By Rachel Avraham
In series of photos that Israeli human rights activist Kay Wilson displayed on Facebook several years ago, the living conditions within the West Bank are displayed. From the photos, it appears that the Palestinian Authority has an elite that lives in luxury. According to a PA source, not much has changed since then.
According to Jean-Jacque Rousseau’s Confessions, prior to the French Revolution, a French princess was informed that the people had no bread and infamously responded: “Let them eat cake,” which many contemporaries considered a great insult to the peasant’s plight. Some falsely claim that the quote is attributed to French Queen Marie Antoinette, who was beheaded during the French Revolution, yet this is unlikely to be so historically.
However, while Western media outlets portray the West Bank as poor and impoverished, the reality is that like life under the French monarchy prior to the French Revolution, the Palestinian Authority elite in the West Bank lives in luxury and leaves their nation impoverished. They similarly disregard the plight of their masses and are no better than this French princess.
Several years ago, Israeli human rights activist Kay Wilson published on her Facebook photos taken from within the Palestinian Authority that highlight how the Palestinian elite in the West Bank lives in luxury while the average Palestinians who live in UNRWA refugee camps suffer and live-in impoverished conditions.
In one of the photos, the Bank of Palestine is displayed. The photo shows a modern brand-new building that meets American standards with luxurious cars parked outside and a beautiful palm tree growing in front.
The American School of Palestine, according to the documentation provided by Wilson, is in a newer and nicer building than many Israeli high schools are in. Furthermore, the Bethlehem Peace Center building appears ten times fancier than the offices of most Zionist non-profits based in Israel
Another picture shows a three-story high villa with a Mediterranean flare, with a porch plus two balconies. The villa includes a beautiful garden that most Israelis could only dream of having. In another photo, one can see gold jewelry for sale within the Palestinian Authority. The sale of gold jewelry implies the existence of a market in the West Bank that is wealthy enough to purchase such luxury items as starving impoverished children don’t usually have money for basic items like clothes and food, much less gold jewelry. Wilson stated sarcastically aside the picture of the gold jewelry: “Think how many Gazans this would feed.”
Another picture shows the luxurious Caesar Hotel, where many western journalists stay and live in luxury in the West Bank while “accusing Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinians.” The hotel has an uncanny resemblance to the luxurious Islands Hotel in Netanya, Israel, complete with a sushi bar and fancy cars parked outside. The lobby inside the hotel serves delicious Palestinian food and tasty cocktails, providing journalists with a safe and pleasant environment to write about “the genocide Israel committed against the Palestinians.” The only thing that is missing is Netanya’s beautiful coastline view overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
Other pictures show bustling shopping centers, luxurious chairs that are suitable for a king, attractive apartment buildings, fancy watches on display, expensive western clothing for sale, delicious Israeli food being distributed to the local population, popular American cars on the market, other glorious mansions, coca cola billboards, smart phone advertisements, as well as the existence of Domino’s Pizza and Starbucks.
Interestingly, Starbucks does not have any stores in Israel, but has 900 stores in Middle Eastern and North African countries. Thus, people living in the Palestinian Authority benefit from Starbucks coffee but not Israeli citizens. As the Starbucks website states, “Neither Starbucks nor the company’s former chairman, president and CEO Howard Schultz provide financial support to the Israeli government and/or the Israeli Army in any way. We decided to dissolve our partnership in Israel in 2003 due to the on-going operational challenges that we experienced in that market.”
However, not everyone in the Palestinian Authority is living this luxurious lifestyle. One of the pictures shows an UNRWA school that literally looks like it is falling apart. It appears that no renovations were done since 1948. One cannot help but feel badly for the children who are forced to study in a school like this. A graffiti outside the school reads: “Drugs not recommended.” However, Kay remarked: “I couldn’t blame any Palestinian who, after comparing this squalor with Hebron, Bethlehem, and Ramallah, would want to smoke weed.”
A picture of the homes inside the UNRWA refugee camps are even more horrendous than the condition of the UNRWA school. The homes appear ten times worse than the most horrendous slums in the US. Graffiti covers the walls of run-down ugly brown buildings. Another moving picture published by Wilson shows two Palestinian little boys living in squalor merely because their grandparents were refugees and nobody has bothered to settle them into proper homes: “Unlike their counterparts in Ramallah, Hebron and Bethlehem, these poor kids are kept in squalor by the terror supporting UNRWA.”
Wilson also documented that in the squalid refugee camps, the PA takes advantage of the poverty of its residents in order to incite them into becoming terrorists. Within the poor UNRWA refugee camps, pictures of infamous Palestinian terrorists like Ayat Al Akhras and Leila Khaled are prominent, as are signs calling upon children to become terrorists.
In an exclusive interview with me a couple of years ago in JerusalemOnline, Wilson said that she received these pictures from a combination of Palestinians who are upset with how their leadership has treated them, squandering all of the donations from other countries to live grandiose lifestyles while the average person in the PA suffers: “They want to get the message out and are too afraid to do so. It is an interesting turn of events. One of them told me that they suffer from a lack of water, not because of Israel but because of the PA.”
“They have very low wages,” she added. “They can have a master’s degree and earn 3,000 NIS per month. It’s below minimum wage. They show pictures of Ramallah to show how the PA squanders the money. It has been snatched away from the people and squandered by the PA. This particular person stressed that while the Palestinians are not Israel supporters, they have an equal if not more resentment towards the PA than towards Israel.”
A Palestinian source who spoke on condition of anonymity stated that the gap between the rich and the poor has only gotten worse in the wake of COVID-19 in the Palestinian Authority: “The Palestinian society is such that those who are able to live through the lockdowns and those who could not provide for their daily livelihood have a huge gap. The so-called corruption has become the trend in the area. Those who have don’t give to those who don’t have.”
According to the source, this is not fair: “They should be accountable for the money that they get. There is no transparency for the money given to the Palestinian people. The whole nation should be receiving the money, not just a small portion. Yet, you can go into Ramallah and see expensive cars, jeeps at a minimum price of one million shekels and other luxury cars everywhere. Who is driving those? Those closer to the top. There was no business during COVID-19. People are living under the aid money. G-d knows what happened to the aid money. It mainly went into the pockets of the elite and was not given to the people.”
Rachel Avraham is a political analyst working for the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights, which is run by Mendi Safadi, a former Likud Candidate for the Knesset and a former chief of staff of former Israeli Communication Minister Ayoob Kara. Since 2012, she has been working as an Israel-based journalist and writer, covering Iran, Kurdistan, Turkey, Iraq, Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other developments in the greater Islamic world.
Her articles have appeared in the Washington Times, the Hill, Front Page Magazine, the Daily Wire, the Christian Post, the Baltimore Jewish Times, the Jerusalem Post, Israel Hayom, Ahval and many other publications across the globe. She received her MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University. She got her BA in Government and Politics with minors in Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.