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August 1, 2012 3:31 pm

Romney Is Right: Israel’s Economic Success is Due to Culture

avatar by Morton A. Klein, Michael Goldblatt and Daniel Mandel

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Mitt Romney speaking at the 2012 CPAC convention. Photo: wiki commons.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been assailed for saying at a fundraiser in Jerusalem that “culture” plays a large part in Israel’s superior “economic vitality” over the Palestinians, just as it does “between other countries that are near or next to each other. Chile and Ecuador, Mexico and the United States.” For this commonsensical statement of the obvious, he has been pilloried, not least by the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s Saeb Erekat, who described his remarks as “racist.”

There was, of course, no reference in Governor Romney’s comparison of Israel and the Palestinians to religion or ethnicity, let alone race. He referred to culture, which indeed makes a major difference, in this case and the others he cited. He was right to note that this has produced widely divergent results in economic performance between Israel and the PA.

Israel has a culture of private enterprise, research, innovation and technological development. In contrast, the PA has been bedeviled from its inception with crony capitalism, endemic corruption, distortions of the market and other malpractices which also affect its economy in drastic ways, not least in the loss of foreign investor confidence.

Israeli society is characterized by religious, economic and personal freedom. By contrast, the PA is unsafe for political dissidents as well as religious and sexual minorities. For example, Bethlehem, under PA control since 1995, has seen its traditionally Christian (and entrepreneurial) population dwindle to about 15%. In Hamas-controlled Gaza, there has been an even swifter flight of Christians. And Palestinian gays who wish to live without fear of death or imprisonment often have only one option: refuge in Israel. It makes sense that a society with Israel’s open and broadly liberal culture would be more stable and thus retain and attract foreign investment and better educated, entrepreneurial people.

But above all, Palestinian culture is also afflicted with incitement to hatred and murder, glorification of violence and terror. One has to look only at PA TV programs, radio broadcasts and newspaper articles to see that it is the terrorist, not the entrepreneur, who is honored. The PA doesn’t name streets, schools and sports teams after scientists and inventors. It names them after suicide bombers and jailed terrorists.

In the PA, public squares, a computer center, a summer camp and several events have been named in honor of Dalal Mughrabi, a revered figure in Palestinian society who led the terrorists who carried out the 1978 coastal road terrorist attack on an Israeli bus, murdering 37 people, including a dozen children. There are literally scores of similar, documented examples.

Many will recall that Palestinian enthusiasm for terrorism extends beyond Israel to the U.S., of which those Americans who saw on their TV screens Palestinians celebrating the 9/11 attacks need no reminder.

There is also no merit to Mr. Erekat’s objection that the PA cannot perform well because it is under “occupation.” The facts repudiate this shop-worn, opportunistic charge. Before the PA was established – in other words, when the areas now controlled by the PA were under Israeli control – economic growth was steady and rising among Palestinians. But economic performance tapered off immediately after the PA assumed control in 1994, following the Oslo Accords, and all the attendant problems mentioned earlier came into play.

“Even then, the PA was doing better in the mid-1990s than it was to do after 2000, when it launched a terrorist war against Israel. Naturally, joint projects, Israeli (and much foreign) investment thereupon dried up and the resultant hostilities destroyed or damaged much infrastructure. One can have war, but one can rarely have war and development. The Israeli economy also suffered from this war but, because of the general soundness of Israel’s economic culture, it recovered much more quickly once Palestinian terrorism was brought under control.

So Mr. Erekat’s predictably absurd criticism of Governor Romney’s “racist” statement can be dismissed for what it is: a fit of pique leveled against an outsider for embarrassing the PA by stating the obvious truth, a truth that undermines the metronomically invoked Palestinian alibi of “occupation.” As the philosopher Eric Hoffer once observed, “There are many who find a good alibi far more attractive than an achievement. For an achievement does not settle anything permanently. We still have to prove our worth anew each day: we have to prove that we are as good today as we were yesterday. But when we have a valid alibi for not achieving anything we are fixed, so to speak, for life.”

Morton A. Klein is National President of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), Dr. Michael Goldblatt is ZOA National Chairman of the Board and Dr. Daniel Mandel is the Director of the ZOA’s Center for Middle East Policy.

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  • Adel jamil

    Yes, Stealing the Palestinian Land is an israeli culture.. Romney Is Right, Israel’s Economic Success is Due to Culture, why not

    • johntyd

      The thieves of Arab imperialism are going to be pushed back from whence they came in a trail of blood

    • A D

      Before the Israelis came, the land was swampland, unusable. The culture they brought changed that into workable soil, drained the marshes, and established agricultural industry that the Arabs never managed to do. It’s the same culture 120 years later that is making Israel keep innovating and the Arabs stagnate. For example, when Israel left Gaza, a jewish philantropist paid for some greenhouses to be maintained and gave them to the Gaza Arabs to help them continue their own economy. Instead, the first thing they did was burn them to the ground in “celebration”.

  • As long as Palestinian culture celebrates the ultimate child abuse….parents celebrating as their children blow themselves up…it is destined to be a pathetic death filled culture…without a shred of redeeming value.

  • Aharon

    Also this supposed partisan Jewish newspapers politics could not be further up the collective rear of the right wing in this country. What a joke … Thankfully some of the non political stuff is decent and worthy of print

    • A REAL American

      Aharon,your comments are absurd. Pointing out cultural differences that inhibit certain communities from achieving success might not be PC, but there is certainly nothing “right wing” about this. After all, isn’t that what affirmative action programs were created to fix?

      I don’t want my president to be politically correct, I want him to just be correct–PERIOD. I have no problem with what Romney said. And those who do seem to be more worried about mollifying the sensitivities of the Arabs, then about solving the problems.

  • Aharon

    It’s dangerous and completely out of touch for a potential president of this country to say something so stupid on foreign soil in front of billionaire friends. I am sure should Romney become prez this comment would surely come back to both haunt him, israel and the USA . Even if you agree with his sentiment … It’s dumb. No different then his people talking about shared Anglo Saxon values in London.

    He is digging his own grave despite the funding from his billionaires club

    • Joy

      Lighten up, Arahon! Is speaking the Truth the new Hate Speech? And when he was in London and pointed out the possible (but verified!) security “concerns,” he was pilloried for that, too! I’m not a fan of Romney (but, of course, will support him over Ohelpus), but the Lib Prog press is just waiting to pounce on every word he utters; and no matter what he says, it’ll ALWAYS be non-PC to the biased and intolerant Left…

    • Why is it dumb to state the obvious?

      Here is how Bernard Lewis explains, in his interview to the Jerusalem Post, why the economy in any Muslim country cannot reach its potential:

      There’s one other group of people that I think one should bear in mind when considering the future of the Middle East, and that is women. The case has been made, and I think there is some force in it, that the main reason for the relative backwardness of the Islamic world compared to the West is the treatment of women. As far as I know, it was first made by a Turkish writer called Namik Kemal in about 1880. At that time an agonizing debate had been going on for more than a century: What went wrong? Why did we fall behind the West?

      He said, “The answer is very clear. We fell behind the West because of the way we treat our women. By the way we treat our women we deprive ourselves of the talents and services of half the population. And we submit the early education of the other half to ignorant and downtrodden mothers