Terrorism Study Teaches Me About PA Rentier Economy
I was curious what I would find in a relatively recent article with the title: “Democratic skepticism and support for terrorism in the Palestinian Territories” written by James A. Piazza of Penn State University. I learned one thing from the article that has nothing to do with the substance of the research itself, namely, the rentier economic system. I want to share that new learning with you; my critique of the article is in a separate post.
During the second half of the twentieth century, many Arab countries were governed by a distinctive form of authoritarianism known as the rentier state model. . . the regime uses government-accrued rents, rather than taxes, to subsidize employment, food, housing, healthcare, education and a wide range of other public needs. Such rents typically are derived from two main sources: state controlled oil and natural gas assets and foreign aid. . .
I knew nothing about the rentier system so I searched the academic literature to find out what it means and how that relates to the situation in the Palestinian Authority (PA).
In the rentier politicoeconomic system, the leadership feels that it is their natural right to take all the monies derived from the sale of oil and/or foreign aid and to use it as they see fit. That means they do not consider it immoral or corrupt to put monies into their own pockets, to buy political favours, and to support the terrorist activities against Israel — all before taking care of the needs of the population. It is just the way it is. And it is “legitimate”.
In the resource-poor PA, the rents are accrued from foreign aid. Additionally, Israel collects certain taxes on behalf of the PA and deposits them in their coffers.
We can now understand more deeply why Abbas said he would not accept ANY of that tax money if Israel deducts the sums Abbas uses for salaries paid to Jew-killers and/or their families. At first, I thought it was a childish tit for tat, but he sees pay-for-slay as his right as the leader of the PA. Challenging the way the PA leadership uses the funds at their disposal is an attack on their honour. And, God forbid, anyone attack their honour!
To understand the decisions Abbas makes, then, we need to examine them within the context of the rentier economy. This is true, as well, for the decisions Hamas makes in Gaza. Expecting the Hamas leadership to take care of the population’s humanitarian needs before their own needs to grow richer and to build tunnels and accumulate weapons is just not realistic in view of the rentier politicoeconomic system.
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P.S. Given the manner of thinking behind the rentier system, Kay Wilson, instead of rising up from the machete-beating that ripped her lungs to shreds and becoming the most prominent spokesperson for ending the foreign aid that Abbas uses to pay Jew-killers, should have died. Such chutpah! This Jew-woman rocking the boat just does not know her place! Because of her, Abbas has less $$ to play with and has been seriously shamed on the public stage.
P.P.S. It seems that the non-elite residents of the PA do not see things as their leadership does; there is evidence of growing discontent. Perhaps with their closeness to Israel and their observations of our life here, a growing proportion of their population may desire democracy and a taxation-based economy like Israel’s.