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Palestine’s Biggest Obstacle

Palestinians in the diaspora are thriving, so what exactly is preventing success in the West Bank and Gaza?

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A Palestinian man waits to be collected by his employer near the Israeli army checkpoint at Kibbutz Eyal, after crossing from the West Bank town of Qalqilya on Feb. 19, 2012. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
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Romney and Einstein: Racists?

The GOP candidate was deemed ‘racist’ for calling Israeli culture superior. Albert Einstein said it too.

What’s holding back Palestinian society? In the wake of Mitt Romney’s speech last week in Jerusalem, in which he posited that it is Palestinians’ own culture that has kept them from enjoying economic success akin to Israel’s, a debate has raged over whether or not his diagnosis was fair.

Romney based his argument in part on the book The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, by economist David Landes, whose son, historian Richard Landes, added his support to Romney’s claims earlier this week. Compared to the culture of self-criticism and innovation found in Western countries, including Israel, Arab societies, like that of the Palestinians, “emphasize rote learning and unquestioning respect for those in authority,” wrote Landes. “Powerful actors acquire wealth by taking, rather than making.”

Meantime, others, including Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, countered that the Israeli occupation is to blame for the stunted Palestinian economy. The chairman of the Palestine Development and Investment Company, Munib R. Masri, agreed with Erekat. “As one of the most successful businessmen and industrialists in Palestine today,” wrote Masri, “I can tell Mr. Romney without doubt or hesitation that our economy has two arms and one foot tied behind us not by culture but by occupation.”

Erekat and Masri are correct—so long as the word occupation is understood in a fuller context. Instead of building a bustling economy, the Palestinians have devoted their energies to waging war against Israel for more than 60 years. The absence of a Palestinian state is proof that this war has been unsuccessful, wasting almost three generations of Palestinian talent.

Culture is a thorny issue—one that is almost invariably, and often intentionally, confused with race. (Not surprisingly, both Erekat and Masri charged Romney with racism.) But the problem with the Palestinian economy is obviously not the Palestinians as a people. In contrast to the Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza, who are largely dependent on foreign aid, the Palestinian diaspora is successful around the world, including here in the United States.

“Palestinians are a hard-working and an incredible community,” former President Bill Clinton told a Saudi audience last year. “They have done remarkably well outside their country. I have never met a poor Palestinian in the United States; every Palestinian I know is a college professor or a doctor.” As New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman noted last week, the financial success of many Persian Gulf states, like Dubai and even Saudi Arabia, is largely due to the talents of Palestinian businessmen.

Success abroad and stasis at home is true of other Middle East diasporas as well. The Lebanese, for instance, are, along with the Jews, among the world’s largest and most successful diasporas. In all corners of the globe, the Lebanese excel in every field they enter. Consider the Mexican billionaire of Lebanese descent, Carlos Slim Helou, the world’s wealthiest man. Among many others in American politics, there’s Donna Shalala, Clinton’s secretary of health and human services, and the current Secretary of Transportation Ray Lahood. And yet that tiny country of 3.5 million on the eastern Mediterranean is a tinderbox, perpetually on the verge of war with its neighbors or itself.

So, why are some Middle Eastern societies exemplary in exile and chaotic at home? It’s because of the “cake of custom,” according to historian Lee Harris. “Cake of custom” is a phrase borrowed from Physics and Politics, a book by 19th-century British writer Walter Bagehot that describes the social institutions and mores that are so deeply ingrained in a society that they are taken for granted. These are the “unshakable taboos,” Harris writes in his 2007 book The Suicide of Reason “that prohibit the emergence of independent or critical thinking on the part of any individual member.”

“The cake of custom is what a particular culture believes is the natural thing for humans to do,” Harris said in an interview. “At its most effective, it is the way the world seems to be by nature,” Harris explained. The cake of custom accepts as a matter of fact “rote learning and unquestioning respect for those in authority” because in this kind of society the past justifies the present. Since tradition weighs so heavily on the individual, there is little room for novelty or imagination—which in an economic context translates into a lack of innovation.

How, then, does a culture rid itself of the cake of custom? Often the agent of change, Harris argues, “is migration, forcing men to go some place new. It wouldn’t make any difference if, say, one Native American tribe simply left its old hunting grounds for new ones. You have to adopt new habits.”

The uprooting doesn’t have to be geographical. Sometimes change can take place on the same literal ground, but then the structure of the community needs to change. One way to do this is to shift, over the course of many generations, from a culture based on blood-lines to one based on merit, or other forms of voluntary organization. In this latter type of society, the cake of custom is less of an issue since these societies select for specific abilities, regardless of lineage. In pre-modern societies, for example, often the most highly prized talent was fighting ability. “When the Iroquois defeated another tribe they tortured the surviving warriors,” says Harris. “The ones who survived that ordeal were adopted into the Iroquois.” Survival of the fittest determined the composition of these societies rather than biological relations.

Indeed, some of these societies set out to counter the pull of tradition by choosing members from outside of the tribe. For instance, the Ottomans, who deeply understood the power of tribal relations in the Middle East, built their military with outsiders, mostly Christian boys from the Balkans taken as slaves. They were thrown together, ensuring that only the strongest survived. The purpose was to create a caste of sturdy young men that would be loyal only to the sultan and the empire, rather than their clan or tribe from whom they were cut off—thereby shattering the cake of custom.

A combination of migration and selection for survival would explain the success of the United States, an immigrant nation that for more than 250 years has attracted the world’s hardiest pioneers, mavericks, and outcasts. But what explains the incredible military, technological, and cultural successes of Israel, a Jewish state where everyone is tied to the same tradition?

Harris contends that Israel has escaped the cake of custom and the attendant problems that often beset tribal societies because the Jews who make up the modern state of Israel gathered after 2,000 years of exile and separation. “Moreover, so many brought with them Western skills and habits. They had an advantage in human capital that wasn’t mired in the cake of custom of the East.”

Perhaps. But it’s worth remembering that the Jews pulled off something unique in the annals of human history—re-establishing political sovereignty in their historical homeland after two millennia. What’s strangest, then, about Romney’s comparison is that the Jews are one of the world’s rare exceptions. By historical standards, the current state of the Palestinian economy probably falls somewhere in the middle of the scale. History is nothing but the record of tribes and nations that, in order to survive, change—as the Palestinians must as well.

***

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Binyamin says:

One has to marvel at the Zionist penchant for self-aggrandizement. Israel’s “cake of custom” is magnificent self-reliance (never mind the annual U.S. taxpayer subsidies, and, since well before its founding, massive subsidies contributed by Jews abroad).

The Palestinian “cake of custom” is perpetual war-fighting against those wonderful Jews (never mind Israel’s ethnic cleansing of half its Arab population in 1948, a dozen wars against its Arab neighbors and a ruthless occupation of four million Arabs that shows no signs of abating).

And in this deluded world, it is the Palestinians who must change, not Israel. How exactly? Must they don kippa, crawl to the Kotel, and sing Hatikva in unaccented Hebrew?

Israel has had ten years of peace with the Palis; nary a suicide bomber to be seen, except in the fertile imaginations of the Zio-apologists. It will never have better conditions for peace. Yet what is their policy? Expand the settlements even further. Cement the occupation even stronger.

Isn’t is Israel’s “cake of culture” that has to change?

herbcaen says:

yawn

herbcaen says:

yawn

Saint_Etienne says:

You are either trolling or delusional. For your sake, I hope it’s the former.

Arguing with this kind of discourse is a chore, just because every paragraph or so lowers your IQ by 10 points. People get rich or poor because of their culture. Last time I checked, attributing wealth to Jewish culture was antisemitic. Now it’s become fashionable to forget the money-grubbing Jew stereotype and praise the Jewish ability to accumulate wealth. Go figure.

As for the delusion that Israel got by on merit alone, here’s a reality check. The wealth was acquired the old-fashioned way:

Land
Very little is known about the distribution of Palestinian land and property.
The basic background is as follows. The 1949 truce agreement had Israel annex
close to 6,000 square kilometres captured in the fighting. About 700,000 Palestinians who lived on those lands were deported or escaped, leaving behind
them cultivated fields, livestock, houses, businesses and industrial equipment.
The UN Commission for Refugees estimated the value of this property at about
$330 million.5 Assuming a 3 per cent real rate of return and taking into account
U.S. dollar inflation, this would amount to over $10 billion in today’s prices. (…) Based on evidence from different sources, it seems that the land area held by
Keren Kayement (Jewish National Fund) rose to 3.3 million dunam in 1953,
up from 900,000 on the eve of the 1948 War. Roughly 1 million dunams of
the added Arab land were distributed to Jewish organisations and individuals,
helping them double their cultivated area. The lion’s share probably went to
the kibbutzim, whose holdings rose to 1.3 million dunam (Israel Central Bureau
of Statistics, 1953, No. 19; and Sharet 1978: 357, 481, 509).

(Global Political Economy of Israel, Nitzan and Bichler, 96-97 [can be found in pdf])

Here’s a direct response to one thing in the article:

“Culture is a thorny issue—one that is almost invariably, and often intentionally, confused with race.”

Racism is not making the wrong observation about a target group that happens to be a race; it is defining the target group and re-imagining them in terms that have nothing to do with external social dynamics. It is an objective fact that Palestine’s land wealth was looted by the Zionists through military campaigns against civilians. And therefore, it is racist to congratulate Israel on its culture of hard work while critiquing the Palestinians’ inability to work at home.

Of course, anyone who knows the history of Zionism should spot this question for the racist nonsense it is: “So, why are some Middle Eastern societies exemplary in exile and chaotic at home?” Now, there are quite a few Zionists in history who will tell you the Palestinians work just as hard at home as they do abroad. They owned plantations in the first aliyah settlements (Petach Tikvah, Rehovot and the like) and employed Palestinian labor at lower wages than Ashkenazi Jews. They preferred the native labor force because they already knew how to do the tough jobs and were available all year round.

This is why you need to do serious historical research on Zionism and not just learn the sanitized/idealized version Israel’s adherents would have you believe.

rightcoaster says:

“…For instance, the Ottomans, who deeply
understood the power of tribal relations in the Middle East, built their
military with outsiders, mostly Christian boys from the Balkans taken
as slaves. …”
Wasn’t this the Mamluks, and not the Ottomans? Even the name Mamluk (or something like that) means “slave” (or something like that). The Mamluks were defeated by the Ottomans in 1516 in Syria.

rightcoaster says:

This view that it is the fault of Israel that the Palestinians have this that or the other problem is widely adopted. Last evening I heard, on PressTV of Iran (I know, consider the source) that the Zionist entity (Israel of course) is in cahoots with the US and Al-Qaeda to overthrow Bashar Assad in Syria. The “proof”? Al -Quada has not attacked Israel. Oy, vey.

Even the BBC gets into the act. A few weeks ago the BBC World News Arabic service carried a report on poverty and child malnutrition in Gaza, blaming Israel. Utter “bullshit”, to quote Harry Frankfurt and Alex Joffe..

he is giving us the old Bolshevik anti-Zionist line.

poor old brain washed Bolsheviks they never gave up their antiJewish Manila.

As Mark Twain said, Jews out competed their enemies with one hand tied behind their backs.

So, Andrew, Zionist settlers gave Arabs paid jobs working for them? Was that worse than working as a sharecropper for Arab landowners, like the Husseinis?

By the way, the term “palestinians” for the Arabs in the country at the time of First Aliyah is an anachronism. They did not call themselves “palestinians” nor did they use the name “palestine” for the country where they lived. Rather they saw the country as part of Syria [bilad ash-Sham in Arabic].

both Mamluks and Ottomans had armies based on non-Muslim boys confiscated from their parents or bought as slaves outside their empires and brought up as Muslims. These soldiers were called janissaries.

I think he means the Janissary corps, which was the Sultans own corps, which was modeled after the Mamluk slave based military structure. Later after the Mamluk caliphate was defeated by the ottomans, the Mamluks continued as a part of the egypt ottoman leadership. Generally the the core structure of the ottoman army ( but also of earlier caliphates) was based on slaves, although with a quite different standing than ordinary slaves.

If the Zionist project had stopped at that, there probably wouldn’t be a Zionist-Arab conflict still ongoing today. But of course the second generation of settlers in Palestine were not satisfied with that arrangement.

paul delano says:

What transformed Palestine, for the first time in almost twenty decades, from a place of limited, unstable, and fluctuating population to the hottest new suburb in the Middle East? The answer for both the Jews and Arabs is the same: immigration. The stimulus for immigration, however, was drastically different. The Jews came to Palestine to rebuild their homeland, and the Arabs came because Jewish development (along with British development after World War I) created a whole new economic reality filled with unprecedented opportunities. As the British and the Jews built new infrastructure in Palestine, as the business sector began to grow, and as the Jews developed an agricultural economy that went way beyond subsistence to export, Arabs flowed into the area in search of employment, stability, and opportunity. In addition to a surge in the agricultural sector, between 1917 and 1947 over 140,000 Arabs were employed by the British government in Palestine. Similarly, as the Jewish people further developed and modernized the economy and the country, the quality of life dramatically increased throughout Palestine.

“The Arab population of Palestine was small and limited until Jewish resettlement restored the barren lands and drew to it Arabs from neighboring countries… the Arab population in recent decades were recent newcomers-either late immigrants or descendants of persons who had immigrated into Palestine in the previous seventy years.”
Dr. Carl Herman Voss, 1953
Voss was chairman of the American Christian Palestine Committee.

“During those twenty-four years [1922-1946] approximately 100,000 Arabs entered the country from neighboring lands. The influx could be traced in some measure to the orderly government provided by the British; but far more, certainly, to the economic opportunities made possible by Jewish settlement… by opening new markets for Arab produce and new employment opportunities for Arab labor.”
Howard M. Sachar, A History of Israel

“The most profitable branch in agriculture between the two World Wars was citriculture. The other branch of intensive agriculture in the expanding economy was the growing of vegetables. In 1922 Arab farmers cultivated 30,000 dunam [7,500 acres] and produced 20,000 tons of vegetables. In 1944/45 Arabs farmed 239,733 dunam [60,000 acres] and supplied 189,804 tons of vegetables to the market. In 1931, there were 339 factories owned by Arabs and in 1942-1,558 factories. The rapid development of the Arab economy, with a concomitant rise in the standard of living, gave rise to demands for a higher quality of health and educational services. As a result, health facilities were expanded, and the scope and level of educational opportunities were also far beyond those prevailing in the neighboring Arab countries.”
Arieh L. Avneri, The Claim of Dispossession

“As the most visible Arab-American critic of Yasser Arafat, I get a lot of hate mail… Let me state this plainly and clearly: The Jews in Israel took no one’s land. As the Jews came, something interesting happened. Arabs followed. I don’t blame them. They came for jobs. They came for prosperity. They came for freedom. And they came in large numbers.”
Joseph Farrah

For the sake of perspective, we should not forget the basic fact that from 1917 to 1948 the British kept tight controls over Jewish immigration to Palestine, while there were virtually no restrictions on Arab immigration.

The truth about Jewish emigration to Palestine is that not only did the Jews not displace a large indigenous Arab population that had been there for millennia but that it was Jewish efforts to develop Palestine that directly resulted in a dramatic rise in Palestine’s Arab population. It wouldn’t be true to say that there weren’t Jews who, as statehood approached-and particularly after the Arab riots in the twenties and thirties-hoped that a way could be found to establish a Jewish state that had as few Arab citizens as possible. Nonetheless, it was never a matter of policy or practice for the burgeoning Jewish community in Palestine to seek to drive the Arabs out of their homes.

Yishai says:

I’m sorry, but your conclusion here is simply not true. Not true on the facts, not true in interpretation. It is well established what the population numbers were in the Mandate period, it is well established what the numbers were in the 1945-48 period, and it is well established what they were at the ceasefire in 1948. It is well established that the Haganah and the nascent state leadership, as part of their military strategy during the 1948 war, actively sought to clear strategic areas of Arabs. For God’s sake, I just moved back to the US after living in Katamon in Jerusalem, which is unmistakably a “cleansed” former Arab neighborhood! It’s not even really controversial to say so, it is well known — just look at the gold standard of Israeli tourist guidebooks, the Yad ben Zvi books, where they describe in great detail the population shifts during the war. It was SPECIFICALLY a matter of policy AND practice in some instances to drive Arabs out of their homes.

These things are well known to anyone who keeps up with current ISRAELI historiography!

My personal opinion, though, is that Israel has nothing to apologize for in its tactics in the ’48 war. The population transfers, even violent ones, were in my opinion justified. It was a war, and the Haganah did what had to be done to save the state. But that doesn’t mean we have to be dishonest about the history. Ben Gurion and the other leaders had tough choices to make, and they made them, and they won — thus they were the right choices.

paul delano says:

Many Palestinians fled in 1948 because Arab states said they should get
out of the way of the war until the new state was defeated. Others took
flight to avoid the fighting. Instances did occur in which Jewish forces
drove the Palestinians out of their homes and Palestinian civilians
were killed. But these occurrences were comparatively rare and take
place in all wars. Unquestionably, the prime responsibility lies with
those who started the war-in this case the Arab states.

Samuel Goldring says:

In his “Days of Our Years” ( reprinted 22 times the best selling non-fiction book of 1939) Pierre van Paassen reports from British Palestine in the late 1920′s that Arab and Jewish workers have common interests and could cooperate. He reports that the Jews were treated treacherously by British officials and maligned by Arab landowners, especially Haj Amin al Husseini who poisoned the minds of Arabs and incited them to bloodshed.
What was the ” cake of custom” baked by the Arabs who burst out of the Peninsula(today’s Saudia Arabia, Oman, Arab Emirates, Yemen) to conquer vast territories which included today’s Jordan,Israel ( renamed by the Romans as Palestine) Syria, Lebanon, Iraq,Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan,parts of India,Egypt,Libya, Tunisia,Algeria, Spain, Sicily,parts of Turkey. The cake of custom or what was considered as natural was that Arab/Muslims rule others but are not ruled by others. That Arabs/Muslims conquer land but do not relinquish land. To his credit Umar, the 2nd Caliph, recognized the Jewish connection to Jerusalem and allowed Jews to live there-under his rule. The Arabs had known of the centuries old Jewish longing for Jerusalem and that some day this hope might, with G-d’s help,materialize . To my Arab cousins, who are a people who aspire to honor G-d, act in a generous manner, finish what Umar began, establish the Jews in their own land. The beautiful language of the Qur’an points to its divinity so to the Hebrew language of the Jews points to Israel, the land of the Hebrews, as the home of the Jews.

Wow brilliant so true. Happy to see Tablet inviting such writers.

mouskatel says:

I guess hundreds of rockets from Gaza is somehow also a product of our fertile imaginations? Binyamin, no one here really cares about your whining. You and andrew should just get a room and enjoy each other’s fantasies of an imploding Israel.

Oracle9 says:

If intent was enough, Jewish communities in Israel would have been destroyed by the Arabs dozens of times over. Let’s also not forget, in the early 50s Baghdad for example was approximately 40% Jewish. The presence of Jewish immigration, a dhimmi people, in an areas formerly (and therefore for all time) conquered by the sword of Islam, and living under MAN’s laws to boot! Well that is seen as a dagger in the heart of the Muslims. So it’s simply a holy war, nothing more and nothing less.

And you’re either on the side of the Jews or the side of the Arabs. I pick the society which is more egalitarian, inclusive, whose citizens are politically and intellectually free. That would be Israel you must admit, by orders of magnitude.

andrew r says:

The facts behind Middle Eastern Jews leaving their countries are not interchangeable. Although some countries barred their Jewish expatriates from returning (Iraq, for certain), Morocco, Lebanon, and probably Tunisia and Syria haven’t. More importantly, everyone has the unconditional right to leave and return to their country; even if former citizens of one country choose to waive that right, that doesn’t mean someone else is obligated to do the same.

Also, to call Israel egalitarian is a joke. Sure, if you’re Jewish, it will be very accommodating. If you’re not Jewish and happen to be on the wrong side of the Jewish state, you could be killed and thrown in a ditch (See: Deir Yassin, Dawayima) or have your makeshift dwelling bulldozed dozens of times over (See: Al-Arakib) or have you house confiscated (See: Shaya home in Jaffa). And Israeli citizens who are not Jewish can not lease land held by the govt. agency the ILA or the JNF. Zionism doesn’t look very attractive when you take a good look at how it created and maintains a Jewish state.

andrew r says:

The facts behind Middle Eastern Jews leaving their countries are not interchangeable. Although some countries barred their Jewish expatriates from returning (Iraq, for certain), Morocco, Lebanon, and probably Tunisia and Syria haven’t. More importantly, everyone has the unconditional right to leave and return to their country; even if former citizens of one country choose to waive that right, that doesn’t mean someone else is obligated to do the same.

Also, to call Israel egalitarian is a joke. Sure, if you’re Jewish, it will be very accommodating. If you’re not Jewish and happen to be on the wrong side of the Jewish state, you could be killed and thrown in a ditch (See: Deir Yassin, Dawayima) or have your makeshift dwelling bulldozed dozens of times over (See: Al-Arakib) or have you house confiscated (See: Shaya home in Jaffa). And Israeli citizens who are not Jewish can not lease land held by the govt. agency the ILA or the JNF. Zionism doesn’t look very attractive when you take a good look at how it created and maintains a Jewish state.

Oracle9 says:

Andrew, spare me your utopia fantasy. Of course Israel is not perfect, is that not unreasonable? I wonder why your default position is that you ignore the abuses of the other countries of the region and focus on how Israel deals with its problems.

Deir Yassin was a terrible incident by a rogue group of radicals, in the 1940s before there was even a state. Such abuse has nothing to do with Israeli policy, and I am wondering why you bring it up. Maybe to be balanced you might mention other happenings in that era of the massacre of the convoy on its way to Mount Scopus which the Arabs perpetrated in response, or maybe the Gush Etzion massacre?

Are you allowed to build with no permit in your country? Do you know that the Israeli government is as hard on Jews as on Arabs for such things?

Do you understand that there are reasons for the existence of the Jewish state?

I am not Jewish and I am not religious but I have experience in the country and compared to many Western countries it’s paradise in comparison to the way the adjacent regimes oppress their people. If you know these things and still demonize Israel, then you have some other agenda.

I would suggest that you visit the country, all regions, get to know people. See the oppression of minorities in the “West Bank”. You never hear any journalism from there. Ever wonder why?

Alternately, you might get a bit of an education regarding the cultures you romanticize by looking at the behaviors of the PA and Hamas. Start with article 7 of the Hamas Charter, and that might give you a bit of a clue into the mindset of these regimes.

andrew r says:

Much as I hate falling back on this, it’s just quicker to respond blow-by-blow.

“Of course Israel is not perfect, is that not unreasonable?”

I don’t argue that Israel is flawed; the whole principle of a Jewish state is racial segregation. In modern, egalitarian views, segregation is not acceptable.

“I wonder why your default position is that you ignore the abuses of the other countries of the region and focus on how Israel deals with its problems.”

Because as an American (Nevermind Jewish), I can help Israel in a variety of ways, by joining groups like ‘Stand With Us’ or ‘AIPAC’ and even the Israeli army. There’s no middle-class advocacy for any Arab regime in the US (And probably anywhere else; the Arab regimes have their supporters, but they are mainly limited to military and big business, things little people don’t have access to). In short, it’s acceptable in polite company to advocate for Israel, therefore it’s imperative to speak against it.

“Not to mention the virulent antisemitic incitement by these regimes in their determination to kill all the Jews (not just Israeli) if it’s the last thing they do.”

Remarks like this don’t persuade me that Zionism has any merit or that Israel is defending itself from an impending repeat of the Nazi killing machine. If the hordes of Arabs in the Middle East are that dangerous, the Zionist pioneers should have thought of that a hundred years ago. What they were thinking about at that time was getting rid of the Arabs in Palestine and taking their place.

“Is this your ideology as well? Just askin’, since your post is so one-sided. BTW I wish the Arab populations well but I support neither military totalitarian dictatorships nor Islamic totalitarian theocracies, and I abhor any culture of hatred.”

Oh I know, those dirty Arabs, they just hate and hate and hate while the rest of the world loves and loves and loves. If only there were no Arabs, all the hate would disappear from the world. Too bad we just love too much to do the job, eh?

“Were you to know the first thing about Israel you would know that it’s NOT totalitarian. So what’s your agenda?”

Obviously Israel is not totalitarian. It doesn’t have to be. Most of the Jewish population is behind the state’s Zionist ideology (That’s a very unscientific statement but damn, it shouldn’t be that controversial). The Arab states have to be totalitarian because for the most part, they don’t have an external enemy or a unifying ideology to keep the people from noticing their rulers are robbing them blind. That’s why the uprisings.

“Deir Yassin was a terrible incident by a rogue group of radicals, the Irgun, in the 1940s, before there was even a state.”

The Irgun were rogue because they were idiots who wanted to fight the British. And while the Haganah and the Palmach were not involved in the massacre, they did back up Irgun and Lechi in the actual attack on the village.

“Such abuse has nothing to do with Israeli policy, and I am wondering why you bring it up. Maybe to be balanced you might mention other happenings in that era of the massacre of the convoy on its way to Mount Scopus which the Arabs perpetrated in response, or maybe the Gush Etzion massacre?”

I mentioned Deir Yassin because that’s where Zionism gets you. In the case of Haddassah only the killers were responsible but the whole Zionist project is responsible for Deir Yassin.

“Are you allowed to build with no permit in your country? What region allows such things? Do you know that the Israeli government is as hard on Jews as on Arabs in that respect? And what’s wrong with the rule of law anyway?”

In my country it’s illegal to evict someone or deny them housing on a racial basis. In Israel…? Not illegal. It is legal for the govt. to steal your property if you are defined as an absentee and guess what? No Jewish Israeli has ever been an absentee, only Palestinians.

“Do you understand that there are reasons for the existence of the Jewish state?”

Yes, and I’ve probably heard all of them. And they all fall apart under scrutiny, especially the notion that the Zionists were trying to rescue Europe’s Jews from annihilation.

“Alternately, you might get a bit of an education regarding the cultures you romanticize”

I’ve heard of creative writing but Israel’s advocates have introduced me to the wonders of creative reading. I haven’t romanticized any culture.

ge co says:

I think you win the award for creative writing.Labelling Israeli society as racist is absurd. Only a person who doesn’t even begin to understand the meaning of the word can make that statement. If you want to talk about a culture where true racism is practised then you only have to look at arab and muslim culture. In every arab and muslim nation where black africans are present in numbers they occupy the lowest rung of society and are discriminated against in every possible way. Chattel slavery is also alive and well. Of course the muslims are also well known religious racists. Any non-muslim in a muslim country lives under strict rules which assigns them second-class citizenship which severely abrogated rights in all civil and social matters.

Through the years I have had occasion to be a passenger in taxicabs driven by black african muslims. Whenever arabs were the topic of our mutual conversations the responses from the drivers was unanimous. To a man they agreed that arabs were known as racists. Interestingly, the word in arabic for black and slave is the same, abed.

andrew r says:

This formula is getting old: Israel is not racist; the real racists are the Arabs. Attributing racism to a culture is racist in itself and it would also be racist (against Jews) to blame Israel’s racist structure on Judaism. What’s more, I posted prima facie examples of how Israel practices racism. If you’re a citizen of a country and you have to belong to a certain group to lease land, how exactly is that not racist? Of course what makes Israel a racist state is that it could not exist as a Jewish state without the physical eviction of most of the Palestinians during 1948-50. States do not have the right to force out masses of people and everyone is entitled to remain in their country.

And since we’re giving amateur language lessons, can you
tell me the significance of the Hebrew word ‘kushi’ (כושי)? It means Ethiopian and is also used like the n-word.

ge co says:

You’re the one giving amateur language lessons and apparently you also have an amateur’s grasp of comprehension. The word for black african and slave is the same word in arabic, abed. One and the same. Got it? The hebrew word kushi means Ethiopian. It does NOT mean slave. Understand the difference?

andrew r says:

My comprehension is just fine (Not yours, though), since I didn’t assert ‘kushi’ means slave. The point is that in non-racist Israel, a word for Ethiopian is also used pejoratively for blacks. When you pretend to know something about a language, it is not only the technical definitions that matter. How they are used in everyday expression is also important. In the English speaking world, I can’t call someone a negro and act like I’m merely observing their skin is black.

Also, I took the trouble to search for ‘abed’, and, well, your grasp of Arabic isn’t so hot, either. The word you wanted to use was ‘abd’ عبد not ‘abed’ عابد and while ‘abd’ is slave, where did you get the idea it’s synonymous for black?

ge co says:

Andrew, minor grammar lesson for you. I was translating the word phonetically for English speakers. As pronounced in arabic it sounds as if a vowel was present between the b and the d. I guess I didn’t make it clear enough on the dual meaning of the word. It is the arabic word for slave and it is also the arabic version of n*gger.

andrew r says:

Even if you’re technically right, I’m not convinced you can read a complete sentence of Arabic, so while you may know a technical fact about the language, you know nothing about the societies that use it.

(For the record: אני יכול לקרוא מעט עברית)

Andrew, Kush was the word used in Hebrew and some other ancient Middle Eastern tongues for what is now the northern Sudan or Nubia. Ancient Kush was called Ethiopia in Greek and Latin but was not the same as modern Ethiopia. In classical Greek/Latin writings Ethiopia is extended to mean Black Africa generally and likewise in the Hebrew Bible, Kushi [sometimes Cushite, sometimes Ethiopian in translations of the Bible] is extended to mean Black Africans generally. The Book of Amos in the Bible has a remarkable, early affirmation of racial equality. Can you find that in the Muslim tradition?

Are you not like the children of the
Kushites unto Me? — Amos 9:7

Andrew, it’s actually a well-known fact that `abid, originally meaning slave, like the Hebrew word, `ebed, took on the meaning of Black person in Arabic. You’re denying something that is widely known and make yourself look silly. As to Kushi, it was the word for people from Kush and was not necessarily derogatory. Of course, it can be. But in Israel, derogatory names are used for various communities among the Jews, but much less nowadays than before when the Labor Party ran the country and young leftists liked to insult the rest of the people.

This short statement does not take into account the property owned by Jews in Arab states and confiscated by Arab govts even before Jews were expelled or driven out by Arab govts. The Jewish refugees from Arab lands who came to Israel were robbed of much more property, including real estate, than the property left behind by Arabs fleeing from a war that their own side had started on November 30, 1947, shortly after the UN general assembly partition recommendation. Before that UN recommendation the Jewish National Fund and private Jewish owners owned huge amounts of real estate in Judea-Samaria [the "west bank" occupied by Jordan], in the Gaza Strip, in Transjordan and on the Golan Heights. None of this land could be used or sold to others by the owners, as it was all expropriated. Jewish private owners owned much real estate especially around Jerusalem where Jews had no access to it during the Jordanian occupation. Furthermore, Prof Efraim Karsh has shown by careful research that most Arabs in Haifa fled at the behest of and under the coercion of the Arab leadership in the Arab Higher Committee dominated by Haj Amin el-Husseini, the British-appointed mufti of Jerusalem and notorious Nazi collaborator. This was true elsewhere as well. See link: http://ziontruth.blogspot.co.il/2011/11/seventy-years-since-arab-mufti-haj-amin.html

I haven’t denied anything; I’m simply skeptical when people spewing racist claptrap about Arabs pretend to know something about Arabic. Also, a little note about this language we speak in. When we speak of white slaves in North America, they are not called slaves, they are called indentured. When we use slave as a historical term, we are almost certainly referring to a black person. So the fact that the same word in Arabic might mean both slave and black does not tell you what sort of attitude today’s Arabs might have toward blacks. The fact that racist Arabs might use the word the same way as n*gger does not mean Arab culture is racist.

“Furthermore, Prof Efraim Karsh has shown by careful research that most
Arabs in Haifa fled at the behest of and under the coercion of the Arab
leadership”

I thought about posting some material to debunk this, but what’s the point? It’s just easier to believe the Zionists had no hand whatsoever in getting exactly what they wanted. Husseini wanted to kill all the Jews in Palestine and he did this by handing them their Jewish state on a platter.

“The Book of Amos in the Bible has a remarkable, early affirmation of
racial equality.”

That’s nice. Just one more piece of evidence that Zionism isn’t compatible with Jewish tradition.

” Can you find that in the Muslim tradition?”

I wouldn’t go around asserting Islam is a racist religion. You’ll simply make it more acceptable to do the same with Judaism. Any attempt to deflect 19th century antisemitism onto Islam is going to boomerang back at you.

You’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts. Anybody familiar with arab culture by virtue of long residences in arab countries, which includes yours truly, knows of the widespread racism against not only blacks but also the arab racism against Asians. You are obviously clueless on this subject or foolishly trying to lie to people who know of what they write.

I’m aware that racism against blacks and Asians is a problem in Arab countries; you can learn about the subject from Arab bloggers like As’ad abu Khalil. However, when you attribute racism to Arab culture, you are essentially saying that Arab culture is inferior to our enlightened culture that rejects racism, which is a racist remark in itself. And inaccurate to boot. Even though racism is technically illegal in the States, blacks are disproportionately incarcerated. And if Arab culture is racist, so is the Jewish culture that ignores the reality of how Israel remains a Jewish state, and you probably don’t want calling Jewish culture racist to become politically correct.

In any case, I prefer to learn about cultures from the people who actually practice them and not arrogant outsiders who are bent on waging some Manichean battle.

http://www.hrw.org/news/2008/06/05/us-prison-numbers-hit-new-high

Europe invented the concept of totalitarianism and the two deadliest wars in history were fought in Europe, but I’ve never heard anyone say that’s European culture. Obviously people who prattle on about Arab culture like this have an axe to grind that has nothing to do with standing against racism.

doudie kay says:

In response to the question in the title and not all the other dissertations below…..and no intent to preach to the choir… The answer t the question is simply, the education of the palestinians in hatred, their own ignorance and the inability to become productive instead of seeing themslves as victims. Until they stop seeing themselves as victims and formenting hatred, they will be where they are 100 years from now… in their little ghetto and schtetl mired in ignorance and poverty

We threw a ticker-tape parade after attacking Iraq in 1991. Palestinians aren’t really the barbarians you paint them out to be, especially not more so than Americans.

It’s interesting that you compare their situation to the shtetl where Jews were forced to live by the Tsar.

Lanskymob says:

Please stop using facts. And context also. The world neither understands nor appreciates them. From London to Lahore, for 5,000 years…the world would rather blame the Jew than look inside themselves for the answers to their problems.

perverse says:

@disqus_fZdgclUVXW:disqus : You state, ” And while the Haganah and the Palmach were not involved in the
massacre, they did back up Irgun and Lechi in the actual attack on the
village.”

Interesting though that the first reports of Dier Yassin were made through the Jewish Agency which decried the excessive loss of innocent lives. At the time Palmach observers on the ground were reporting well in excess of 200 lives – men, women and children (an amount found to be later around 100, mainly combatants).

The revulsion that the massacre caused among both Israeli and liberal Jew in the diaspora was used as a political hammer for decades against Begin and the Herut Party..

The Land responds best to its natural owner.

Kush is the biblical name for Ethiopia

2000

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