Tuesday 23 October 2012

Strikes over pay

Although the campus has been buzzing with students the two or three times we have visited since we’ve been here, lots of lectures have been cancelled.  We were also supposed to be going in to work with students and administrative staff at Al Quds University, but this will not take place util after Eid celebrations next week.  This is because the public sector has been on strike over pay.  It is now the third consecutive month since the last payment from the PA (Palestinian Authority who is in charge of public sector payments in the West Bank).

Unfortunately, this is not the first time this has happened.  One reason for the reoccurrence is that Israel’s occupation of Palestine means that the West Bank's economy income is linked to Israel’s economy. The direct effect of this linkage is that the West Bank is prevented from developing its own economy that can rely only on Palestinian businesses, factories and economic projects. The West Bank is therefore partially dependent on the money generated from Israel’s economic endeavours (Israel is obligated to give money to the PA because as the occupying power they have to financially support the Palestinian population according to international law) and since 1993 has been largely dependent on foreign aid (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/03/palestinian-authority-salaries_n_1646032.html). In the wake of the current global financial crisis many donor countries have cut back on their foreign aid agreements with the West Bank (http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?method=home.regcon&contentid=20121012139351). Additionally, Israel have significant control over how much money is given to the PA and consequently influences the amount of money that is available  to pay public sector workers in the West Bank.

Both of these factors mean that the Palestinian authority do not currently have the $150 million dollars monthly they say they need to pay their public sector employees, including state school teachers and university lecturers. Although, the effects of the linkage of the Palestinian and Israeli economies hugely influences the money that is available to pay state school teachers in the West Bank, questions should also be asked about the extent to which economic corruption within the PA influences why they are currently not paying their teachers. This is a popular view shown by a Palestinian Public Opinion Poll conducted in June 2012; 71% of Palestinians interviewed thought that there was corruption within the PA (http://www.pcpsr.org/survey/polls/2012/p44efull.html#domestic).

These brief considerations highlight how the Israeli occupation of Palestine is hindering the amount and quality of education in the West Bank.