The Economist has surprisingly harsh words for Israel and “World Jewry”

I read an article in the Economist today on Romney’s fairly absurd comments that the Israelis are richer than the Palestinians because of their culture. If he didn’t have a real chance to become the President of the Unite States, I’d just laugh at this kind of gaff, but when this kind of power is involved you must take things seriously. What this and another article in the Economist might be disclosing is that the elites are becoming less tolerance of Washington’s absurdly one-sided rejectionist stance towards peace. The strength of the rhetoric in the articles is what I’m going on. For example, in response to Romney’s claim that it is the Jewish culture that makes Israelis so much more productive than Palestinians, the Economist wrote: (bold added by me for emphasis)

The reason most Palestinians have low third-world income levels is that they are born into impoverished towns or refugee camps inside the gerrymandered Bantustans of the Palestinian Authority, where border crossings are controlled by Israeli military authorities, water sources are tapped to feed Jewish settlements, Israeli-built infrastructure bypasses them, the education system is funded by paltry international contributions and paltrier taxes, agricultural land is periodically taken by Jewish settlers whose illegal seizures are retroactively approved by the government, land values are undermined because of the overhanging threat of expropriation by Israel, and on and on through all the savage indignities and economic violence of a 50-year-long occupation by people whose ultimate goal is to force you off as much of the territory as possible. Obviously, gross corruption by Palestinian officials and counterproductive political and economic attitudes on the part of Palestinian citizens, mainly typical adaptive behaviours that any people tend to develop when they’re confined to massive donor-supported detention zones, have made the situation much worse. Palestine was not going to be a wealthy nation under any circumstances. But without the occupation they might have been as wealthy as, say, Jordanians, who have a per capita income (purchasing-power-adjusted) of $6,000.


Comparing the income of the average Israeli to that of the average Palestinian, as though their prospects at birth had been equivalent and their fortunes today are largely the result of their own efforts and their “culture”, is gratuitously insulting and wreaks damage to American diplomacy. Besides that, it’s just wrong. Mr Romney may have noticed a rather large concrete wall running between many Palestinian towns and the roads that might otherwise connect them with markets. To coin a phrase, Palestinians didn’t build that.”


The Economist also recently wrote in an article on the state of Judaism today some critical remarks on the prevailing sentiment of “Jewry today” (their words, not mine):

The prevailing political sentiment in Jewry today is of aggressive defensiveness, a curious amalgam of victimhood and intolerance. Dissent about Israel is discouraged and often gagged outright. Among British Jewry, some 300,000 strong, “a positively McCarthyite atmosphere has been created,” says Jonathan Freedland, a political columnist. “People are frightened to say what they feel.” In America “honest discussion about Israel is largely shut down,” notes Arnold Eisen, a historian and chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, a rabbinical school in New York. “Some rabbis will speak their minds…but people don’t want to fight and there is a disinclination to argue about Israel. The right says you’re giving aid and comfort to the enemy if you say anything critical about any Israeli policy.” Given Israel’s power and diaspora Jewry’s strength and influence, that seems paradoxical.


Resurgent religious faith is deeply caught up in this. Nationalism, xenophobia and Judaism blur and merge. Jews find themselves out of step with most of world opinion, which heightens a widespread sense of apprehensiveness. Iran’s threats and nuclear pretensions provide a focus for these feelings. Diaspora Jewish leaders insist that Israel is misunderstood. They attribute criticism to anti-Semitism, which is rising again.


As anti-Zionist, I find myself worried to hear this kind of analysis of Jews as a worldwide political community. But the reality is, Israel treats them as such, and insists that they be treated as such. The best I can say about this is that it is the logical implication of Zionism, but it is a disaster, and it is exactly the kind of disaster that ZIonism has been seemingly working hard to bring about. In the words of Shlomo Sand, Israel is giving, especially the Arabs, “good reasons” to be anti-semitic:

From 2002 to the Arab world recognized Israel as a state…what was the response of Israel to this? Israel insist that they want all Jerusalem for them. It’s ok, till some line! What is the reason anti-semitism. Israel is giving good reasons to hate her. The last Gaza war, sorry, it was a proof of our cynicism, the reason was electoral reasons. They are giving a lot of reasons to hate us, and you prefer to close your eyes to the Israeli politics today. I will be on the Israeli side politically today if she will go out of all the occupied territories. Besides, I want Israel to be a really democratic state, a state of its citizens, not of the Jewish people.

This idea that Israel is supporting anti-semitism makes my skin crawl, because I find even this description of the situation morally distasteful, but more so because I can’t easily discard the thesis. I also think that Islamic states that commit crimes do little to fight against Islamophobia in the world, and might even make it worse. Does anyone honestly think that anti-Muslim sentiment in North America is helped by the Taliban, by al-Qaeda, by Iran? As much as I recognize a degree of legitimacy in all these regimes, violent excesses by all three, especially attacks on civilians, make it easy for anti-muslim sentiment to be passed off as political analysis. And there is no reason to have a fundamentally different analysis of the actions of a Jewish state.

I often think things have to get worse before they get better. Perhaps Israel’s disastrous slide to the right is the mistake that needs to be made to wake the world up to the one-sidedness of US policy in the region.




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