come to ramallah as a foreigner and you will find all the comforts of the best in palestinian society. described earlier this summer as the “beirut of palestine” you will find newly built commercial centers and large-scale supermarkets featuring row after row of israeli goods and appliances. chains of major arab cafes like tche tche’s are opening and bars and clubs are commonplace. fancy restaurants like pronto and azure have catered to foreigners for years, but new high-scale venues have opened for the newly rising or returning palestinian elite. a movenpick has opened in al-masyoon, a neighborhood containing most of the foreign missions, a newly build UN compound, and the palestinian ministry of information and which now looks a lot like amman. masyoon is also where the palestinian legislative council building is, safely locked up and empty most days of the week.
palestinians from the united states, europe, south america, and other arab countries are returning to set up shop in ramallah where the taxes are dead-low and corruption is amazingly high. with the right connections (wasta) and money, you can basically get whatever you want here … from building permits to child prostitutes to driving drunk to heroin and cocaine. over 85% of foreign aid is funneled directly into ramallah. recently USAID has began to drop grants of 1-2 million a piece into the hands of surrounding municipalities that swear allegiance to fatah, the ruling party.
ramallah is a giant re-education camp for palestinians. since all of the money comes in there, so does the jobs. palestinians from villages and other urban centers travel to ramallah to work and bring back their new tastes for alcohol, scantily clad women, and the kinds of consumer products you can only buy in ramallah. it is in ramallah where you learn about the new palestinian, the ones who hungers after the dunya rather than liberation.
foreign imported workers from the west, there to help implement this new human project, rarely leave ramallah if at all, and the majority spend their weekends traveling in yellow-plated cars to tel aviv for fun and games. they come away with the idea that past the garbage and dust in the street (mainly consequence of lack of building codes) the place really isn’t so bad, is on the up-and-up. money can fix everything.
go a few miles in any direction, into the slums of beit hanina or the outlying villages near settlements and outposts, to qalandiya airstrip which is overgrown and occupied by israeli military machinery… see the sewage flowing in the streets, roads ripped up, trees burnt down, families living in povery and hopelessness… the answer is not to enrich these communities or struggle for liberation, rather, it is to send a son to ramallah to work for the IMF as capital continues its stranglehold on the palestinian national ambition.