July 25, 2004.
Note of Likud of Holland: interesting that the corruption is so embedded in
the Palestinian top that it is even more important then the political goals.
Palestinian businessmen have made millions of pounds supplying cement for
Israel’s “security barrier” in the full knowledge of Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian
leader and one of the wall’s most vocal critics.
A damning report by Palestinian legislators, which has been seen by the
Telegraph, concludes that Mr Arafat did nothing to stop the deals although he
publicly condemned the structure as a “crime against humanity”.
The report claims that the cement was sold with the knowledge of senior
officials at the Palestinian ministry of national economy, and close advisers to
Mr Arafat. It concludes that officials were bribed to issue import licences for the
cement to importers and businessmen working for Israelis.
One of the report’s three authors, Hassan Khreishe – an independent legislator
and long-term critic of Mr Arafat – last night called for the Palestinian cabinet to
“Wealthy Palestinians with connections at the highest levels have been making
millions helping Israel build this wall while Arafat and the Palestinian Authority
have been urging people to fight against it,” said Mr Khreishe, a council
member from the West Bank city of Tulkarm.
“Why Arafat did nothing about it, we just don’t know. These people are
traitors who have brought shame on us, and they should be punished.”
An official in Mr Arafat’s office said: “We will not comment because this file
has been closed and it is now in the hands of the attorney general.”
The report reveals that the cement originally came from Egyptian companies
which supplied it at a huge discount of $22 a ton to help rebuild dilapidated
Palestinian houses or buildings bulldozed by the Israelis.
Between September 2003 and March this year, 420,000 tons of cement were
allegedly sent to three big Palestinian companies. According to the report,
however, only 33,000 tons were sold in the Palestinian market. The vast bulk
was transported to Israel on trucks owned by the three firms.
According to Mr Khreishe, the cement was then sold with a mark-up of
at least $15 a ton – and possibly as high as $100 – making profits of well over
$6 million for company executives.
The Legislative Council launched an investigation after Egyptian journalists
stumbled upon business links between a German Jewish businessman and the
According to the report, on November 9 last year a letter was sent to Mr Arafat
by the Palestinian Authority comptroller, revealing that open-ended import
licences for the cement had been signed by Maher al-Masri, the economy
The Palestinian Authority comptroller asserted in the letter that the cement was
destined for the wall.
The letter was allegedly received and seen by Mr Arafat on the same day that
he urged people to demonstrate on the first international “Day against the
Wall”. According to Mr Khreishe, Mr Arafat took no action to stop further
imports, which continued for another five months.
Ministry officials said that Mr al-Masri was unavailable for comment. The
minister was quoted on a Palestinian news website challenging the claims,
although he conceded that some cement had been transported to Israeli
businessmen. “There is an exaggeration,” he said. “The goal is to distort my
He said that his own investigative committee found that only 14,500 tons of
concrete were transported to Israel. He conceded that two ministry officials
carried out some “suspicious administrative violations” in relation to the
permits, and that there was not full co-ordination between the economy and
finance ministries regarding the cement quota. The ministry had issued permits
for 233,000 tons, he said, and had then cancelled permits for 65,000 tons.
The revelations in the report are highly embarrassing for Mr Arafat, who has
been pushing the international community to condemn the 425-mile barrier, of
which about one quarter has been built.
Israel says that the barrier is vital to protect its citizens from suicide
bombers and terrorist attacks. Palestinian leaders argue that it is designed to
deprive them of a state, and is cutting off Palestinians from their land, schools,
doctors and relatives.