17 November 2023
In our recent research on the concept of prosperity in Palestine, we faced a great challenge. We found ourselves confronting difficult questions and a complex context.
So, what does prosperity mean for Palestinian citizens?
Theoretically, it was important that a range of relationships must be taken into account to arrive at an effective definition of prosperity. For instance, understanding the local environment, examining the economic structures and infrastructure, exploring the nature of existing political systems and their ability to achieve sustainable development, and exploring the extent of society's ability to change.
Hence, it is necessary to briefly clarify the Palestinian context. Historically, more than 75 years have passed since Israel occupied Palestine. Israel completely rules and has military control in most of the West Bank, and expands settlements in Area C. (These areas constitute 62% of the area of the West Bank and are completely controlled by Israel. Israel maintains absolute control over law enforcement, planning and construction in them. This area was designated in accordance with the Oslo Accords.) The Palestinian Authority partially controls city centers without complete security or sovereignty. The Gaza Strip has been under military siege since 2007. Even before the events of 7th October 2023, many people have lost their lives, homes and lands during this extended conflict. Palestinians have ended up living in an unstable environment and facing radical changes.
When the research team for Transforming Financial Inclusion to Finance Inclusive Prosperity in Ramallah, Palestine began discussions, we asked whether international standards and measures of prosperity apply in the unstable Palestinian context? Although many of us can find the word prosperity in a dictionary, we don’t use it or hear it discussed in daily life. Therefore, we debated the concept and discussed how it might be adapted so citizens would not ridicule us when we talked to them. We wanted to find a word that is used in daily life, reflecting people’s struggles and concerns.
There were many suggestions: a better life, quality of life and other similar concepts. Eventually we chose a good life in colloquial dialect (حياة منيحة), meaning a livable life, that ensures survival and provides the basics of housing, food and medicine. But what is more important than food, medicine, and basic needs? It was and still is the element of safety which is the concern that worries every Palestinian.
During the last quarter decade, personal and collective safety has been reduced by the start of new Intifada and collective punishment imposed by the Israeli Occupation on the Palestinians. At every stage of the conflict, the Israeli occupation has been an obstacle to any economic progress and sustainable development. Palestinians have a real desire to achieve stability, security in the future and to re-evaluate the failed Oslo Accords.
At the time of writing, there is a real danger of the escalation. The war after 07 October 2023 threatens the future of the Palestinian cause. If Gaza is eradicated, we fear it will be the turn of all other Palestinians soon. In order to change circumstances for the better and have a good life we need to end both the colonial occupation of Palestine and the split between Palestinian political factions. We need international recognition of an independent Palestinian state, reconstruction and economic reform.
Dareen Sayyad is a Palestinian researcher and member of the FI - Palestine research team (Transforming Financial Inclusion to Finance Inclusive Prosperity in Ramallah, Palestine)
The views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views or position of IGP or UCL.
Image courtesy of Ash Hayes/UNSPLASH
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