I got a curious email yesterday from a friend studying at Cambridge University who’s been involved in Palestine solidarity activism on UK campuses. Yesterday he got yet another job offer in his mailbox through the ‘Career Service’ listserve run by Cambridge (see the end of this blog entry for the full text of the offer). The position caught his eye because it related to Palestine. It seems like Adam Smith International, the spin off consultancy of the conservative Adam Smith Institute in the UK, is looking for a Refugee Policy Advisor to consult the Palestinian Authority on aspects of refugee policy. While the link between neo-liberal economics – with a Thatcherite accent - and Palestinian refugee rights may seem abstract, it makes perfect sense if we consider the actual objectives of the international community’s intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
For those who have been following the Palestinian issue closely, this type of intervention and ‘advice’ on a crucial topic like refugee rights will come as no surprise. After all the ‘international community’ has been inching ever closer to an open endorsement of Sharon’s disengagement/annexationist plan since it was announced during the Likud party’s Herzaliya conference in December 2003. This last April, Sharon was invited to the White House and received full approval for ‘disengagement’ from the Bush Administration, including a willingness to overtake responsibility for the security situation in Gaza either directly or through regional proxies. This point was highlighted by Martin Indyk, a former US ambassador to Israel, in a Washington Post article that he penned shortly after the Bush-Sharon summit. Indyk is a primary proponent of imposing an international trusteeship over the Palestinian ‘state’ (read Bantustan) that is scheduled to emerge sometime in the middle or near the end of the year 2005.
A key feature of the post-conflict nation building exercise that will be launched by the ‘international community’ in the newly created Bantustan – and whose first phase is the upcoming Palestinian ‘elections’, which are designed to legitimate Mahmoud Abbas (a.k.a. Abu Mazen) as the new Palestinian President – is the implementation of a radical free-market model on the Palestinian people and the restructuring of the security services in a manner that will bring all armed factions under the control of pro-Western operatives. The aim will be to ensure that Palestine develops in ways that are favorable to the penetration of transnational capital in the Middle East while ensuring that the only armed Palestinians in the streets are those whose objective is the internal repression of the insurrectionary logics of the intifada. Essentially, the ‘international community’ is seeking to resume the Bantustan formula of the Oslo years, although this time on the territorial terms defined by the Israeli right-wing as represented by Sharon.
On the economic front the assets of the new ‘state’ will largely be managed by the IMF and World Bank. In the summer, the World Bank already prepared a study on how the assets that Israel will leave behind in the Gaza Strip should be managed. Instead of directly transferring the assets to the Palestinians, the World Bank suggested that they be transferred to an interim body that would be managed by technocrats drawn from its own ranks. Thus the involvement of outfits like the Adam Smith Institute in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should come as no surprise as every post-conflict situation in which the ‘international community’ has intervened forcefully has featured the implementation of free-market logics on the colonized state as a central component of the new ‘peace-building.’ This was true in Bosnia - the first such massive intervention of the ‘international community’ in the post-Cold War era - and has been progressively refined in subsequent interventions in Kosovo, East Timor, Afghanistan, and Iraq (as well as in less publicized ‘peace agreements’ that the ‘international community’ has brokered or is trying to broker in places like Sierra Leone, Liberia, Congo, Haiti, Ivory Coast, Solomon Islands, Somalia, etc.).
As I was researching Palestine related initiatives in Cambridge for this blog entry, I also came across ‘The Israel-Palestine Peacekeeping Forum’ which is a low-level initiative aimed at bringing together policy makers as well as security and intelligence officials from Israel, the PA, the US, UK, Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, the EU, the Arab League, NATO, the World Bank, the UN and a number of non-governmental organizations in order to examine the nature of third party involvement in any eventual settlement. The Forum is sponsored by Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), the International Development Research Centre (Canada), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sweden. Essentially, the work of the Forum translates into a low-level mechanism for fleshing out the details of how the proposed Palestinian Bantustan will be governed once in emerges in 2005 (for its most recent report click here). Such ‘semi-secretive’ forums were the basis of the failed Oslo accords, and it seems likely they will again be used as the primary vehicle for hashing out an agreement that will fail to address the legitimate grievances of the Palestinian people or to meet their most basics rights, including the Right of Return (which is a central feature of any eventual settlement).
The outlines of the future security situation are thus slowly emerging and seeing the light of day. While the ‘international community’ would ideally like to see regional proxies like Egypt and Jordan stepping-in on the heals of an Israeli withdrawal to impose order in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank respectively – the fact of the matter is that the internal weakness of these regimes may necessitate the assistance of other actors. The possibility that a NATO, or some other type of intervention force, will take over ‘security’ in the areas that will be ceded to a pliant pro-Western Palestinian regime is real. In fact, it was recently announced that NATO would include Israeli military forces in upcoming exercises for the first time in its history. This marks a noticeable expansion of NATO into the Middle East and North Africa that began with the establishment of the Alliance’s ‘Mediterranean Dialogue’ in 1994. The upcoming exercises will be a crucial means of testing modalities for eventual multilateral cooperation in areas of the occupied territories that are ceded to the PA. The NATO umbrella will essentially be used to provide a cover for increased Egyptian-Israeli-Jordanian cooperation in the security field and could eventually translate into the means by which the trans-Atlantic rift created by the Iraq war can be healed. Within such a context, in which the Palestinian issue is being subcontracted to the ‘international community,’ it should come as no surprise that outfits like the Adam Smith Institute are seen as credible interlocutors for Palestinian refugees.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: "Careers Service"
Subject: CLICK Dev/Research ADAM SMITH INTERNATIONAL Refugee Policy Adviser
Date: Mon, 29 Nov 2004 12:30:43 -0000
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ADAM SMITH INTERNATIONAL
Date: Wed, 24 Nov 2004 17:23:39 +0000
From: Forced Migration List
Subject: Job announcement: Refugee policy adviser, Ramallah
Adam Smith International wishes to recruit an adviser on Refugees Policy to work at
its aid project in Ramallah, in the West Bank.
The purpose of the project is to provide expert professional advice to Palestinian
ministries and institutions on a range of issues related to the development of a
future Palestinian state.
Candidates must have:
- At least three years experience advising on, or analysing, the Palestinian Refugee
- Excellent academic qualifications in a relevant subject
- Very strong reading, writing and speaking skills in English and fluency in Arabic
- A detailed understanding of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict
- Substantial experience of working in teams, liaising with other organisations and
delivering work to tight deadlines.
Compensation will be above average for the development sector.
Please send a covering letter and CV to: