Nepotism in Palestine: Officials’ Relatives are Guaranteed a job upon graduation
24 June 2021
“Congratulations to all high school graduates! Especially the ‘backbones’, the chosen ones with guaranteed employment, while all other graduates sit and wait!”
This bittersweet statement became a trend on social media at the end of 2020’s academic year, celebrating high school students graduation, and pointing to the lack of employment equal opportunities that awaits Palestinian youth.
Since June of 2020, social media platforms have been buzzing with the hashtag “The Backbones.” While some may think it’s related to a health or medical condition, in reality, the term refers to a statement made by the Palestinian Minister for Women’s Affairs, Amal Hamad, in her justification for appointing her nephew as her personal assistant (in conservative or religious societies women should not interact closely with outsiders without the presence of a close relative or someone that shares blood ties or ‘Backbones’ as they are referred to in some Arab countries)
In 2016, Anas Al-Habbash, son of Mahmood Al- Habbash, the Supreme Sharia Court Judge, and religious affairs advisor to the Palestinian Authority president, was appointed as Assistant to the Director General of the Prosecutor’s Office as soon as he graduated from university; an appointment that angered many Palestinians. However, Anas was not the only offspring of Al- Habbash that was hired for a governmental position; both his daughters, Shaima’ and Israa’ were appointed in senior positions too. One daughter was the Director of Public Relations in the Judge’s council, and was later transferred to work at the Palestinian Anti-Corruption Commission. His other daughter was appointed in the Palestinian Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, in 2017.
The Habbash family tell only part of the story. This investigation documents the appointment of 71 family members of Palestinian Authority officials in important administrative and diplomatic positions (23 diplomatic and 48 governmental) during the past decade.
The appointment letters included in this report were either published in the official Palestinian Gazette “Al- Waqa’e” or leaked to the media. Appointments for these unadvertised governmental jobs were made for first degree relatives of serving or former senior governmental Palestinian Authority officials. This report documents these appointments by reviewing all back issues of “Al- Waqa’e” Gazette from May 2010, until October 2020, and the news archives of local Palestinian media outlets for the same period. This is in addition to analyzing statistical and civil society databases and reviewing job advertisements in the Public Personnel Council (PPC).
52% (37 persons) of senior position were given to first degree relatives of officials such as son, daughter, husband, wife… etc.
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