Thursday, April 25, 2013

Catering the Rich: Let's do the trickle down effect!

There are more wealthy Palestinians than you think. Those from the families that have always been influential since centuries. Those with a part of the family in diaspora who made their fortunes in USA, Canada, Europe, or the Gulf. Those who made their fortunes in local businesses, sometimes with help of their links to either of the three governments in place. Those who became rich as traders, flooding the local market with foreign products under the free trade regime of Paris Protocol. Those that came back with their college degree from abroad, and created their own successful business.

Billions are stored in bank accounts in Palestine, in Jordan and overseas. The question is, where will those billions be spent? Forget about trying to get hold of that money by force. Most of it lies outside Palestinian jurisdiction.

But if you manage to offer some classy goods and services in Palestine, chances are that people will actually spend their fortunes here, and create jobs and income in Palestine, instead of doing so in the fashionable city centers of Paris, New York or Dubai, or possibly just Mamilla Mall in Jerusalem, which caters even common Palestinian's needs during their Ramadan shopping spree.

Successful Examples of Catering the Rich

Restaurant business is booming in Ramallah, and appears to be quite profitable, regardless of prices similar to those of European metropolises. Luxury cars are selling well, it is not rare to spot brand new top-of-the-line Mercedes, Audi, Porsche cars on Palestinian roads. The weddings industry is booming, and Mövenpick Hotel's wedding hall is often fully booked in advance for weeks during summer before and after Ramadan. A few other premium services have set up their operations very successfully, such as modern beauty parlours with hairdressers who received their training by Toni & Guy, and a couple of other examples.

Identifying Gaps to be Filled

Other economies have more experience with catering the rich. It is easy to get inspired in neighboring countries, look at Beirut downtown shopping center, look at the emirates mall in Dubai. Look at all the products and services advertised in lifestyle magazines. Think of chauffeur service including VIP access through checkpoints. Think of premium medical services. Think of financial services around private wealth. Think of high-standard tailor-made suits. Bring in franchising brands that guarantee a global quality standard. Create an online portal for high-class shopping, services, with an exclusive online community with club membership card and recommendations engine.

Is it Immoral to Cater the Rich?

I know that all this will not end the occupation, and it will do little to advance the political struggle. So I am not suggesting to go for consumerism instead of resistance. The struggle for for Palestinian rights has to go on. But let's be realistic, USA will take a couple of years to shift its military focus away from the Middle East and towards East Asia, thanks to shale gas fracking, and the strength of China. And Europe will take a couple of years to call for significant sanctions for the discriminatory legal system that Israel established in the occupied Territories. Meanwhile, the best tactics for Palestine is to embark on peaceful resistance, obsoleting Israel's ever-repeated "security" argument, while the violations of international law and of discriminatory law and practices are further exposed, strengthening the notion of Israel being seen as a pariah state, or apartheid state, which eventually calls for tough sanctions after a decade or two have passed. Diplomatic and economic pressure on Israel, and (financial, military) aid with strings attached to Israel, would eventually make the scenario of ending the occupation more attractive to the Israeli government than perpetuating the status quo.

Back to the original question, that tactics of political struggle is perfectly compatible with earning some money at the same time doing business, and trying to keep as much Palestinian money in the country as possible by providing decent goods and services for wealthy clients.
In any case, relying on the own economy will give the political struggle more room to maneuver, as opposed to relying on foreign development aid with strings attached to Palestine.

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