Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Economic terrorism 

At first glance reading todays New York Times article about what the U.S. and Israel are trying to do to the Palistinians didn't seem to have anything to do with Venezuela. Then I thought about it for two seconds and realized it had everything to do with Venezuela. In fact, it became quite apparent that in terms of what the U.S. and Israel want to do to the Palistinians Venezuela has been there and done that.

What is it they are planning to do? Here are some key points from the article:

The United States and Israel are discussing ways to destabilize the Palestinian government so that newly elected Hamas officials will fail and elections will be called again, according to Israeli officials and Western diplomats.

The intention is to starve the Palestinian Authority of money and international connections to the point where, some months from now, its president, Mahmoud Abbas, is compelled to call a new election. The hope is that Palestinians will be so unhappy with life under Hamas that they will return to office a reformed and chastened Fatah movement.


The officials said the destabilization plan centers largely on money. The Palestinian Authority has a monthly cash deficit of some $60 million to $70 million after it receives between $50 million and $55 million a month from Israel in taxes and customs duties collected by Israeli officials at the borders but owed to the Palestinians.

Israel says it will cut off those payments once Hamas takes power, and put the money in escrow. On top of that, some of the aid that the Palestinians currently receive will be stopped or reduced by the United States and European Union governments, which will be constrained by law or politics from providing money to an authority run by Hamas. The group is listed by Washington and the European Union as a terrorist organization.

Israel has other levers on the Palestinian Authority: controlling entrance and exit from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip for people and goods, the number of workers who are allowed into Israel every day, and even the currency used in the Palestinian territories, which is the Israeli shekel.

Israeli military officials have discussed cutting Gaza off completely from the West Bank and making the Israeli-Gaza border an international one. They also say they will not allow Hamas members of the Palestinian parliament, some of whom are wanted by Israeli security forces, to travel freely between Gaza and the West Bank.


If a Hamas government is unable to pay workers, import goods, transfer money and receive significant amounts of outside aid, Mr. Abbas, the president, would have the authority to dissolve parliament and call new elections, the officials say, even though that power is not explicit in the Palestinian basic law.

The potential for an economic crisis is real. The Palestinian stock market has already fallen about 20 percent since the election on Jan. 25, and the Authority has exhausted its borrowing capacity with local banks.

Hamas gets up to $100,000 a month in cash from abroad, Israel and Western officials say. "But it's hard to move millions of dollars in suitcases," a Western official said.

The United States and the European Union in particular want any failure of Hamas in leadership to be judged as Hamas's failure, not one caused by Israel and the West.

I'm not going to go in depth analyzing the Palistinian situation nor how outrageous this is (Israel gets to just keep other peoples tax money? Can I stop paying taxes to the U.S. government until it stops its illegal wars? Some how I doubt it.)

But there is a striking parrallel here between what is happening to the newly elected Palistinian government and what happened to the Venezuelan government a few years ago. In December 2002 the Venezuelan opposition, quite possibly with the U.S. advising it, launched a strike to shut down the Venezuelan oil industry and deprive the government of money it needed to run the country. None other than the former PDVSA president Roberto Guisti said the government wouldn't survive a week without oil exports. This was full scale economic warfare, or better yet, terrorism. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their jobs. People couldn't drive their cars so, for example, taxi drivers lost all their income. There were huge shotages of propane for stoves. People I know were forced to chop up old furniture and burn it in order to cook.

And what were the aims? To overthrow the government. Faily that, it was hoped to at least "make the economy scream" so that Venezuelans would turn on Chavez and vote him out at the first oppertunity. You just can't get any more cynical and undemocratic than that - except of course for the U.S. and Israel who are now doing the exact same thing. In any event, it didn't work. Most Venezuelans kept working and the country recovered. The electoral strategy of pissing people off at Chavez backfired as when the economy revered people realized that all the hardship wasn't Chavez's fault but rather the fault of a extremely cynical and selfish opposition. So the first chance they go Venezuelan's punished the opposition giving it a huge defeat and making it clear they will now give it a huge defeat in any vote.

Hopefully, the same will happen in this situation. The Palistinians will realize who is causing their suffering. And causing this suffering simply because they excercised their fundamental rights. Hopefully, this will make them even more determined to fight for a just resolution to their plight. And Venezuela, having been there and done that, should stand shoulder to shoulder with them the whole way. I trust they will.


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