How USAID Kills Popular Resistance in Palestine

The strategy for building the Palestinian state is bolstered by economic and social programs aimed at “winning the hearts and minds” of the population under occupation with development programs.

By Alaa al-Tamimi

As the biggest bilateral economic and development donor to the Palestinians, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) uses social development as an effective tool to dismantle Palestinian resistance movements in the West Bank and Gaza. USAID’s programs are based on linking all development assistance with repudiating the ideas of resistance and surrendering to the occupation.

Ramallah – Since 1994, shortly after signing the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) received $3 billion in the form of development assistance for water, sanitation, infrastructure, education, health, economic development, and democratization. This type of assistance was part of the fight against “rebellion,” closely linked with PNA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s plans announced in August 2009 to build Palestinian state institutions within the 1967 borders and thus promote the two-state solution.

The fight against “rebellion” had two aims in essence. The first was to control the population and kill the Palestinian resistance. The second was an alternative to traditional methods in quelling resistance and revolutionary movements. This ideology is founded on colonialist concepts at times of war, when raw military intervention fails. So it becomes necessary for the armies to use soft power to win the battle.

USAID and State-Building

The strategy for building the Palestinian state is bolstered by economic and social programs aimed at “winning the hearts and minds” of the population under occupation with development programs.

Fayyad’s plan to build Palestinian state institutions seems to have coincided with the security plan launched in the West Bank under the moniker of fighting the state of lawlessness in the territories. The stated aim was to eradicate drugs and stolen car dealers – accusations that were pinned to members of Fatah’s military wing al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.

Moreover, the state-building plan does not link the right of return organically with the national goals. Although it mentions ending the occupation, the right to self-determination, and the establishment of the state, it does not say anything about the right of return. Most of the plan is about state-building and leaves little space for national struggle, except in two sentences speaking about peaceful popular resistance.

In the introduction, the plan speaks about steadfastness and Arab and international supports as prerequisites for achieving independence. This is where USAID programs come in, to try to cover part of this steadfastness through technical assistance, loan programs, and projects to rehabilitate border crossings.

The project aims to facilitate the movement of Palestinian goods through border checkpoints. It entails better technology to scan merchandise and raising the capacity of Palestinian companies to shorten border-crossing times. However, they ignore the fact that the priority is to remove the crossings and the military checkpoints, rather than making them more practical.

Resistance Is Terrorism That Undermines the State

Through direct and indirect partnerships with the PNA, USAID provided a definition of terrorism in Palestine, confining it to resistance movements. One of its goals is fighting against the conditions and circumstances that feed terrorism (meaning resistance) and the community that carries it, all with the goal of creating solid foundations for building the prospective Palestinian state.

USAID turned the question of fighting terrorism into practice through asking benefactors to sign a statement renouncing terrorism as a condition to receiving grants. Other international organizations, even European ones, do not have this stipulation.

The definition of terrorism, according to USAID, demands that none of the beneficiaries of the project are members of Hamas or other resistance factions, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. It also requires a clear statement declaring resistance by Palestinians to be acts of terrorism and committing to US values and principles.

For example, the terrorism document means that if a car accident occurs outside a health project supported by USAID, victims cannot be treated if they happen to be members in a resistance faction. It also means that a village in the West Bank could not receive a grant for street repair if its village council was made up of Hamas members. This was the case of Bethlehem in 2007, when funding to the municipality and road rehabilitation was terminated because Hamas members were on the council.

However, the conditions for grants do not stop at signing the terrorism statement. They include a complete security check on members of the board of the institution and project staff under the Partner Vetting System (PVS). The names are investigated by the occupation intelligence units and the PNA security forces in Ramallah. If one of the names happens to have a history of struggle or political leanings toward a resistance faction, the project will be denied.

Programs to Dry Up Resistance Sources

A quick and simple review of programs related to democracy, local governance, the media, rule of law, and conflict management will indicate the level of concern the US agency has toward building a Palestinian society that seeks peace with the Israeli enemy based on the two-state solution.

On the question of local governance, the agency’s website claims the West Bank and Gaza Strip are in need of civic participation as a necessity for a democratic state with good governance. The efforts aim to expand and increase the scope of support for the two-state solution and build momentum toward peace.

This is consistent with Fayyad’s state-building plans, which speak of a two-state solution, an end to the occupation, freedom, and the right to self-determination, without mentioning the right of return.

USAID’s outlook about the media, considered an important tool to support the resistance and instill the concept of liberation, is based on the idea that the Palestinian media sector faces obstacles, including the undesired effects of the unstable political environment. This is a reference to the conflict between Fatah and Hamas and its related impacts, positions, and challenges.

However, despite such challenges, according to USAID, Palestinian media were able to prove their ability to adapt and create a fertile ground for independent and plural media, which do not see Israel as an enemy, but a partner for peace.

The third cornerstone in eliminating the sources of resistance and its enabling community is through reconciliation and conflict management projects in the West Bank and Gaza, which aim to gather all groups representing the local community around one table to address the hidden causes behind the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

USAID’s programs on conflict management and mediation include training lawyers, experts in psychology, urban planners, general education, dialogue, networking, opportunities between Israelis and Palestinians, joint Palestinian-Israeli environmental programs, and creating Palestinian-Israeli television series.

West Bank as Green Zone

According to former US CIA director David Petraeus, the green zone is the area that cannot produce or contain resistance movements. It enjoys peace and security and can export it to its neighbors.

In the Palestinian case, Fayyad’s state-building plan and USAID programs have been acting relentlessly to promote the idea of “civil society,” which surpasses boundaries under the name of “global civil society.” This is one of the most sinister tools of foreign funding in the implementation of programs to dismantle society, which is the main incubator of resistance movements.

These associations seek to shape young people’s minds through promoting democracy and civil society as the best ways to develop the Palestinian political community. However, they ignore the fact that Palestine is under occupation, and there is a need to plan its liberation before thinking about governance and developing the political community.

According to the mainstream conception, NGOs are based on a feeling of a common identity, which surpasses national sentiments by linking people through global networks. The more the cause of the NGO is committed to cross-border solidarity, meaning the more it surpasses national boundaries, access to funding becomes easier.

Clearly, what is meant here is not internationalism in the face of imperialism and zionism for example. Such solidarity cannot happen by denying national independence and unity, but by their reinforcement. This means the “global civil society” is a scheme to ultimately smash national belonging.