The Palestinian investment conference that will start today (Wednesday) at Bethlehem is being held at a time when the West Bank is more ghettoized than ever before, while Jerusalem is separated from the rest of Palestinian territories by a segregation wall and various other tools of the Israeli occupation, while Israel continues to confiscate land and build illegal settlements in violation of previously signed agreements and international law, and while the Gaza Strip is on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe due to an Israeli-imposed siege. According to international law, the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem are occupied territory, and Israel is the occupying power.
Despite negotiations regarding Palestinian independence, and despite Israel's 2005 removal of settlements from the Gaza Strip, Israel remains in control of all access in and out of all Palestinian areas.
Israel has the final decision to issue visas or permission to allow visitors and investors to enter Palestinian territories. Consequently, Israel has full control over the Palestinian economy.
The wall, economic siege, closures, checkpoints, expansion of settlements over Palestinian private land, by-pass settler roads, restrictions on freedom of movement, control of the natural resources, energy, and raw materials, are all tools of Israel's occupation that restrict Palestinian self-sustainability and advancement. It is hypocritical to convene and discuss investment in Palestine, without working to address such Israeli policies that hinder true development.
Therefore, investors as well as politicians should put pressure on Israel to end policies and restrictions that hinder all kinds of investments and prevent development, especially those restrictions that violate Palestinian basic rights. We believe that the first step should be immediate cessation of land destruction and confiscation, and allowing Palestinian farmers to access their land that the segregation wall has isolated from them.
One of the issues to be discussed at this conference is the establishment of industrial zones that Israelis can invest in using Palestinian workers as cheap labor. Such zones would increase Israel's domination over the Palestinian economy and reinforce the apartheid nature of Israel's occupation.
Local and international investors are invited to invest under a just settlement by insisting on political progress that respects the human and political rights of the Palestinian people, and not simply to participate in an endeavor to normalize the master and slave nature of Israel's belligerent occupation.