Elias H. Tuma and Haim Darin-Drabkin, The Economic Case for Palestine (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1978).

This book does not seem destined to become a classic in the literature concerning a future Palestinian state. Its intent is both polemical and practical but because of its narrow economic scope it is addressed, to a small audience: those who oppose a West Bank-Gaza Strip state on economic grounds, and the future economic planners of such a mini-state. People who fall outside either category are likely to find The Economic Case for Palestine dry reading.

The few people who ultimately oppose a mini-state on economic grounds may be convinced by Tuma and Darin-Drabkin that such a state will be economically “viable.” Economic viability is defined by the authors as “the ability…to attain and sustain an economic structure and level of per capita income comparable to those of other nations in the region with comparable resources.” In other words, if the future citizens of Palestine are as well-off as the citizens of Jordan or Syria, the state is economically viable. A strange way of looking at the issue! Why should anyone want to support this future state on the grounds that at least it won’t be any poorer than the neighboring (Arab) states? This is just one limitation of arguing on purely economic terms.

In addition, the narrow economic focus of the book defines the sort of issues the authors consider. Thus much of the book is devoted to analyses of water resources, potential population size, possible locations for industrial centers and the like. While these issues will interest future bureaucrats in Palestine’s ministry of economy, it is doubtful that they are of much concern to either the average reader or the ordinary future citizen of the mini-state. The economic issues which are much more likely to interest potential citizens concern land reform and redistribution and job control.

The need for land reform is barely mentioned in the book, and questions of worker control of industry are totally ignored. This, too, is the result of the authors’ methodology. Discussing such issues would mean abandoning the purely economic orientation and venturing into the murky and dangerous waters of social relations and politics.

In fairness it should be said that the authors wrote the book in reaction to the exclusively political nature of much of the debate about the future Palestinian state. While it is true that such a political focus lacks depth, the extremely narrow economic arguments of Tuma and Darin-Drabkin are even less enlightening. In the real world, the economic structure of any society is inextricably entwined with social and political structures. The belief that we can look at “economic viability” without discussing the nature of social relations is seriously off the track. It is this mistaken notion which informs and shapes The Economic Case for Palestine. And frankly, from a strictly economic point of view, it isn’t worth 16 dollars!

Randee Brenner

How to cite this article:

Randee Brenner "Tuma and Darin-Drabkin, The Economic Case for Palestine," Middle East Report 80 (September/October 1979).

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