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Friday, December 23, 2016

Tech in Palestine: 'Virtual market has no checkpoints'

Al Jazeera

Middle East - Palestine NEWS

Tech in Palestine: 'Virtual market has no checkpoints'

West Bank firm Mashvisor has become the first Palestinian company accepted into prestigious Silicon Valley seed fund.

Dalia Hatuqa

Mashvisor's development team recently held a planning meeting to determine their next steps [Courtesy of Mashvisor/Al Jazeera]

READ ON AT:

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/12/tech-palestine-virtual-market-checkpoints-161212100042248.html

Monday, December 19, 2016

West Bank Trade and Transport: Learning from Landlocked Developing Countries

Trade and Transport


West Bank Trade and Transport:
Learning from Landlocked Developing Countries

Hernan Levy heard about the work of Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy. He approached our President, Ed Thompson, with an idea to write a paper that applied to the West Bank the learnings and best practices from research at the World Bank about trade and transport. He had worked for more than two decades with the World Bank and was familiar with their research on landlocked developing countries. We are deeply grateful for this wonderful gift that was only possible because of his World Bank networks, his integrative capability and his investment of untold hours.

Download report here.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Sunday, November 27, 2016

EXPOTECH Palestine Technology Week

EXPOTECH Palestine Technology Week: 27 November - 1 December 2016

Published on November 16, 2016

Paul Tjia, Managing Director of GPI Consultancy, specialist in offshore sourcing, co-author of "Offshoring Information Technology"

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/expotech-palestine-technology-week-27-november-1-december-paul-tjia

Over the last decade, the ICT-sector in Palestine has shown continuous growth in products and services. 13 universities have ICT-faculties, with 2500 yearly graduates. There are more than 300 ICT-related companies, both in the West Bank as in Gaza, with a total of around 5000 employees.

The companies offer a broad range of services, such as software programming, testing, smartphone development, e-commerce and localization into Arabic. Expertise is available in Oracle, SaaS, Ajax, SQL, Java, J2EE, .NET, PHP, C#, SAP, etc. It is also possible to use local firms for the production of computer games or animation, data processing or for graphics design.

READ ON AT:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/expotech-palestine-technology-week-27-november-1-december-paul-tjia

Monday, September 26, 2016

Monday, September 19, 2016

Palestinian mushroom farm blighted by Israeli occupation

Palestinian Mahmoud Kuhail inside one of the empty growing rooms of the Amoro mushroom farm located in the Palestinian city of Jericho on September 18,2016. Mahmoud says that his farm has been closed since June because his supplies, including compost have been held up in the Israeli port of Ashdod since June. (Heidi Levine for The National).


Palestinian mushroom farm blighted by Israeli occupation

Lorena Rios
Foreign Correspondent September 18, 2016

West Bank // When Mahmoud Kuhail thinks about why he decided to open his mushroom farm, the first in the West Bank, he remembers as a young child watching his grandmother picking wild mushrooms in Hebron and Jerusalem.

READ ON AT:
http://www.thenational.ae/world/middle-east/palestinian-mushroom-farm-blighted-by-israeli-occupation

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Palestine Securities Exchange (PEX) Profits Exceeds USD 162m In The First Half Of 2016 And Dividends For 2015 Exceeds USD 180m

Palestine Securities Exchange (PEX) Profits Exceeds USD 162m In The First Half Of 2016 And Dividends For 2015 Exceeds USD 180m


First half financial results showed that thirty nine of forty nine listed companies achieved a net profit of 165,522,201USD, the eight loss making companies recorded a total loss of (2,964,008 USD).  Two companies -which are suspended on the market- failed to disclose within the set deadline.
First half aggregate net profit amounted to 162,576,193 USD a growth of 17.22% in comparison with the same period of 2015.

Mr. Ahmad Aweidah, CEO of PEX stated that Palestinian listed companies are able to withstand a challenging political environment and continue to achieve growth despite the difficulties in their operating environment. The growth in the companies’ results was accompanied with increasing trading values which have reached USD 319 million at the end of August 2016.

To view a detailed table of H1/2016 disclosures, please visit: http://www.pex.ps/PSEWEBSite/NEWS/30082016100.xlsx

Ahmad Aweidah, CEO of the Palestine Exchange (PEX), announced that the amount of cash dividends distributed by listed companies on the PEX was USD 155,091,435 for the year 2015, a growth of 3.21% when compared to 2014.

Top ranked companies by cash dividend as a percentage of market capitalization

Union Construction and Investment (UCI) ranked first with 17.6% to market value followed by Arab Company for Paints Products (APC) which distributed 11.1%. Palestine Real Estate Investment (PRICO) was third with percentage of 9.1%, Palestine Electric Company (PEC) was forth by distributing 8.5%, and Palestine Telecommunications (PALTEL) was fifth with a percentage of 8.1%.

Ahmad Aweidah said: “The outstanding performance of listed companies in 2015 was reflected in a positive trading value for 2016, which reached USD 319 million at the end of August 2016. We hope that these results will have a direct impact on Al-Quds Index especially considering the good performance of our listed companies in the First Half of 2016”.

SOURCE: http://m.mondovisione.com/media-and-resources/news/palestine-securities-exchange-pex-profits-exceeds-usd-162m-in-the-first-half-o-1/

Monday, August 22, 2016

Promising Sectors in Palestine


قطاعات واعدة في فلسطين
رغم التحديات إلا إنها حققت الكثير وتتطلع لغد أكثر إشراقا، إنها فلسطين أرض الخير والبركة أرض الفرص، تملك العديد من فرص الاستثمار الغير مستغلة ضمن قطاعات متنوعة، منها الزراعة، السياحة، الأحذية والجلود، المنسوجات والألبسة، تكنولوجيا المعلومات والاتصالات، موارد الطاقة المتجددة، وغيرها من القطاعات، فلسطين ترسي دعائم بيئة الاستثمار في مجالات عدة منها: قانون تشجيع استثمار عصري، مناطق صناعية مؤهلة، اتفاقيات تجارة واستثمار إقليمية وعالمية، سياسات تنموية، مواصفات ومقاييس متطورة وشهادات جودة عالمية، بنية تحتية مؤهلة، ايدي عاملة ماهرة، مما خلق قصص نجاح لشراكات محلية وإقليمية ودولية ضمن قطاعات وفرص، ندعوكم الى الاطلاع على ملخص عن القطاعات الواعده في فلسطين بزيارة الرابط التالي:
http://www.pipa.ps/ar_page.aspx?id=fHeK4Wa2534518239afHeK4W 
 
Promising Sectors in Palestine
Palestine, land of opportunities, it offers numerous available investment opportunities within a variety of sectors such as: Agriculture, Tourism, Footwear, Leather, Textile and Garments, ICT, Renewable energy recourses, and other sectors.
Palestine provides daily efforts to create an investment- friendly environment, Through modern investment law, well equipped Industrial zones, regional and international trade and investment treaties and MoUs, reforms, developed standards–specifications and international recognition, good infrastructure, skilled labor. This creates an environment packed with success stories, as well as local, regional, and international partnership opportunities, we invite you to take a look at the promising investment sectors from thebelow link:
 http://www.pipa.ps/page.aspx?id=poY7MMa2535469992apoY7MM 
 

Friday, July 15, 2016

AVPE Holds Board Meeting in Chicago



 

 

Effort To Connect American And Palestinian Businesses

Successfully Concludes Board Meeting In Chicago


Chicago, IL (July 12, 2016) – The board of directors for Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy (AVPE), a non profit organization based in Illinois, successfully concluded a two-day board meeting in Orland Park. In addition to the Chicago-based board members, other members present came from Detroit, Michigan, Ames, Iowa, Saint CloudMinnesota, Boston, Massachusetts, and as far away as Ramallah, Palestine.
 
AVPE board members meeting in Orland Park, Illinois
 
During the meeting over twenty business opportunities from Palestine were reviewed in hopes of connecting these opportunities to partners and investors in America. Some of the opportunities revolve around products such as chocolate covered dates, greeting cards, advanced pipe systems and innovative plastic products, abrasives tools, jewelry and souvenirs from the Holy Land, among many others.
AVPE Chairman Sam Bahour, who is originally from Youngstown, Ohio and now resides in Palestine, said, “This board meeting was a pivotal step in our efforts to build business relationships between Americans and Palestinians. The collective market insights that were assembled around the board table were truly impressive, as was the interest of Chicago community leaders. As we reach out to U.S. firms and entrepreneurs to connect them to Palestine-based business opportunities, we understand that every successful partnership made is a tangible contribution to support the Palestinian economy. We believe creating jobs in Palestine could also mean creating jobs in America, and that’s a winning game all around.”
 
 
Alongside the AVPE’s board meeting, a Greek dinner in downtown Chicago at the Parthenon Restaurant was held for a handful of community leaders. The organization’s activities were shared with the group as was an update from Palestine by Sam Bahour. The participants agreed that the dire political situation in Palestine and Israel calls for redoubling efforts to support Palestinian youth by engaging them in sustainable employment opportunities.

 
Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy was founded on the simple premise that positive investment in Palestine breeds hope for a better future for Palestinians through tangible economic opportunity. When impediments on the ground are lifted, these lasting business relationships will support a vibrant Palestinian economy and, in the meantime, every business transaction and job created plants another seed of hope that keeps Palestinians constructively engaged towards a future of freedom and economic independence.
 
For more information call: Atty. Sana'a Hussien, shussien@a4vpe.org, +1-708-302-3030 or Sam Bahour, sbahour@a4vpe.org, +1-330-333-1726
 




 



 

 
 


 
 

 

 

 

 




AVPE to participate in Democratic National Convention


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Three women engineers find answer to Gaza’s ruined roads

Three Palestinian women have been awarded prizes in an international youth creativity competition for inventing a way to improve road surfaces in the Gaza Strip.

The three – Hadeel Abu Aisha, 22, Khadija Ramlawi, 22, and Nour Hassan, 21 – are recent civil engineering graduates from the Islamic University in Gaza City. They devised a way to use metal strips to make the asphalt self-healing.
Abu Aisha told the Al-Monitor website: “With time, cracks start to show on asphalt, and the traditional solution would be to pave the road every time, which is a costly option as 1km of asphalt costs about $1m in Gaza because of the high cost of raw materials resulting from the restrictions imposed by Israel on imports.”
When the mixture cools, the surface becomes free of cracks. She said the
lifespan of a traditional asphalt road is 25-30 years and after that the road develops cracks and potholes.The women’s idea was to add iron fibres extracted from metal scrap to the bitumen and gravel of newly laid roads. The fibres protect the asphalt against degradation and eventual structural failure. The key to the process is to heat the road to 150°C while adding the reinforcement, which bonds the iron and the bitumen, closes cracks and results in a smoother pavement.
Ramlawi told Al-Monitor: “The experiments we did in Gaza were successful, but we had some difficulties — mainly the lack of some necessary testing instruments such as the electromagnetic induction machine needed to generate temperatures for the asphalt, which is nowhere to be found in Gaza. We used instead a microwave to generate heat – and it worked.”
The invention won the women first prize out of more than 6,000 entrants in the scientific innovation category of the Nasser Bin Hamad International Youth Creativity Awards in Bahrain.
First-place winners are awarded a $7,000 prize and the NBH Shield, which is handed personally by the head of the Supreme Council for Youth and Sports in Bahrain, Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa. However, the women were unable to gain permission from the Israeli or Egyptian authorities, who control all movement into and out of Gaza, to attend the ceremony.
The three winners are now looking for international institutions interested in financing their project in the Gaza Strip.
Top image: The award for the Gazan women was collected by the granddaughter of the Palestinian ambassador (Nasser Bin Hamad)

Monday, May 23, 2016

An Economic Dialogue for a Better Future

By U.S. Consul General in Jerusalem Donald Blome
 
This week, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and
Business Affairs Charles Rivkin led a U.S. government delegation to Ramallah for the first U.S.-Palestinian Economic Dialogue in over a decade. This event is a historic step towards expanding and strengthening the U.S.-Palestinian economic relationship. It also underscores our commitment to fostering a robust, sustainable, and export-oriented Palestinian economy, which will be the backbone of a future Palestinian state. Growing the Palestinian economy and providing more opportunities to young Palestinians is not a goal that we can put off to a later point in time. It is a necessity that we must address in lock-step with our overarching political goal: a negotiated two-state solution, with a viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel. 
 
The U.S. government, through our aid programs and our advocacy, is already dedicating resources to support private sector growth in the Palestinian economy. Through initiatives like our Compete program, we are strengthening the competitiveness and export potential of Palestinian agribusiness, stone and marble, textiles, and technology firms.  The U.S.-funded Loan Guarantee Facility was just re-launched with $100 million in additional capital. We provide technical and marketing training to entrepreneurs, and we connect them to U.S. markets and investors. We will also continue to fund infrastructure projects, such as new roads and vehicle crossings that make it easier to do business.
 
We recognize the Palestinian private sector must grow in order to fuel the economy of the future. The United States, along with the Quartet and other members of the international community, are working to address restrictions on the movement of Palestinians and their goods in the West Bank and Gaza. We see many potential benefits of greater Palestinian-led development  in the areas of housing, water, energy, communications, agriculture, and natural resources. A modern economy requires modern telecommunications, and so we continue to work with the Israelis and the Palestinians to allow Palestinian mobile networks to provide an expanding range of cellular services throughout the West Bank and Gaza.
 
We also recognize the need for regulatory reform, particularly in the areas of asset registry, corporate law, tax code enforcement, and intellectual property rights protections. Changes such as these will make the Palestinian market more attractive to international investors. The Palestinian Authority has already taken steps in the right direction. I applaud Prime Minister Hamdallah and his economic team for moving forward on a new National Policy Agenda for the next six years, and I hope that one of the primary goals in that plan will be to create a business and regulatory environment more conducive to private sector growth.
 
But we know we must do more together to improve the situation. Today experts from across the U.S. and Palestinian Authority will come together to chart a way forward toward sustainable, broad-based economic growth to provide jobs and hope to young people and secure livelihoods to Palestinian families.  The success of the Palestinian economy is also a powerful antidote to extremism. There are only a few dozen U.S. economic dialogues with governments around the world; we hope this renewed dialogue will demonstrate the premium the U.S. government places on Palestinian economic prosperity and the dignity of the Palestinian people.  We look forward to a series of U.S.-Palestinian Economic Dialogues in the years ahead. We plan to host the Palestinian delegation in Washington for the next round of the U.S.-Palestinian Economic Dialogue in 2017 and are deeply committed to solidifying the economic ties that bind us.

Monday, May 9, 2016

U.S. Consul General Remarks: “Grown in Gaza” and Announcing Envision Gaza 2020




On May 9, U.S. Consul General in Jerusalem Donald A. Blome hosted “Grown in Gaza”, an event bringing together policy-makers, Palestinian farmers, and journalists to highlight the potential of Gaza’s agricultural sector.  He also announced the 5-year, $50 million Envision Gazan 2020 USAID program.  Pictures of the event.  Below are his remarks. 

My wife Debbie and I are very glad to welcome you all to our home today.  Thank you for coming to celebrate Palestinian agriculture in Gaza.  I want to offer my sincere thanks to our Palestinian exporters from Gaza:  Mounir Abu Hasira, Jamal Abu Naja, and Abdel Raouf Abu Safr for the beautiful produce and seafood they provided.  I would also like to offer a special thank you to Uri Madar from the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture for his work to facilitate the transfer of goods out of Gaza. I am also glad to welcome Dr. Kheirieh Rassas.

There are some very special aspects of the evening to which I would like to draw your attention.  All of the produce and seafood you see before you, that you are eating right now, the fruit in the specialty juices – all of it was produced in Gaza.  I don’t think anyone in Jerusalem has been able to say that for the last 10 years.  One of Gaza’s most prominent chefs, Jamal Sobeh, graciously volunteered his time to partner with our Chef, Nina Eliahu, to prepare tonight’s food – every dish a Gaza specialty or inspired by Gaza culinary traditions.  I would also invite you to walk over and see the photo exhibition from a very well-known Gaza photojournalist, Wissam Nasser, who has been regularly featured in the New York Times.  I found these photographs to be a moving reminder of the human stories in Gaza, a place often stereotyped or simplified in popular depictions.

Normally, at events like these, I talk about U.S. policies and programs.  Tonight, I want to do something a little different.  I want to focus on these vegetables [point to basket of vegetables] and the farmers that produced them.  Several of these farmers are with us here tonight.  In fact, I believe these vegetables came from the farm of Abdel Raouf Safar and Jamal Abu Naja.  Munir Abu Hasira provided the delicious fresh seafood catch you are savoring tonight.  And Jawdat Al Khoudary provided the beautiful plants from his cactus farm to decorate our tables.  From planting the seed to exporting the crop, these producers face multiple and unique challenges.  Access to water and land in one of the most densely populated regions of the world is a formidable challenge but even after that, Gazan farmers must contend with some of the highest shipping costs in the world, long wait times for their produce under the blazing sun, and phytosanitary and quality standards enforced by multiple entities.  A Gazan farmer once told me that it cost him more to ship strawberries to Ramallah than to Europe. 

This attractive and delicious produce provides a concrete example of the potential of Gaza agriculture but also the significant challenges. 

In addition to widespread destruction of homes and factories, the 2014 conflict did enormous damage to the agricultural sector in Gaza—the backbone of the Gaza economy.  Twenty six thousand farmers lost their livelihoods; the conflict left over 550 million dollars in damages and destroyed almost 800 water wells. 

At a time when violent extremists in this region are capitalizing on a vacuum of leadership, governance, and hope, in Gaza we need a better vision for the future.  A part of that picture is sustainable economic growth and employment.  That includes reinvigorating Gaza’s agriculture and food sector, and re-establishing strong commercial links with the West Bank, with Israel, the West Bank, and with the global economy.  The agriculture sector is a powerful example of how cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and the Government of Israel can benefit Palestinians in Gaza and provide real economic possibilities in the midst of hardship.  Investing in Gaza’s economic future will not empower extremist groups.  In fact, a credible vision for a future with dignity is the antidote to extremism.  However, we are all aware of the persistent, daunting development challenges in Gaza, challenges which demand concerted action from all of us. 

First, there is a need to balance the legitimate security needs of the Government of Israel with the necessity of building Gaza’s economy.  In 2015, the Government of Israel facilitated Gaza agricultural sales to the West Bank and a limited opening to Israel.  The recent expansion of fishing limits in Gaza should benefit hundreds of Palestinian fishermen.  We welcome these recent steps to allow trade from Gaza.  The international community is prepared to help expand on this, through the AHLC and the Office of the Quartet, and there is much more the PA and the Government of Israel can do together.

The Palestinian Authority Ministry of Agriculture, which is represented here tonight, has been instrumental in coordinating donor support for reconstructing thousands of greenhouses in Gaza and rehabilitating damaged farm land.  There is continuous contact between the Palestinian and Israeli Ministries of Agriculture to facilitate trade at the crossing and address phytosanitary concerns.  These have been notable areas of success.

Many of our friends in the international community have been active in supporting Gaza agriculture.  The Government of the Netherlands, represented by Wijnand Marchal tonight, has been investing in Gaza agriculture since 2010, helping farmers meet Global Gap international export standards and improving crossing infrastructure to facilitate swift and efficient transport of perishable goods from Gaza. 

The U.S. government is also working to improve the lives and livelihoods of Gaza farmers and exporters.  Last year, USAID’s COMPETE initiative launched in Gaza with a focus on developing the high-value crop sector.  I am proud to see so many farmers and partners who have worked with us on this endeavor.

If the West Bank COMPETE program is any example, the Gaza agricultural sector could also grow exponentially.  Thanks to COMPETE, agriculture exports from the West Bank grew by 24 million dollar from 2013 to 2014.  Palestinian firms signed 33 contracts with international buyers from 2012 to 2014, infusing 34 million dollars into the Palestinian economy.  This initiative created over a thousand new jobs, and trained or invested in over 2,000 farmers in the same period.

We all know more needs to be done in Gaza.  That is why we are hosting this event tonight.  More than that, that is why, today, the United States government is proud to announce a new 50 million dollar program called Envision Gaza 2020.  This program will provide urgent humanitarian support, job creation, and capacity building – markedly expanding our Gaza assistance efforts.  In Gaza we need to offer a better vision for the future, and this program aims to do just that.  It reinforces the continued support of the American people to the Palestinian people.

Everyone here tonight has been focused on solutions; solutions on how to grow produce in one of the most densely populated areas in the world, solutions on how to lower shipping costs or secure access to markets, solutions on how to make the world’s most delicious Sayad’eya – thanks for that Jamal.  As you move around the event tonight, I invite you to look at the photo exhibition, taste the delicious Gazan cuisine, listen to the music, and, before you leave, fill up a bag of Gaza produce and take it home with you.   

 

Thank you. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Israel 'feeling heat' over settlement businesses

In this Nov. 22, 2010, photo, Palestinian women collect scrap timber in the Mishor Adumim industrial zone near the Jewish West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim. Palestinian advocates contend that multinational companies will need to face "clear legal and moral liabilities" for operating in Israeli settlements. (Associated Press)


By Guest Columnist/cleveland.com The Plain Dealer
on February 04, 2016 at 3:04 PM

Sam Bahour
 
Sam Bahour is a Palestinian American businessman  
The consequences of Israeli occupation and anti-Palestinian discrimination for Israel's economy are now coming faster than ever. Like so many previous military occupations, Israel is starting to feel the heat of the international community. However, this heat is not of the political kind that Israel has become accustomed to deflecting, but rather the economic kind that has a mystical way of invoking action from the political echelon. For everyone's sake, let's hope the message is arriving loud and clear: It's time for Israel to end its nearly 50-year occupation and allow Palestinians to live in freedom in an independent state.

The latest thoughtful criticism of Israel's actions is a 162-page report titled "Occupation, Inc.: How Settlement Businesses Contribute to Israel's Violations of Palestinian Rights." Issued by the reputable, international non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch (HRW), the report documents how settlement businesses facilitate the growth and operations of Israel's settlement enterprise, an enterprise deemed illegal by every country in the world, except Israel. These settlement businesses depend on and contribute to the Israeli authorities' unlawful confiscation of Palestinian land and other resources.

Ed Thompson
 
Edward E. Thompson, is a retired consulting psychologist  
Human Rights Watch's director of the Business and Human Rights Division, Arvind Ganesan, noted that "Settlement businesses unavoidably contribute to Israeli policies that dispossess and harshly discriminate against Palestinians, while profiting from Israel's theft of Palestinian land and other resources. The only way for businesses to comply with their own human rights responsibilities is to stop working with and in Israeli settlements."

Speaking of the stone and marble industry, Ganesan said, "Every dollar of stone that settlement businesses extract and sell from the West Bank is a dollar taken from Palestinians. The bottom line is no settlement business should be operating and profiting from land and resources illegally taken from the Palestinian people." In light of the clear illegality of doing business with Israeli settlements, multinational companies will need to face clear legal and moral liabilities in continuing to do business as usual. However, for those firms that have been operating in the settlements, there is another option they can pursue to compensate for their past wrongdoings; they can redirect their business investments to the Palestinian economy and become a constructive element in helping Palestinians recover from the real economic damage caused by nearly half a century of military occupation.

Making such investment and business options materialize is exactly why we co-founded Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy (AVPE) as a tax-deductible organization based in Chicago, Illinois. As two Americans, one a retired Chicagoan and the other a Palestinian American from Youngstown, Ohio now based in Ramallah, we have witnessed firsthand the damage on the ground caused by Israel's deliberate battering of Palestine's economy. But we also have visited Palestinians' firms, those keeping their businesses' doors open despite all odds, and want to connect them to the U.S. market. After a year of operations, AVPE documented serious interest from Palestinian businesspersons interested in linking to American business partners.

Large-scale projects that global firms can surely relate to are taking shape. The first planned Palestinian city, Rawabi, is now witnessing its first tenants taking up residence and offers international high-tech firms the opportunity to locate their operations in the new Rawabi Tech Hub. From Dead Sea products that compete head on with similar products produced in illegal Israeli settlements to olive oil soap and Bethlehem greeting cards, Palestinians have products and services worthy of note.

This new HRW report is actually the second vital criticism that calls into question business as usual for Israel. The first was issued by the European Council on Foreign Relations and titled EU Differentiation and Israeli settlements (July 22, 2015). In this past report, Israeli banks, among other businesses, were a main target, given most have branches in settlements. The Israeli business community took note. With this new HRW report, they will take note again, and all indications are that the reports and actions against illegal business practices will continue until occupation comes to an end.
The World Bank estimated in 2013 that Israeli restrictions in Area C (the 62 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli control) cost the Palestinian economy $3.4 billion annually, approximately equal to 33 percent of Palestine's GDP. Settlement businesses contribute to and benefit from unlawful and discriminatory policies that leave many Palestinians with no alternative but to work in Israel or settlements. As multinationals divest from illegal settlements, redirected economic activity can be a key component to further advance the Palestinian economy, while putting more Palestinians in jobs and giving them hope for a day when they will live in freedom and occupation-free.

Sam Bahour is a Palestinian American businessman originally from Youngstown now living in Ramallah, where he is managing partner at Applied Information Management. He is a policy adviser at Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network and chairman of Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy. Edward E. Thompson, a retired consulting psychologist with a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, is the co-founder and president of Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy.

To reach Sam Bahour:  sbahour@gmail.com
To reach Edward E. Thompson: ethompson@a4vpe.org

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Eco-tourism: a growing industry in Palestine


Besides its many historical attractions, the country has a marvelous natural richness unique in the region

We’ve all heard of these unique world treasures— Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho…We’ve all heard of the pious traditions which these Biblical names carry. But what about Palestine’s ‘other’ treasures? Yes, as hard as it is to believe, seeing is believing! As more and more visitors show increased interest in its hidden natural wonders, Palestine is now a burgeoning market for a promising eco-tourism industry.
With a mild weather and a uniquely diverse landscape, Palestine has become a delight with tourists as it combines desert, mountains, rivers, forests, and rocky valleys. For instance, there’s the charm of springs, rolling hills and lush forests at Wadi Qana, whom many have come to call “Paradise on Earth”. This wonder of nature in the Salfit District just north of Nablus is one of Palestine’s most attractive natural reserves. Wherever the eye reaches there are fertile hills, valleys, streams, and vast woodlands. And just farther north is Sebastia, where nature lovers will encounter a series of evocative Mediterranean forests surrounded by scenic vales of greenery. The site becomes even more appealing as various migratory birds make the place their favorite stopover.
For the lovers of the mystical secrets of the desert, Wadi Qelt couldn’t be any better. This rocky valley at the gates of the Judaean Desert on the way to Jericho offers spectacular views comprising a canyon with towering cliffs, green vales at its bottom; and in the spring, the area gains an ethereal charm as blossoming plants burst into hundreds of colors and scents. This is a real treat for hikers and nature lovers alike.
 “With so much natural beauty, Palestine is beginning to attract attention in the eco-tourism market” the unique beauty of the desert of Wadi Qelt, and the majestic springs and forests of Wadi Qana are but a few of the many natural wonders Palestine has to offer.

Written by