In a testament to Al Sabawi’s determination, the project has made progress nevertheless
. First, he and his team sued the PA for its abuse of power in the International Court of Justice – and won. With that obstacle cleared, they moved ahead.
Three years on from TABO’s launch, the initiative has enabled 250 families, both resident and in the Palestinian diaspora, to own 371 plots of land. Of TABO’s sales so far, 30% have been generated by the Diaspora and the cost falls far short of the million dollar price tag hanging from land just minutes away. TABO offers plots for between $13,900 and $32,000, with interest-free payment financed through the company for up to four years.
That was three years ago. The figures are higher now. Al Sabawi says that TABO has protected more than a million square meters of land, paved over 10,000 meters of roads, and helped more than 400 families to acquire 600 properties.
While the PA has obstructed TABO, so has the Israeli government, which harasses, interrogates, and detains Al Sabawi and his team when they try to travel to the West Bank.
Overcoming these hurdles has been an astonishing achievement. When Al Sabawi appeared on Al Jazeera’s television show The Cafe, host Medhi Hasan said, “Sabawi believes corruption is rife inside the Palestinian Authority and says foreign aid has stunted an independent Palestinian economy.” On the program, Sabawi noted:
The Palestinian Authority today has essentially become a subcontractor of the Israeli occupation. When Oslo was created in 1993, and Israel was bearing the economic burden of occupation. It was very expensive, but when the Palestinian Authority was created it essentially started policing the Palestinian cities. But who paid for the bill? All the donor states, the United States, Canada and the entire international community, but Israel fully maintained its occupation. Israel still controlled borders, airspace, water, and pretty much all aspects of life for the Palestinian people, but brought in the Palestinian Authority to manage these cities. So it’s been about 20 years of occupation management, and that’s taken us back significantly, and what it’s created is this entity that’s become, you know, focused more on its self-interest than the interests of the Palestinian people….
[T]he Palestinian leadership … hasn’t served to push Palestinian liberation forward whatsoever. As it stands today, the Palestinian Authority is completely anti-democratic. It has no mandate for the Palestinian people. The people that go and negotiate with Israel, the Palestinian leadership that goes to negotiate with Israel, has no mandate from the Palestinian people. They do not represent them….
Al Sabawi rejects the conventional wisdom that donor aid is indispensable to economic development:
As it stands today, about 40 percent of the GDP of the Palestinian territories is accounted for by donor aid. The Palestinian people, as a result of it, also in the Palestinian Authority, have become the highest recipients of foreign aid in the world per capita. In addition to that, there’s an enormous dependence on the Israeli occupation. Ninety-five percent of our energy comes from Israel; 80 percent of our imports come from Israel; 90 percent of our exports go towards Israel. The Palestinian economy is a sub-economy….
Sabawi clearly sees the perverse consequences of so-called aid:
It compromises the political and economic independence of the Palestinian people. So if the Palestinian people take an independent road or elect their own government, as they eloquently did in 2006 [in Gaza], so the 80 percent voter turn out, then the donor aid was cut off and the Palestinian people were punished for exercising their democratic rights[,] for being democratic. And just one small point, the situation now, economically, is far worse than it was before. The PA … is forcing Palestinian banks to give 50 percent of their deposits as loan facilities for the Palestinian people. Why? Because OPIC, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which is an American foreign policy organisation, came and provided loan guarantees for Palestinian banks, for a push to drive the Palestinian economy to be more debt-based. Now debt has accumulated to $3 billion, consumer debt for Palestinian people…. The Palestinian Authority has created further dependent victims of the Palestinian people as opposed to confront[ing] the Israeli occupation.
Champions of liberty can only hope that Al Sabawi inspires a new generation of Palestinian liberators, one that is dedicated to individual freedom and autonomy through private property and free enterprise. Modified from S. Richman