World and Media aims to support journalists to improve media coverage of global development issues. It should not be surprising that we are highly critical of the quantity and nature of media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In common with most war reporting, media convey a distorted image of both Palestinians and Israelis. Acts of violence are highlighted, while normal life is sidelined, as are its voices. Joseph O’Connor travelled to the West Bank where he met a number of inspiring female entrepreneurs, among them the co-founder of a start-up providing therapy to the Arab world.
'Making it' as a female entrepreneur in Palestine is no mean feat. In fact, merely existing as any kind of entrepreneur poses particular challenges due to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
For instance, there is currently no 3G network available in Palestine. The Government of Israel controls mobile networks there and has still to grant 3G licences to Palestinian operators. Businesses can invest in better connections inside their offices but they’re expensive, certainly for cash-strapped start-ups or SMEs.
There is also the challenge of restrictions on movement. It’s difficult for Palestinians to travel freely to and from the West Bank and Gaza, while receiving visitors can prove complicated too. There’s no airport in Palestine and without Israeli ID, Palestinians have to fly out of Jordan and then undertake an arduous three-hour journey through the Jordanian border to come home, and these are just the lucky ones that can obtain travel visas. Then there’s the various checkpoints scattered across Palestine that make the most basic journey feel like an eternity.
However, the situation in the Fatah-controlled West Bank is very different to that in Hamas-controlled Gaza; the latter is still recovering from its 50-day war with Israel in 2014.
It is to Ramallah in the West Bank, which serves as the de facto administrative capital of Palestine, where I focus my attention. It’s there that I meet a number of female entrepreneurs who seem undeterred by the social, political and cultural barriers that surround them.