL); $150 million in direct budget support - the largest single tranche for funds provided to the Palestinian Authority by a single donor country; and $148 million in contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
And what do they have to show for it.

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