Harvard Economist Discusses Economic, Social Conditions of Palestinian Territories

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HARVARD ECONOMIST DISCUSSES ECONOMIC, SOCIAL CONDITIONS OF PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

The Washington, DC-based Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine hosted a lecture by Dr. Sarah Roy on changes in Palestinian social and economic conditions. Dr. Roy, a research associate at Harvard University's Center for Middle Eastern Studies, has resided and conducted research for over a decade in Palestinian occupied territories.

Examining transformations undergone by the Palestinian community during the so-called "peacemaking years," Dr. Roy stated that Oslo has disempowered the Palestinians as a political collective. The construct of Oslo, she asserted, has nurtured the economic and social decline of Palestinian society, creating the context for the current uprising. There has been a noticeable shift from the community to the individual within the Palestinian community, she noted, which has been fortified by the "dissection" of Palestinians into disunited towns and villages interrupted by Israeli checkpoints and ruled by a corrupt and repressive Palestinian Authority (PA).

The lack of a shared political nationalistic ideology and the "deliberate disempowerment" of political institutions, said Roy, led to the depoliticization of the Palestinians, and secured political control of the PA at the expense of liberation. Roy also explained that, under the PA, nationalism became defined as unquestionable allegiance to the PA and its security apparatus, rather than to liberation and independence. As a result, she said, "pluralism rapidly ceded to statism, bureaucratism, and authoritarianism."

Roy stated that new economic and elite classes have emerged within Palestinian society since the creation of the PA, thus supporting the PA's exclusionary dynamics. This has resulted in the alienation and resignation of larger segments of the Palestinian society from the political process, she said. This, according to Roy, has been further nurtured by the PA's gross human rights record, including arbitrary arrests, lack of due legal process, torture, and execution. The PA--the only symbol of a Palestinian national movement--became associated with corruption and lawlessness, said Roy, thus further demoralizing the larger Palestinian national psyche. …