Marian Houk, 20 August 2010
A new crop of billboards has gone up at strategic locations around Ramallah — that is, at the entrances to the city, where diplomats from donor countries is most likely to see them.
The second target seems to be the cadres of the Palestinian Authority’s various Ramallah-based ministries.
The billboards, sponsored by USAID, show headshots of various young people. Next to their faces are [in Arabic] the words:
“I’m very happy…about my new school…”etc.
This promotional campaign must have cost many, many tens if not hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars.
The new schools (seven of them, constructed by USAID and handed over to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank in 2009) are great.
These USAID ads — are stupid and embarassing.
A few hours after these billboards were visible, the U.S. announced that invitations were being sent to Israel and to the current Palestinian leadership in Ramallah to come to Washington D.C. on 2 September for a [re]-launch of direct talks.
As the inevitable became apparent, Palestinian-American businessman Sam Bahour wrote on The Hill blog that “Palestine’s investment community remains in a wait-and-see mode. More peace talks will not spark the significant investments required to build an economy that can serve an emerging state. Serious state-building economic development requires land, water, access, movement, ports, and spectrum, which Israel remains in full control of today. My clients, and many like them, refuse to be misled, yet again, by another round of empty talk from politicians as settlements go up in East Jerusalem … Israelis and Palestinians have agreed to enter direct negotiations (yet again) in Washington on September 2 … The lead-up to these talks saw both Palestinian and Israeli leaders touting economic growth as a prelude to moving the political process forward. The growth they cite is hard to comprehend … the economy is micro-managed by a foreign military. Yet leaders, foreign and domestic, laud the temporary West Bank economic growth that results from a brief respite in a harsh crackdown. Very few in the U.S. Congress have done their homework to gauge if US policy is helping or actively impeding the prospects for peace. One brave congressman who has gone the extra mile is Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA). Rep. Baird sets a prime example of a legislator willing to challenge the current unhelpful US path. At a recent speaking engagement organized by the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Baird advocated that his colleagues visit the West Bank and Gaza and see firsthand the results of the current policy. He noted that ‘they’re certainly ignorant about what’s happening on the ground in Gaza because they’ve never been’ and they’re nearly as ‘ignorant about what’s happening in the West Bank because they haven’t been to a checkpoint…” Sam Bahour’s analysis is posted here.
- Marian Houk is the Editor of UN-Truth news site. She is a Member of the Online News Association, Member of the Foreign Correspondents Association (in Israel) and Marian Houk is a past President (1986) of the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) at UNHQ/NY