Wednesday, March 15, 2023



Yesterday, Palestinian prime minister Mohamed Shtayyeh spoke to a crowd of supposed Harvard students in Ramallah. (I find it hard to believe that 300 Harvard students traveled to Ramallah with no other articles about them.) 

In his speech, he claimed that "the occupation earns more than 50 billion dollars annually from our occupied lands."

I had never heard this number before, and I was curious as to where he got it from. 

The closest I could find was a study released last December by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development that claims that "the contribution to the economy of Israel of settlements in Area C and occupied East Jerusalem is estimated at an average of $30 billion per year."

If that is Shtayyeh's source, then he's exaggerating by only 67%, which is pretty good for a Palestinian official.

But how did the UNCTAD study come up with its estimates?  Pretty much by magic.

Since 2016, UNCTAD has prepared about one report a year on the cost of the "occupation" to the Palestinian economy, using different methods each time and trying to out-do previous reports using increasingly sketchy methods.  This one is a doozy.

It relies on a method of estimating economic activity based on satellite images of areas at nighttime, Night Time Luminosity (NTL), a method that economists use to estimate GDP in poor countries where there is little hard economic data. It looks at how well lit up an area is at night to estimate its economic activity.

UNCTAD is using this NTL method to estimate the GDP of the Jewish localities in Area C.

For all the fancy graphs in the UNCTAD paper, it has nothing to do with reality.

First of all, NTL has been shown to be accurate only with respect to large urban areas, not to rural areas. This makes sense because large urban areas have industries that would directly correlate with economic activity.

Anyone who has driven through Area C in Judea and Samaria can see that there is very little industry there. The Jewish towns and villages are mostly commuter neighborhoods where most people have jobs within the Green Line and travel there every day. 

NTL methodology works in urban areas because it assumes that people live near where they work. Most of the large Jewish "settlements" are suburbs of Jerusalem. They should be considered part of a municipal Jerusalem, but UNCTAD looks at them as a separate "West Bank" with a completely separate economy. 

It is probable that UNCTAD knows this because it shows this image of the territories to indicate "settlement" economic activity, but it doesn't show how the main light sources are all surrounding the Jerusalem metropolitan area.



Here's a nighttime satellite map of Israel, with Jerusalem the large area on the right.



UNCTAD, by pretending that the economy of the "West Bank" is independent from Israel, is basing its statistics on a false premise.

But it's mandate is to come up with new ways to demonize Israel and make it look like it is destroying the Palestinian economy, so this is consistent with its anti-Israel mission.

Moreover, the Jewish towns across the Green Line must be highly illuminated - because of security! Palestinians regularly try to enter those areas to kill Jews. UNCTAD now uses the lights that are necessary for Jews to avoid being slaughtered as a tool to attack Israel. 

Neat trick, huh?

A significant part of the Palestinian economy is dependent on jobs in Israel, which pay more than double the average salaries of Palestinians within Areas A and B. But UNCTAD has never done a study of how a Palestinian state, which would presumably be totally separated from Israel because it would almost certainly be considered an enemy state, would make it difficult for Palestinians to reach their jobs in Israel would affect their economy. Instead, it creates a pseudo-scientific metric that is a complete fantasy.





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