So Mitt Romney compared Israel’s culture favorably to that of the Palestinian Arabs, to explain the economic success of the Jewish state (and by implication, the failure of the Arab entity). “Racism,” said Saeb Erekat, PLO negotiator. “It’s all about occupation.”
Of course the Jews in Palestine were under ‘occupation’ from about the time of Nebuchadnezzar until 1948. During the period of Turkish and British rule from about 1890 until independence, they created the institutions of a new Jewish commonwealth, everything from health funds to road-building companies to labor unions to universities to collective farms to kindergartens to newspapers to an army.
They had some help from international Jewry, but it was small potatoes. Most of what they built was bootstrapped into existence, often — as in the reclamation of previously worthless land purchased dearly — at great human cost.
The Palestinian Arabs, on the other hand, are the greatest recipients of international aid in the history of the world. Billions and billions of dollars have been showered on them to help them create economic, social and political institutions that could be a precursor to statehood. They have political autonomy — total control in Gaza, and civil self-rule over 97% of the Arab population of Judea and Samaria.
Yet they have not been able to create a functional economy in either the PA or Hamas-controlled areas. Criminality and corruption characterize their regimes. Cronies of the rulers control monopolies in telecommunications, building materials, etc.
Erekat is not entirely wrong when he says that ‘occupation’ — such things as Israeli border controls which deny Palestinian Arabs access to Israel, checkpoints on major roads within PA areas — does have a stifling effect on commerce.
But there are things that have held Israel back, too. The continuous pressure of terrorism and the need for security in every aspect of Israeli life, for one, and the periodic wars and time and energy devoted to reserve duty between them, for another.
“Just end the occupation,” would be the answer from Palestinians and their friends. “Then both sides would prosper.”
Unfortunately, that’s been tried, with Gaza. We know the result: so far this month, 23 rockets have landed in southern Israel. There is no reason to think a withdrawal from Judea and Samaria would have different results (except that it would be easier to hit Israel’s population centers).
In fact, it insults the Palestinian Arabs to assume that they are lying when they tell us that their greatest desire, the goal to which they aspire every day more than any other, is to get rid of the Jews on what they believe is their land. Why shouldn’t we take them at their word?
Now we are perhaps in a position to understand Romney’s comments about culture. The Israeli Jewish culture yearned for a homeland in the land of Israel. Was this necessarily inconsistent with justice for Arabs in the region? No — but it was inconsistent with Arab culture, which has always insisted that any Jewish sovereignty is unacceptable.
This principle has become the foundation of Arab ideology. It’s been nurtured through the years by ceaseless propaganda in media, educational and religious institutions, as well as by concrete actions, such as preventing the repatriation of Arab refugees and their descendents to anywhere but ‘Palestine’.
So today there is a Palestinian culture which defines itself by opposition to Israel and Jews. Its heroes are Arabs who kill Jews (we call them terrorists) because that is the culture’s highest value. It can express itself in religious terms, as in the Hamas charter‘s inclusion of a Islamic injunction to kill Jews “wherever you find them,” or in pan-Arab or Palestinian nationalist ones.
There is also a combination of anti-Jewish tropes from the Quran with modern European Jew hatred, some of it imported directly from Nazi Germany by the Mufti of Jerusalem, that has been introduced to spice things up.
Funny that Erekat thought to call Romney’s remark ‘racist’. What could he have been thinking?
So that is what is relevant about Palestinian culture. Building an economy and a state is hard work. You can’t do it if you are mainly focused on hating and destroying someone else’s.