Now one way of explaining this gap is to talk about the sources of economic progress. What’s the alternative? For the Palestinians as in the American debate the answer is: victimization. And being part of the “victimization” side, the Associated Press agrees with the Palestinians, claiming that Romney’s:
“Comparison of the two economies did not take into account the stifling effect the Israeli occupation has had on the Palestinian economy in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem—areas Israel captured in 1967 where the Palestinians hope to establish a state.
“In the West Bank, Palestinians have only limited self-rule. Israel controls all border crossings in and out of the territory, and continues to restrict Palestinian trade and movement. Israel annexed east Jerusalem in 1967, but has invested much less heavily there than in Jewish west Jerusalem.
“And although Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, it continues to control access and has enforced a crippling border blockade since the Islamic militant Hamas seized the territory in 2007.
“The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund repeatedly have said that the Palestinian economy can only grow if Israel lifts those restrictions.”
I have quoted this at length so that when I say that it is utter lies and rubbish you will have heard both sides. Note, however, that the AP did not present the other side.
The fact is that in economic terms the West Bank and Gaza Strip did well in the years of occupation, as can be statistically documented, except during periods of high-level, Palestinian-initiated violence. Especially egregious is that the AP highlights a blockade on the Gaza Strip without explaining why that happened. How can Hamas be the victim if it is the perpetrator of the problem by continuous rocket, mortar, and cross-border attacks against Israel?
In addition, by turning to violence instead of negotiating—remember the Palestinians could have negotiated a two-state solution as early as the late 1970s after Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat’s initiative—they damaged their own situation. Repeated intifadas, terrorism, corruption, and the Hamas-Fatah war, plus Hamas’s attacks on Israel have a lot more to do with economic damage than anything Israel has done. Why were there once tens of thousands of Palestinians earning good money by working in Israel daily and now only a handful? Racial discrimination or the fact that some used the opportunity to commit terrorist violence?
Far from being victims, the Palestinians have been coddled by the international community for more than two decades. The Palestinian Authority has not been held responsible for corruption and squandering money, behavior that had no effect on the flow of proportionally huge cash payments. Nor have they been punished politically for their incitement and intransigence. And it refuses to resettle people from refugee camps into regular housing. Only Palestinians in all the world receive refugee status and UN welfare payments over many generations.
While Israeli economic pressure has played a role, Israel has also transferred millions of dollars of customs and other payments to the PA while always opposing cut-offs in international aid because that might destabilize the Palestinian regime and lead to even more violence. Moreover, World Bank and International Monetary Fund reports have repeatedly said that such pressures were a relatively secondary factor in comparison to the internal flaws of the Palestinian governments and economy. In other words, the Associated Press has dishonestly misrepresented the contents of the reports.
And finally there is one simple, decisive argument. Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, for example, have not been under Israeli occupation. So why haven’t they flourished?
Whining eternally that you are a victim and putting your priority on getting sympathy and hand-outs gets in the way of doing what’s necessary to start being successful. Those Third World peoples and countries who have learned these lessons have done well; those who haven’t done so have become basket cases.
The bottom line is this: Romney is bringing us back to the proper argument on the causes of economic development and stagnation. Indeed, his standpoint is the same as post-colonial liberal development theory in the era before radicals, drawing on Lenin and Marxist ideology, redefined it by blaming everything on some endless imperialism.
Romney’s points also apply to America as well as to the Middle East. The main problem is not Israel or capitalism or a racial group meanly oppressing someone else but on bad and undemocratic governance along with demagogic leaders encouraging their followers to adopt behavior not conducive with progress and prosperity.
About the Author: Professor Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. See the GLORIA/MERIA site at www.gloria-center.org.
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