BRIDGES IN BUSINESS – ISRAELI & PALESTINIAN INITITIATIVES

by | Jul 5, 2020 | Invest in Palestine, Startups | 0 comments

With the much of the world news focusing on the Palestinian and Arab world leadership rejection of the United States ‘Deal of The Century’, in this instalment of the Partnering for Palestinian Prosperity series, we look at the projects that bring aspiring Israeli and Palestinian tech professionals, entrepreneurs and businesses together to create viable ventures.

Some Palestinian entrepreneurs interviewed for this piece have requested anonym. They explained that unfortunately there is still a limiting mindset among some that working with Israelis, even those that are trying to help Palestinians, is treachery towards the Palestinian cause.

The threat of ‘normalisation’ that is the view you are accepting the Israeli ’occupation’ even when working with Israelis significantly benefits the local Palestinian economy, attacks from radicals is a real threat to the average Palestinian that wants to get on and provide for his family.

Surprisingly to many in the West, Palestine has among the highest literacy rates in the Middle East, and over a dozen universities, from which in IT alone around 1,500 students graduate each year.

However, due to a lack of opportunities, more than half of Palestinian graduates are either unemployed or settle for low-skilled positions outside their field of expertise. Moreover, many of the country’s most talented graduates are joining a ‘brain drain’, taking up opportunities in the Gulf states, the US, Europe and elsewhere.

We look at just a handful of some of the non-political business projects that are spearheading a peaceful, prosperous future for ambitious and talented Palestinian and Israeli entrepreneurs.

TECH 2 PEACE

The student and the volunteer-led programme brings Israeli and Palestinian youths together to learn tech skills – 3D and graphic design, website creation, app development – and to engage in conflict resolution dialogue. Their vision is to equip the youth of Israeli and Palestinian society with the necessary skills to ensure that there can be greater co-operation and co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians.

Palestinian entrepreneur Adnan Awni Jaber also says Tech2Peace was the gateway for him to make connections across the border in Israel. “I believe that technology can break walls between any two sides of the conflict because it’s borderless,” Adnan explains in an interview with the BBC.

Tech2Peace Palestine Israel

Palestinian entrepreneur Adnan Awni Jaber also says Tech2Peace was the gateway for him to make connections across the border in Israel. “I believe that technology can break walls between any two sides of the conflict because it’s borderless,” Adnan explains in an interview with the BBC.

Tech2Peace Israel Palestine

MELLANOX TECHNOLOGIES

Israel’s Mellanox Technologies Ltd makes high-speed computer networking products that employs Palestinian software developers in the West Bank and Gaza. CEO, Eyal Waldman, advocates the obvious benefits to businesses’ operational efficiency and the boost to the Palestinian Economy.

Palestinian IT outsourcing firm, ASAL Technologies’ Marketing Manager, Ibrahim Tannira said the Palestinian tech scene has plenty of fresh minds but few leaders. After he addressed the crowd at Mellanox’s Tel Aviv Headquarters, Palestinians’ proximity to Israel is a big selling point: and despite the Western media’s reporting.

Mellanox Technology Employs Palestinians

Eyal Waldman, founder and CEO of Mellanox, left, and Jensen Huang, founder and CEO of US gaming and computer graphics giant Nvidia (Nvidia) Courtesy timesofisrael.com Nvidia completes acquisition of Israel’s Mellanox for $7 billion in April 2020

Sari Taha, the city’s tech hub program manager at IT outsourcing at ASAL Technologies was asked by journalists about problems from the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanction) worldwide campaign. The BDS movement fights against any form of collaboration between Palestinians and Israelis. “Up until this moment, not a single Palestinian IT company has been addressed by the BDS for working with Israeli partners, and I don’t think it ever will because they know they will do more harm than good,”

50-50 STARTUPS

Founder, Chairman and Chief Architect at Ericom Software Inc, Eran Heyman, along with Amir Grinstein, Professor Ruud Kronenburg, and serial entrepreneur Inbal Shenfield, created 50 50 startups, an entrepreneurship programme that is committed to creating, educating, and mentoring technology companies that share 50-50 ownership from Palestinian and Israeli entrepreneurs.

In addition to the 12-month programme, Hackathons bring enthusiasts together from both cultures. 50 50 supports Palestinian candidates with the all-important travel permits and transportation. The programme has support from Google for Startups, Microsoft and Northeastern University, and is looking for

50 50 Startups: Azrieli College Opening Day

50:50’s inaugural class has created a diverse range of startups, co-director by Tania Charabiti. From visas to toys, their startup cohort is challenging some of the biggest markets in the world, and using the diversity of their founders to create commercially cutting-edge businesses.

“nobody in the technology field wants problems with the Palestinians, we only want solutions” Inbal

ASAL Managing Director Murad Tahboub.

 

“50 50 Startups is a symbolic, and pragmatic initiative. It involves an inspiring vision for a better Middle East through entrepreneurship.”

 

MULTINATIONAL FIRMS

Cisco has formalized this by creating a 35-company coalition, Ma’antech (“together” in Arabic), comprising everyone from IBM to Israel’s Bank Hapoalim, with the stated goal of creating jobs for Arab tech workers. So far Cisco is the only one to put money into it. “I’m happy to lead the way, plant the seeds,” says Chambers. HP now outsources some of its research and development to the West Bank. Microsoft Israel has started putting Palestinian engineers in Ramallah on its payroll.

Another glimpse of the future occurred in late May 2020 when Google brought 100 Palestinian and Israeli tech leaders to its new Tel Aviv headquarters for an afternoon of speeches, introductions and dealmaking.

PALESTINIAN INTERNSHIP PROGRAM PIP

The fortunes of Taha, an East Jerusalemite, were changed by Palestinian Internship Program (PIP), a three-year-old USAID funded initiative that handpicks Palestinian IT graduates and sends them on internships in multinational companies and Israeli startups.

PIP initiative was established by Yadin Kauffman, an American immigrant to Israel who in 2011 co-founded Sadara Ventures, the first venture capital firm to target Palestinian tech startups. PIP’s vision a Palestinian tech and innovation sector driven by a generation of young Palestinian professionals who have access to requisite work experience opportunities.

Register your email address at openpalestine.com to receive releases on how we in the West can support Palestinians in their positive creative endeavours.

Register your email address at openpalestine.com to receive releases on how we in the West can support Palestinians in their positive creative endeavours.

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Acknowledgements, and further reading;

●     How Tech Startups are Firing Up the Palestinian Economy. Ozy.com, by Megan Giovannetti

●     Supporting Palestinian Businesses from Overseas, by Jon Simmons, Times of Israel

●     https://www.timesofisrael.com/mellanox-urges-other-tech-firms-to-tap-pool-of-palestinian-talent/

●     How to Hire Palestinian Freelancers, by Jon Simmons, Times of Israel

●     Can the Startup Nation be an incubator for Palestinian High Tech Entrepreneurs, Times of Israel, Dov Lieber, Times of Israel.

●     Palestinian Women for Equality, by Jon Simmons, Times of Israel

●     A New Avenue for Youth Economic Empowerment, by Mohamed Abu Mezyad, This Week In Palestine

●     Supporting Palestinian Businesses from Overseas, by Jon Simmons, Times of Israel

●     The Palestinian Economic Bulletin – February 2020, by the Portland Trust

●     Make High Tech, Not War, Israel and Palestinians Force Cutting Edge Coexistence Eliran Rubin – Haaretz

●     Against All Odds, Life inside in Gaza’s first startup-up accelerator, by Joanne Bladd Philanthropy Age

●     Shark Tank in Gaza – The Future of Palestinian Entrepreneurship – Adam Heffez, Foreign Affairs

●     https://www.timesofisrael.com/mellanox-urges-other-tech-firms-to-tap-pool-of-palestinian-talent/

●     World Bank report: ‘The tech startup ecosystem in the West Bank and Gaza’ from July 2018, covering skills, infrastructure, investment, community, success factors and policy recommendations World Bank. 2018. Tech Startup Ecosystem in West Bank and Gaza.; and Henry, Scott. 2017

●     How Tech is Bringing Israeli’s and Palestinians Together

●     How One Palestinian Territory Outpaces Another

●     Department of International Trade – Updated 11th May Doing Business in the Palestinian Territories: Trade and Export Guide

●     Palestinians lose faith in Abbas ability to deliver, by Financial Times

●     In parallel to the challenges faced by startups, Palestine’s science and tech research community is struggling under the occupation: Nature magazine longread

●     israelinvestment.org

About Jon Simmons

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