Daniel Hannan, a Daily Telegraph leader writer and Conservative MEP for South
East England. He has written seven publications on the EU, and was the first
person in Britain to campaign for a referendum on the European Constitution.
He contributes regularly to a number of Continental newspapers, and speaks
French and Spanish.
August 22, 2008.
The EU is to increase its aid to the Palestinian Authority by 40 million euros, in
order to pay the salaries of government employees. The first sympathy of any
Eurocrat is, of course, always and everywhere with the public sector worker.
If, in some bizarre parallel universe, the EU were to run out of money,
you can bet its last euros would be spent on its own apparatchiks.
Still, the EU’s generosity with our money – it has paid the Palestinian Authority
256 million euros so far this year – creates two problems.
First, the PA is run by Hamas, which is on the EU’s list of designated
terrorist operations. Under Brussels rules, funding such an organisation is a
criminal offence. Euro-lawyers have sought to circumvent the letter of the law
by funnelling aid money through NGOs, but this is sheer sophistry. Many of the
PA’s officials are Hamas militants, whose salaries are being paid while they
serve their sentences in Israeli jails.
Second, it is becoming increasingly clear that overseas aid is arresting a political
settlement in the region. (This goes equally for American subventions to Israel
which, as Ron Paul argues, have sapped the enterprise of the Jewish state; but
that’s another story.) Palestinians receive more assistance, per capita, than any
other people on Earth, and live in one of its most violent spaces. The two facts
The idea that aggression can be buried under a landslide of euros sounds
reasonable, but it is based on a false premise, namely that political violence is
caused by economic deprivation. This notion derives ultimately from Marx and,
like many of his ideas, it looks plausible on the page, but turns out to be
Most of the world’s revolutions have taken place, not at times of rising poverty,
but at times of rising wealth and aspirations. Put bluntly, people who are
worried about food and shelter have little time to go on demos. It is when they
have time to sit and brood that their thoughts turn to bloodshed.
A welfare state is thus the perfect terrorist habitat. Think of the two London
Tube bombers who had been living on income support and housing benefit. Had
this option been closed, perhaps they might have had to go out and get jobs,
and so been too busy to work themselves into a suicidal rage.
Sean O’Callaghan, the former IRA volunteer, recalls talking to the republican
leader Brian Keenan. “The Brits are very clever,” Keenan told him. “The only
thing they don’t get is the Fenian thing. We speak their language, are the same
skin colour, live in their council houses, take their dole and still hate them.”
Might it have been precisely because of the council houses and the dole that
they hated us?
It doesn’t have to be this way. Palestinians are a naturally enterprising people
who, in other Arab states, often form the professional and administrative class.
A capitalist Palestine, in which citizens looked to themselves rather than
to the state, would be more stable. Its propertied classes would have a stake in
civil order. Its businessmen would have an incentive to remain on cordial terms
with their customers, including those in Israel.
None of this will happen, however, as long as Palestinians remain trapped in the
squalor of dependency. The EU, in its well-intentioned but doltish way, is
fuelling the conflict.