A Palestinian Arab researcher wrote in a policy brief published Thursday in Ma'an News Agency that Palestinian corruption is deeply ingrained and has been since before the Palestinian Authority (PA) was even formed – but that Israel is to blame for it.
Tariq Dana, a senior research fellow at Birzeit University, first published the policy brief this week on the site of the NPO Al-Shabaka.
In it, he noted that recent surveys indicate 81% of Arab residents in Judea, Samaria and Gaza believe the PA institutions are rife with corruption.
Dana stated that the corruption is "embedded in the underlying power structure that governs the Palestinian political system and that were rooted in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) prior to the Oslo process" of 1993, which created the PA.
"PA corruption in Palestine is, in effect, a self-enforcing system," reasoned the researcher, saying "patron-clientelism" in which support is bought by doling out favors is a major factor.
Giving a pre-PA example, he noted that "during the 1980s, the PLO leadership used the Sumud (steadfastness) Fund…which was formally channeled through the Palestinian-Jordanian joint committee…to award their supporters and exclude others."
"After the Oslo Accords, the patron-client regime was unsurprisingly inherited by the PA and constituted the backbone of its institutional base," said Dana, noting that the corruption was "associated with the personalized and unaccountable style of governance of late PLO chairman Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian political leadership."
Illustrating the depth of the corruption, he pointed out that the first audit held in 1997 found nearly 40% of the PA budget, equaling around $326 million, was misappropriated.
Dana explained how that system of corruption has continued and been strengthened, with a massive public sector of "over 165,000 civil servants who are fully dependent on salaries guaranteed by international aid to the PA."
"The dysfunction of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and the complete absence of legislative monitoring of the governmental budget have freed the presidency and the executive from institutional checks-and-balances and public accountability."
"But it's all Israel's fault"
The researcher went on to explain that the PA public sector may be massive and corrupt, but it also is very fickle for employees.
"If employees express criticism of PA policies, they are likely to be forced into early retirement, denied salary payments, or arbitrarily removed from their posts," he wrote. "They may also face a series of punitive measures, including denial of promotion or transfer to distant areas."
He also noted that the PA has tried to capitalize on tribal clan social relations to further implement its corruption, noting it created a special department on the topic when it established its Ministry of Local Government.
That Ministry recognizes mukhtars, tribe heads, allowing them to speak on behalf of their families and thereby further propagating the corrupt hierarchical system.
And yet despite the mass of evidence he presented showing how Palestinian corruption has been ingrained nearly from time immemorial, Dana somehow found Israel to blame for it all.
According to him, the PA corruption "played into the hands of the Israeli government, whose intention in signing the Oslo accords was to create a client state that they could continue to control through the rents distributed to the PA via international donors, coupled with a strategy of territorial fragmentation and containment."
"Israel has repeatedly contributed to and exploited corruption in the PA," claimed Dana. "It has done so in order to place the blame on the Palestinians for their economic ills and to distract attention from the devastating impact of its colonial policies on Palestinian social and economic development."
"Although corruption within the PA is undoubtedly harmful economically, it is worth noting that its effects are a distant second to the impact of systemic Israeli destruction of the Palestinian economy."
Israel has in fact been largely propping up the PA financially, along with the US and other international donors, as it suffocates in massive debt accrued under its corrupt leadership – which aside from pocketing funds pays astronomic salaries to jailed terrorists.