A Happy & Blessed Eid Al Adha

Eid al Adha, Jerusalem

Celebrating at the Al Aqsa Mosque — the Dome of the Rock — in Jerusalem earlier this year.  Photo:  The Guardian, London

Many Palestinians will be honouring the tradition of giving to charity during Eid al Adha, as well as enjoying great food and visits with family and friends. Whether you are Palestinian, or would just like to support their struggle under occupation, here are a few suggestions.

In London, Tabun Kitchen is offering a luscious Eid menu, based on Jerusalem home cooking, as well as raising funds for the UK-based  Galilee Foundation which provides educational and cultural support for Palestinians in Israel.

Eid al Adha Menu, Tabun Kitchen

Eid al Adha Menu, Tabun Kitchen

In the US, you can help farmers and communities in the West Bank by purchasing premium olive oil, za’atar (a unique thyme-based seasoning), organic soap and other goodies from Al Ard.  The firm was set up by the Anabtawi Group in Nablus specifically to encourage local production and exports, as well as access to higher education for Palestinians from rural areas.

Al Ard’s olive oil is available in a variety of sizes.  Photo: promosibaraka

Alternatively, you can celebrate the Eid by donating directly to Zaytoun’s tree-planting project in the West Bank. It is run by the Palestine Fair Trade Association and aimed at women and young farmers, as well as those who have lost their fields due to the Israeli occupation and the uprooting of their olive and almond trees by Jewish settlers.

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Helping farmers stay on their land in Jenin. Photo: Trees4Life.com

Whatever you, your family and friends choose to do, A Very Happy Eid from all of us here at InvestPalestine.

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Global Investors Target the Palestine Stock Exchange in 2014

Both prices and trading volumes on the Palestine Stock Exchange (PEX) have scored impressive gains since the start of this year, thanks largely to investors from the Palestinian diaspora and Arab Gulf states. Recent decisions by such respected ratings agencies as Standard & Poor’s, Dow Jones and MSCI to include Palestine in their indices, as well as plans by London’s FTSE to follow suit, are now attracting other global investors from the UK, Europe, the US, Canada, Chile and elsewhere to the Exchange and to its leading companies, such as PADICO Holding, PalTel and the Bank of Palestine, analysts report.

Expectations that these moves will be followed by PEX’s inclusion in the global ‘Frontier Market’ indices is already fuelling demand from institutional investors, the analysts add. Its multi-currency platform, allowing trading in both US dollars and Jordanian dinars, as well as Palestine’s lack of capital controls, is also encouraging international interest. Trading volumes in January were more than two-fold higher than in December, and nearly four times as high as in January, 2013.

PEX's CEO, Ahmad Aweidah, expects 2014 to be a "threshold year."  Photo:  Mark Green, mark@nwmsltd.com.

PEX’s CEO, Ahmad Aweidah, expects 2014 to be a “threshold year.” Photo: Mark Green, mark@nwmsltd.com.

The Exchange’s Al Quds index broke through the 600 barrier in early February before falling back slightly on profit taking. It had risen 10.55 per cent in January alone, making it the second best performing stock market in the Arab world so far this year. Last year, the index registered an annual gain of 13.4 per cent, according to figures compiled by Ramallah-based brokers Sahem Investment and Trading. By the middle of February, the Exchange’s total market capitalisation had reached more than $3.5 billion.

Palestine's Stock Exchange is ahead of most other Arab markets.   Graph: Sahem Trading & Investment.

Palestine’s Stock Exchange is ahead of most other Arab markets. Graph: Sahem Trading & Investment.

This year could be a “threshold year,” the Exchange’s CEO, Ahmad Aweidah, told InvestPalestine.com. Speaking during a visit to London in mid-January to mark Palestine Capital Markets Day, he said “We are now achieving a series of important economic breakthroughs that could see our growth accelerate even more strongly.

He and other members of the Palestinian delegation, which included senior executives from PalTrade, PalTel, the Palestine Investment Fund (PIF), PADICO Holding, the Bank of Palestine, Sahem Trading & Investment and Lotus for Financial Investment, as well as Abeer Odeh, CEO of the Palestine Capital Market Authority, were hosted on the last evening of their visit to London by Baroness Morris of Bolton, UK Prime Minister David Cameron’sTrade Envoy for the Palestinian Territories, at a reception in Westminster organised by the Palestine British Business Council and its co-chairman, Antoine Mattar.

The Palestine Delegation to Palestine Capital Markets Day in London, 17 January, 2014.  From left to right:  Fida Musleh-Azar, PEX Manager of Public Relations & Investor Education; PEX   CEO Ahmad Aweidah; Ammar Aker, CEO, PalTel; John Davies, Vice-President, S&P Dow Jones Indices.  Photo:  Mark Green.

The Palestine Delegation to Palestine Capital Markets Day in London, 17 January, 2014. From left to right: Fida Musleh-Azar, PEX Manager of Public Relations & Investor Education; PEX CEO Ahmad Aweidah; Ammar Aker, CEO, PalTel; John Davies, Vice-President, S&P Dow Jones Indices. Photo: Mark Green.

Financial services, banking, ICT, infrastructure and high value agriculture, as well as tourism (including such world renowned attractions as Bethlehem, the Dead Sea and Jericho) were making strong progress, Aweidah told an audience of existing and potential investors. And, although economic growth has slowed recently as local entrepreneurs and international donors await firm progress on US Secretary of State John Kerry’s ‘peace initiative,’ Palestine’s GDP has grown by a remarkable 8.4 per cent a year on average during the past five years, he noted.

“The Palestine economy continues to demonstrate exceptional endurance despite political challenges,” Aweidah explained, a performance he attributed to the “strong and vibrant private sector,” its “well regulated and sophisticated financial system,” its “modern capital market,” and “advanced investor protection regime.” The majority of the 49 stocks on the Exchange, he pointed out, also “enjoy free float ratios that are comparable to advanced markets” as well as “reassuring turnover ratios.”

Foreign investors, both individual and institutional, are helping to boost values and volumes on the Palestine Stock Exchange.  Graph: PEX, Ministry of National Economy.

Foreign investors, both individual and institutional, are helping to boost both values and volumes on the Palestine Stock Exchange. Graph: PEX, Ministry of National Economy.

At the end of 2013, foreign investment in PEX amounted to just over 40 per cent of the total value of its shares, or about 34 per cent by volume. Investors from Jordan, many of whom are Palestinians with Jordanian citizenship, accounted for the majority of the foreign shareholders, 61.4 per cent, followed by others from the Americas at 10.9 per cent, the Arab Gulf with 6.6 per cent and Europe with 2.5 per cent. Palestinians made up 95 per cent of the total number of investors, demonstrating the widespread appetite for shares among smaller shareholders living both inside and outside Palestine.

Speaking to potential investors in London and to InvestPalestine.com, John Davies, Vice President at S&P Dow Jones Indices, explained why his firm, which now includes both the respected ratings agencies, Standard & Poor’s and Dow Jones, had established two stand-alone indices for Palestine last December. “We don’t build indices simply because we feel they are needed,” he insisted. “We build them because our clients are asking for them. The establishment [of the new indices] is evidence that there is significant demand for investment in Palestine.”

John Davies, Vice President at S&P Dow Jones Indices, explaining PEX's attractions to an audience of investors in London, 17 January, 2014.  Photo:  Mark Green.

John Davies, Vice President at S&P Dow Jones Indices, explaining PEX’s attractions to an audience of investors in London, 17 January, 2014. Photo: Mark Green.

The two new additions are the S&P Palestine Broad Market Index (BMI), which aims to capture at least 80 per cent of PEX’s market capitalisation, and the Dow Jones Palestine Total Stock Market Index (TSM), which aims for 95 per cent of the Exchange’s float-adjusted market capitalisation, Davies explained. Since testing began in September 2012, he added, the stand alone BMI index had achieved a 41 per cent cumulative annual return, a figure which compares favourably with the Pan-Arab Composition Index at 24.5 per cent and the S&P Composition Index at about 30.2 per cent.

Despite general skepticism about the progress of Kerry’s peace talks, investors are more confident that he will succeed in brokering a deal, the news agency, Bloomberg, quoted Aweidah as saying in mid-January. “If there’s a framework agreement, it’ll be a game changer” for the Exchange. There’s certainly a lot of optimism in the market about the direction of the political negotiations…. The time to invest in Palestinian stocks is now.”

Processing premium quality Medjool dates at a Palestinian-owned factory in the Jordan Valley.  The possibility of greater access to the fertile soil and water of the Israeli-occupied parts of the Valley and "Area C" as a result of the current negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is a major factor in encouraging both local and foreign entrepreneurs to invest in the West Bank.  Photo: fablenaturals.com.

Processing premium quality Medjool dates at a Palestinian-owned factory in the Jordan Valley. The possibility of greater access to the fertile soil and water of the Israeli-occupied parts of the Valley and “Area C” as a result of the current negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is a major factor in encouraging both local and foreign entrepreneurs to invest in the West Bank. Photo: fablenaturals.com.

Success in the talks would, according to a recent study by the International Monetary Fund, boost economic growth in the Territories by 35 per cent over the next five and a half years, or about 6.5% a year on average, compared with 1.5 per cent in 2013. This includes Palestinians gaining control of the land, water and resources in Area C, which forms almost two-thirds of the West Bank, which is currently under Israeli military occupation. The IMF adds that an agreement would significantly reduce the Palestinian Authority’s dependence on foreign aid, greatly enhance employment and lower poverty levels.Local entrepreneurs are investing in modern factories, like this one outside Hebron.  Photo:  Palden Jenkins.  paldywan.blogspot.co.uk Local entrepreneurs are investing in modern factories, like this one outside Hebron. Photo: Palden Jenkins, paldywan.blogspot.co.uk.

Business confidence in the West Bank is also rising, according to Palestinian analysts, because of higher optimism among entrepreneurs and in the industrial sector, especially in food, textiles, chemical, pharmaceutical, engineering, plastics and construction. The Palestinian Monetary Authority reported in mid-February that its monthly index, the PMA Business Cycle Indicator, had risen from minus 1.44 in the West Bank in January to a positive 8.25 in February. Negative business sentiment in the Gaza Strip also improved, as industrialists reportedly felt more optimistic about the continuous US efforts to stimulate the peace process between Palestinians and Israelis and less fearful of a continuing deterioration in security conditions. The northern West Bank city of Jenin is to be the site of a vital new power plant due to be built by a Palestinian company. Photo: Palden Jenkins, paldywan.blogspot.co.uk.

If an accord is agreed, Aweidah revealed, as many as four family-owned businesses in Palestine may also opt to sell shares on the Exchange through initial public offerings (IPO’s). The Palestine Power Generating Company (PPGC), he added, could follow suit.

PPGC is planning to build a $300 million power plant in Jenin in the West Bank which will be fuelled by gas from the giant offshore Leviathan field in the Mediterranean under a $1.2 billion, 20-year deal agreed in January. PPGC’s leading shareholders include the Palestine Electric Company, the builders of Palestine’s first independent power plant, and the industrial conglomerate, PADICO, both of which are quoted on the PEX.

© Pamela Ann Smith

This is a publication of investpalestine.wordpress.com and is protected by international copyright laws. This article is for the reader’s personal use only, but may be re-distributed electronically with a credit to investpalestine.com.

London Welcomes Palestinian Businesses

The CEOs and senior executives of some of Palestine’s most successful companies are in London tonight to promote the benefits of investment and trade with the private sector in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

We’ll be reporting more on their visit, which has been organised by The Palestine Trade Centre (PalTrade) and the excitement here that has greeted their upgrades by such prestigious international ratings agencies as S & P and, soon to be confirmed, their inclusion in the all-important “Frontier” markets of the FTSE and MSCI.

Ahmad Aweidah, CEO of PEX, and Ammar Aker, CEO of Paltel, open the London Stock Exchange on 24 June, 2011.

Ahmad Aweidah, CEO of PEX, and Ammar Aker, CEO of Paltel, open the London Stock Exchange on 24 June, 2011.

And that’s not to mention that some of them may also be listed on the London Stock Exchange in the future…a welcome tribute to their success on the Palestine Stock Exchange (PEX), not so much for their share price rises but for the impressive dividends they have paid internationally despite all the adversities they have faced, and continue to face, as well as for their remarkable p/e ratios.

Bank Of Palestine Sponsors The Events Of The World Cup In Palestine.  It's also helping to promote small- and medium-sized businesses in Palestine, especially for women.

Bank Of Palestine Sponsors “The Events Of The World Cup In Palestine.” It’s also helping to promote small- and medium-sized businesses in Palestine, especially for women.

Most importantly, we’ll also be reporting on the vital work companies such as the Bank of Palestine, PalTel and Padico do in supporting social entrepreneurship, sustainable development, the creative arts and scholarships to study abroad, as well as the more traditional charities, in the occupied territories.

Their role, given the hoped-for relaxation of Israeli restrictions on checkpoints, internal and external travel, shipments and communications and on the use of the agricultural riches of the Jordan Valley and “Area C”, could be immense in helping to reduce Palestinian unemployment and increasing the productive output, and exports, of the territories.

And that’s something that the USA, the UK and the European Union are eager to see, given the increased sympathy their publics have for Palestinian rights, as well as the growing reluctance of their taxpayers to provide unending foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah when an end to the Israeli occupation could make Palestine self-sufficient.

Watch this space,

Thanks for reading,

Pam

© Pamela Ann Smith

This is a publication of investpalestine.wordpress.com and is protected by international copyright laws. This article is for the reader’s personal use only, but may be re-distributed electronically with a credit to investpalestine.com.

The Nakba, and the Future

Today, as we mark the 65th anniversary of the Nakba (i.e. the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland, villages, towns and cities in 1948), it’s important to remember, too, that one of the greatest achievements of Palestinians, wherever they are, is their resilience. It’s an inspiration to us all, especially in these times of austerity, war and oppression, not to mention climate change.
Palestine & the Palestinians, Full A Palestinian refugee in Jordan, after the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, 1967. Photo: UNRWA.

In the case of Palestine’s economic achievements, this involves yet more hundreds of thousands of younger generations of professionals, writers, business entrepreneurs, academics, journalists, artists and filmakers who have thrived in the diaspora these past decades, often despite great disadvantage, i.e. in the US, Europe, Latin America and the Arab world, and who are now giving us the benefit of their talents.

So, too, the indomitable spirit of those who keep steadfast in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, as well as in the Galilee. Which is why, as this website is often pointing out, Palestine is a such a great place to invest…financially, culturally, socially, artistically.

A culinary journal through Gaza's rich heritage.  Photo:  Just World Books

A culinary journal through Palestine’s rich heritage. Photo: Just World Books.

Whether it’s the extremely attractive valuations (and high dividends) many of the 48 companies listed on the Palestine Securities Exchange currently provide; the impressive growth of the Palestinian economy (5.9 per cent in 2012); the arrival of international brands in sparkling new shopping centres; the increasing spread of pro-Palestinian campus dissent in the US (which is objecting to the activities of their institutions and global corporations which support the Israeli occupation as well as encouraging them to invest, instead, in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem); the amazing turnout for the Palestine Film Festival here in London these past two weeks, or the great reception for the new book, The Gaza Kitchen, there’s lots to look forward to.

Thanks for reading,

Pam

Editor’s Note: Elections, elections, elections! … and Resistance!

InvestPalestine took a brief mini-break this month to consider new directions for this website, given the declining outlook for the Palestinian economy since this blog was first set up in June, 2011, as well as the recent turmoil on the ground in Palestine. Here’s a few thought-provoking articles we came across that we’d like to share with you about the current situation.

Samer Abdelnour, writing for the Palestinian policy think tank, Al Shabaka, along with Alaa Tartir and Rami Zuraykh, outlines a new approach for the country’s vital agricultural sector that combines investment and development with fostering resistance to the occupation. It’s worth reading, even if just the “Overview” and “The Culture of the Land,” if your time is short.

http://al-shabaka.org/policy-brief/economic-issues/farming-palestine-freedom?page=show

Palestine's produce is renowned, but its farmers are overwhelmed by Israeli imports.  Photo:  The Gaza Kitchen,  by Laila El-Haddad and Maggie Schmitt.

Palestine’s produce is renowned, but its farmers are overwhelmed by Israeli imports. Photo: The Gaza Kitchen, by Laila El-Haddad and Maggie Schmitt.

Asmaa Al-Ghoul, writing in Al Monitor.com, outlines the movement for a “third party” in the forthcoming elections that would challenge both Fatah and Hamas. It’s the kind of thing that has happened in many parts of the Arab world recently, not to mention places like Italy, Greece and Spain. It’s premise: more democracy, that goes beyond the usual partisan politics, is needed.
http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/02/third-party-palestine.html

A Palestinian Updates his Voter Registration in Gaza, 11 February, 2013. Photo: Reuters  (Ibraheem Abu Mustafa).

Palestinians registering to vote in Gaza, 11 February, 2013. Photo: Reuters (Ibraheem Abu Mustafa).


And finally, here’s an authoritative poll that shows what many Palestinians really want: elections!
http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=304086

In other words, no economy exists in a vacuum. It’s also about politics, i.e. political economy. And, in the case of Palestine, that means empowering the Palestinian people, wherever they are.

As always, thanks for reading!

Pam

P.S. Please cut and paste the URLs into your browser. Next time we hope to be able to create direct links … apologies for the hassle!

Palestine’s Paralympics II

Here’s some pictures from the reception held yesterday evening in Parliament Square, Westminster, London, for the Paralympian team, their coaches, officials and supporters. (See Britain Opens its Doors...3 September, below.)

Fannouna, Zakout, the Palestinian Ambassador, and the Palestinian Paralympic Chairman, along with Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn, listening to a tribute from the Liberal Democrat’s Deputy Leader, Simon Hughes.

It was sponsored by Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn and the Palestinian Ambassador, Manuel Hassassian, and addressed by Murad Qureshi, a member of the London Assembly (see Palestine’s Olympic Triumph II, 30 July, below), who described the tribulations of trying to enter Gaza on his first-ever trip to Palestine, as well as the hassles he encountered at the airport in Cairo! Continue reading

Britain Opens its Doors…and Hearts…to Palestine’s Paralympians

Half-way through the Paralympic 2012 Games in London, Palestine’s two participants, 47-year-old Khamis Zaqout and 32-year-old Muhammed Fannouna, are being feted and celebrated by the great and the good, as well as the huge, enthusiastic audiences who are turning out to watch them compete in the shotput, discus, javelin, long-jump, 100- and 200-metre athletics events. While Zaqout fell just 4 centimeters (!!!) short of taking a bronze medal in the shotput last Friday, team officials remain confident that there will be a Palestinian on the podium by the end of the Games on 9 September.

The athletes, their coaches, and the Chairman of the Palestinian Paralympic
Committee, Akram Okkeh, toured the British Parliament on Thursday, 30 August.
Photo: UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Tonight, a special, high-level reception is being held for the team at London’s Portcullis House in Westminster, across from the Houses of Parliament and “Big Ben.” Politicians, diplomats, officials, journalists, activists, supporters and members of the public have been invited by MP Jeremy Corbyn and the Palestinian Ambassador, Professor Manuel Hassassian, to cheer them on, and to help put Palestine “on the map” at a time when the world’s eyes are once again on London. (Corbyn hosted another reception in July at the London Assembly for the Palestinian Olympic team. See “Palestine’s Olympic Triumph II”, 30 July, below.) Continue reading

Palestine’s Olympic Triumph III – Woroud!

As one of the five Palestinian athletes competing at the Olympics here in London (plus two others in the Paralympics later this month), Woroud Sawalha said it all, after she competed in the 800-metre track event today. Although finishing last in her heat, she told Toronto’s Globe and Mail, “My target was to make a new record for myself and for Palestine. I got it!”

Woroud Sawalha runs in her women’s 800-metre, round one heat at the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday, 8 August. Picture: Reuters.

A 20-year-old university student from Asira ash-Shamaliya, near Nablus, she has had to train in places like Egypt, Qatar and Jordan because of the lack of suitable facilities in Palestine. Undaunted, she says that her experience in London is just the beginning. “I hope I will do well in the future. The Olympic Games is a first step for me.”

With each of her fingernails decorated with a tiny Palestinian flag, she adds that “My dream is to do something for Palestine and to show the world that Palestine deserves to live and stand on the podium.”

Congratulations to Maher, Sabine, Ahmed and Baha, too, their coaches and officials who helped to put Palestine “on the map,” in one of the world’s most exciting, and inspiring, events!

Pam

© Pamela Ann Smith
This is a publication of investpalestine.wordpress.com and is protected by international copyright laws. This article is for the reader’s personal use only, but may be re-distributed electronically with a credit to investpalestine.com.

Palestine’s Olympic Triumph II

Here’s more pictures, following on from the story last week about the Palestinian Olympic team, below, which has gone round the world!

Members of Palestine’s Olympic team, including the two track athletes, Baha’a Al Farra (men’s 400m) and Woroud Sawalha (women’s 800m) as well as swimmer Sabine Hazboun, parade during the opening ceremony on Friday, 27 July. Photograph: Reuters


. . . And the team, coaches and officials being received at London City Hall by MP Jeremy Corbyn and supporters just prior to the opening of the Games. They were one of the few national teams to be scored such an honour.

The team being welcomed to the offices of London’s mayor and assembly, 26 July.


Coming up: The Paralympics, which start here in London on Wednesday, 29 August, where two athletes from Gaza, Khamis Zakout and Muhammad Fanouna, will be competing.

Here’s a picture of javelin thrower, Hussam Fares Azzam, who made history when he won Palestine’s first ever Olympic medal at the Paralympic Games in Sydney in 2000, and then followed this up by winning a silver medal in Athens in 2004!

Hussam Fares Azzam, training in Gaza. Photograph: strong-voices.org

By the way, the theme picture above shows the first Gaza Marathon, held in 2011. (See Gaza Marathon, Archives, June, 2011. It was won earlier this year by runner Nader al-Masri, who carried the Palestinian flag in Athens. (See Editor’s Note, 4 July, below.)

Thanks for looking!

Pam

© Pamela Ann Smith


This is a publication of investpalestine.wordpress.com and is protected by international copyright laws. This article is for the reader’s personal use only, but may be re-distributed electronically with a credit to investpalestine.com.