Palestinian businessmen have made millions of dollars supplying cement for Israel’s "security barrier" in the full knowledge of Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader and one of the wall’s most vocal critics. A damning report by Palestinian legislators, concludes that Mr Arafat did nothing to stop the deals although he publicly condemned the structure as a "crime against humanity". The report claims that the cement was sold with the knowledge of senior officials at the Palestinian ministry of national economy, and close advisers to Mr Arafat. It concludes that officials were bribed to issue import licences for the cement to importers and businessmen working for Israelis (says a UK Daily Telegraph report).
One of the report’s three authors, Hassan Khreishe - an independent legislator and long-term critic of Mr Arafat - last night called for the Palestinian cabinet to resign. "Wealthy Palestinians with connections at the highest levels have been making millions helping Israel build this wall while Arafat and the Palestinian Authority have been urging people to fight against it," said Mr Khreishe, a council member from the West Bank city of Tulkarm.
The report reveals that the cement originally came from Egyptian companies which supplied it at a huge discount of US$22 a ton to help rebuild dilapidated Palestinian houses or buildings bulldozed by the Israelis. Between September 2003 and March this year, 420,000t of cement were allegedly sent to three big Palestinian companies. According to the report, however, only 33,000 tons were sold in the Palestinian market. The vast bulk was transported to Israel on trucks owned by the three firms. According to Mr Khreishe, the cement was then sold with a mark-up of at least US$15t probably much higher. Last week, the United Nations condemned the barrier and demanded that it should be torn down.