We hear endlessly about the economic misery of the “Palestinians” in Gaza, and the West Bank, or about the wretched condition of those who continue to live in the “refugee” camps of Lebanon, Jordan, Syria. We learn of their high unemployment rates, but not about why, most reluctantly, Israel has felt compelled to no longer admit any Arab workers from Gaza, and to limit, and exhaustively vet, those from the West Bank who are still let into Israel to work. For the Israelis will not knowingly admit into their midst people who seem determined to do them harm, no matter how much the U.N. disapproves. The Israelis realized that the threat level from guest-workers coming from Hamas-ruled Gaza was much higher than that from workers coming from the West Bank — tens of thousands of such workers enter Israel each day, though news reports may well lead you to be unaware of that fact — and that a complete ban on Gaza workers was necessary. Israel’s critics lambast the state when it refuses to let Arabs in to work, and lambast the state when it lets them in, complaining that those Arab workers are exploited. In fact, the Arab workers are paid exactly the same amounts as Jews doing the same jobs and, furthermore, receive twice what they would be paid if they worked in the “Palestinian” territories.
And beyond these guest-workers with their Israel-level salaries, there are spectacular tales of success among the “Palestinians”; these rags-to-riches stories deserve to be recognized as the marvels of economic achievement that they are. Pride of place goes to Nobel Prize winner Yassir Arafat, who at his death was said to possess a fortune of at least $1 billion, and possibly as much as $3 billion. He had an elaborate system for diverting funds contributed by foreign donors for the “poor Palestinians”; he also accommodated those who wanted to buy influence with him — everyone from the Saudis to the KGB added to his vertiginous take.
Mahmoud Abbas has not been quite as successful as Arafat. But he hasn’t done at all badly, considering his circumstances.
First, he does not command the unchallenged allegiance, as Arafat did, of all the “Palestinians.” Hamas, which controls Gaza, opposes Abbas and the “Palestinian” Authority; Abbas’ writ runs only in the West Bank. Nonetheless, he has done a creditable job of helping himself. According to Arafat’s economic adviser Muhammad Rashid, Abbas had taken at least $100 million, as of 2014, from the aid funds meant for the “Palestinians.” Second, Arafat was the “Palestinian” leader, that is leader of the PLO, from 1969 to his death in 2004, which gave him 35 years to pile up his billions. That’s more than twice as long as Abbas has been in power, and as a consequence, his fortune runs only into the hundreds of millions. How much more he has added to that 2014 estimate of $100 million in the past four years is not known, but many “Palestinians” have been scandalized by the continued level of corruption and have even dared to protest some of Abbas’ extravagances. Public outrage forced Abbas to give up his specially-built $17.5 million dollar Presidential Palace, and to transform it into the National Library. The Palestinian Authority announced earlier this year that it had purchased a luxurious private jet for Abbas with $50 million in public funds, causing an outrage, but in that case, Abbas did not retreat; he was determined to keep his $50 million dollar jet, and he has. A Coalition for Accountability and Integrity, staffed by “Palestinians” who are determined to document the rampant corruption of which Abbas, his sons, and others in his circle, have been guilty, has now been formed; the code of omertà, which kept “Palestinians” silent about corruption among their leaders lest such charges might inadvertently help Israel, has now been broken.
Abbas has been a dutiful and loving father, helping his sons Yasser and Tareq to amass a business empire which as of 2014 was worth at least $300 million. It is based on Abbas’ own commercial ties, and his valuable political connections with states and large companies worldwide, both of which have benefited his two sons’ business concerns.
Abbas’ sons own a large business consortium called “Falcon” that has taken over much of the West Bank’s commerce and its labor market. Abbas relentlessly promotes the group, and he has arranged for favorable conditions that give the “Falcon” group advantages over business rivals.
The Falcon concern has several constituent companies, including :
The Falcon tobacco and cigars company.
The Falcon electricity and mechanical contracting company (it has branches in the West Bank, Jordan, and the UAE).
The Falcon international media company.
The Falcon general investment company, whose profits total $60 million.
The Al-Mashrek insurance company, which has 11 branches in the territories with a worth estimated at $35 million.
The Al-Khayar al-Awal company for projects and development, headed by Yasser Abbas.
Tareq Abbas is the Vice President of Corporate Affairs of the Arab Palestinian Investment Company (APIC). He is also Chairman of the Board of Sky Advertising, Public Relations and Event Management Company, Vice Chairman of the Arab Palestinian Shopping Centers, and President of the Palestinian Advertising Association.
As if all those legal businesses were not impressive enough, Tareq Abbas is a tireless entrepreneur, said to have smuggled antiquities abroad from the West Bank. He also deals in land in the West Bank and the selling of commercial concessions.
Given that the estimated figures of $100 million for Abbas, and $300 million for his sons, are four years old, it is probable that the Abbas family fortune by now is worth a half-billion dollars. That’s not a bad start.
And there is someone else who deserves to be acknowledged as well for his “business” acumen. Though born Lebanese, he is in his main line of work an honorary “Palestinian.” I mean, of course, Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese Shia terrorist organization, Hezbollah. This organization, while active in Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen, sees its main military task as threatening Israel from southern Lebanon, where it may now possess up to 150,000 rockets. This May it was revealed in Al-Ittihad, an Arabic-language newspaper published in the United Arab Emirates, that Nasrallah had amassed a net personal worth of around $250 million from his organization’s illegal drug smuggling operations.
According to the report, which relies on senior Lebanese government sources, the scope of his fortune was discovered within the framework of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration investigation against Hezbollah, which aside from its designation as a terrorist organization also operates as one of the largest drug cartels in the world.
Yassir Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas, Tareq and Yasser Abbas, and Hassan Nasrallah — it’s an impressive list of High Net Worth Individuals, a list that ought to be recalled, the next time someone complains about the economic distress of the “poor Palestinians.” And there are still others, not quite so high up in the hierarchy and therefore not quite so well-heeled, who have been helping themselves to large amounts of the “Palestinian” aid money. Arafat is gone, along with a few billions of dollars that remain unaccounted for. But Abbas and his sons, Nasrallah, and others continue to make out like bandits, which is entirely fitting, for that’s exactly what they are.