In 2006, following the victory of Hamas in the fair and democratic Palestinian parliamentary elections, key donors in the international aid industry halted their aid to the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip to protest the outcome of the elections.
During that time, while I was working at a leading Palestinian university, we received letter after letter from donors informing us that our joint projects had been terminated, that collaboration had been suspended, and funding had been cut.
Ugly face of aid
We all panicked and felt saddened about the projects we were implementing; we felt humiliated to receive the news via fax - not even in a meeting or a call – that dictated our future. That experience showed us the ugly face of the aid industry, and illustrated to us what a bad idea it is to let others decide on our future.
It also showed us that aid is a twice-cursed "gift": it curses the giver and the receiver. But it also taught us a major lesson: if we Palestinians do not ensure dignity in our development, no one will.
This major lesson was not well understood or acknowledged by the Palestinian political leadership, and since then international aid continued to be wasted instead of being used effectively to transform people’s lives. The latest episode happened earlier this year when US President Donald Trump threatened to withdraw aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA).
He not only cut aid, but also moved the US embassy to Jerusalem, recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and attacked the UNRWA and the inalienable Palestinian right of return.
Apart from some fiery statements and glowing rhetoric, the Palestinian political leadership did not take any meaningful action to counter the US and its Trumpism. Last week, the US administration decided to slash more than $200m in Palestinian aid, yet the Palestinian political leadership's response continues to be strongly worded, but toothless, statements of condemnation, but without any action.
Here are four commonsense actions that the Palestinian political leadership could consider to respond to this recent cut in US aid.