How did you come to choose your research topic?
As a Palestinian, I did not choose to work on Palestine out of convenience, neither do I consider it as just a research topic. I feel that I have a duty and a responsibility towards my country and my people. Writing my PhD thesis about the impact of occupation on Palestinian development had its challenges due to the uniqueness of the context. Nevertheless, it is my way of harnessing years of frustration stemming from the long-standing suffering of the Palestinian people and putting my skills at their service in order to present, through all these figures, a reality that needed to be exposed.
Your PhD thesis consists of three chapters. Can you describe them?
I will mainly focus on two of my chapters.
The first chapter is titled “Operation Protective Edge: The Impact of the Damages of Israeli Bombing on Localities in Gaza”. In 2014, Israel conducted a 50-day military operation called “Protective Edge” against the Gaza Strip. This operation had severe consequences as it destroyed or damaged houses, infrastructure and agricultural fields. The paper aims at estimating the impact of the damages on the localities’ poverty rate and household expenditures using different techniques to account for the non-linear and spatial dependence impact of these damages on the outcome variables. Using semiparametric regressions, I show that most of the impact is related to whether the locality has experienced damages or not while the marginal effect stemming from the increase of damage intensity is close to zero. The paper also shows that, when spatial dependence is taken into account, neighbouring localities have a significant impact on the outcome variables in a locality.
The second chapter is titled “The Special Negative Economic Zones in the West Bank Area C: The Unrealised Potential”. In the West Bank, the occupying Power deploys a series of administrative and physical mechanisms that control Palestinian resources and curtail movement. The multilayer control system includes dividing the West Bank into different administrative areas, a stringent permit regime, bureaucratic controls and hundreds of permanent and flying checkpoints, gates, earth mounds, roadblocks and trenches in addition to the separation wall and settlements, turning the West Bank into an archipelago of scattered islands. Elements of the complex matrix of controls put in place by the occupying Power over the Palestinian economy are designed to reinforce one another and ultimately used to de facto annex large portions of the West Bank.
The crux of this mechanism is Area C. While special economic zones in China and other countries contribute massively to the economy and are thought to be positive, this area is the complete opposite: instead of openness, it is all restrictions, and instead of contributing to the economy, the area hampers it and suppresses its potential. The paper looks at the impact of the share of Area C on the total locality household expenditures across the West Bank using two cross-sectional data sets of 457 localities in 10 governorates. It shows that this impact is heterogeneous across Palestinian governorates and estimates that relaxing the multilayer control system by reallocating land currently categorised as belonging to Area C could boost the total Palestinian household expenditures substantively.
These two chapters present a partial image of the sever impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian development and how it suppresses its potential in addition to the suffering of people which cannot and should not be quantified.
The third chapter is a macroeconometric model for Palestinian economic policy. This model could help Palestinian policymakers assessing the impact of different policies and shocks. It was used to assess the impact of the Covid-19 shock on the Palestinian economy and predicted that the impact would be significant and close to that of the Second Intifada.
What do you hope could be the social and political implications of your research?
I have been working in UNCTAD for almost six years now, on assessing and documenting the economic cost of Israeli occupation and its measures in reports submitted to the UN General Assembly. These reports became part of the UN documentation submitted to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for its advisory opinion on the prolonged Israeli occupation. As little as this contribution can be for justice, it is in my opinion an important one.
What are you doing now?
I am an economist in UNCTAD in the Assistance to the Palestinian People Unit, where I will continue my work.
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Rami AlAzzeh defended his PhD thesis in Development Economics in February 2023. Associate Professor Martina Viarengo presided over the committee, which included Professor Jean-Louis Arcand, Thesis Supervisor, and Professor Touhami Abdelkhalek, Social Sciences, Economics and Humanities, Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, Morocco.
Members of the Geneva Graduate Institute can access the PhD thesis on this page of the Institute’s repository. Others may contact Rami at email@example.com.
Citation of the PhD thesis:
AlAzzeh, Rami. “Three Essays in Development and Conflict Economics.” PhD thesis, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, 2023.
Banner picture: Part of a photo by ArliftAtoz2205/Shutterstock.com.
Interview by Nathalie Tanner, Research Office.