Robert Werdine

Yes, Mr. Romney, culture does matter.

Saeb Erekat’s blast of huffy indignation at Romney’s  remarks about “culture” influencing economic development was predictable. The extent of the outrage expressed by Palestinian leaders at criticism of the poisonous “culture” that they foster and help perpetuate among their subjects is usually proportionate in vehemence to the extent to which they know it is undeniably true.

 So let us briefly review the efforts of the Palestinian leaders to build a society conducive to the fostering of economic development in the last two decades, and see if such culture advances or impedes an economy.

In 1994 the USA and Israel voluntarily installed Yasir Arafat in the territories under the Oslo Accords brokered by President Clinton, where, between 1993 and 2000, the Israelis withdrew from some 98% of the occupied population centers. Arafat, during this time, pocketed numerous Israeli concessions, made none, talked peace to Western audiences, and preached endless jihad on Israel to Arab ones.

Arafat’s tenure (or, rather, his dictatorship) in the occupied territories during the Oslo years was a disaster for the Palestinian people. Hundreds of millions of dollars of economic aid destined for investment and development of infrastructure and services disappeared down the rabbit-hole of Arafat’s kleptocracy (making him, according to Forbes magazine in 2001, one of the world’s richest men; his portfolio was valued at some one billion) and he brought to the West Bank, Gaza and Israel in the 1990’s what he had bought to Jordan in the 1960’s and to Lebanon in the 1970’s and 80’s: a pestilence of chaos, corruption, oppression, and mass murder, as well as something hitherto unknown in Israel: the first suicide bombers. Arafat’s “security force” swelled into an army poised for conflict and Hamas and Islamic Jihad literally flourished under his tenure. All of this was largely ignored by the UN, as well as by Western journalists, diplomats, and policy makers. They were focused on “peace.” Meanwhile, violence and instability increased, checkpoints clogged, searches became prolonged, and the economy tanked.

In 2000 Israel offered the return of virtually the entire Golan Heights to  Syriain return for a full peace; it was refused. In May of 2000 Israel unilaterally withdrew from southern Lebanon. In the next several months Arafat would be offered over 97% of theWest Bank, all of Gaza,East Jerusalem as a capitol, breathtaking concessions on the sovereignty of theTemple Mount, and the removal of all Jewish settlements from territory ceded to the new Palestinian state (i.e., 97% of theWest Bankand 100% of Gaza). Arafat rejected all offers put to him, made not a single counter-offer, and launched a futile terror war that would kill thousands of Israeli and Palestinian innocents, and set the Palestinian economy into a war-torn wreck of debasement.

The situation in the territories in the early 2000’s, incidentally, was probably similar in some ways to the situation there in late 1947 and early 1948. Historian Benny Morris notes in his “1948: The First Arab-Israeli War” (2008), how the first exodus of Palestinian refugees in the first Civil War stage (Dec. 1947-March 1948) of the conflict was propelled by the deteriorating economic conditions resulting from the fighting and growing instability, as well as the flight of the middle classes, which resulted in the closure of workshops and businesses, spiking inflation and unemployment.

The conflict separated the economic intermingling of Jews and Arabs—Arabs from employment at Jewish workplaces, and Jewish marketplaces from Arab goods, notably agricultural products. By late December the agricultural produce in Beit Sahur was rotting and there was a severe shortage of animal feed. By early March flour and fuel were scarce in Jaffa, and commerce was dead. Morris notes that “all Arab banks had closed by the end of April.” The conflict also exacerbated supply problems between Arab villages, unemployment and robbery were rife, and Arab public transportation was stopped cold. All of this, as well as a widening of the conflict, laid the foundation for the collapse of Palestinians society and the flight of the majority of the Palestinian refugees in the months to come.

Since Arafat’s death the violence in theWest Bankhas subsided considerably, and the efforts of Salam Fayad to root out corruption and lay the foundations of a sound, self-supporting Palestinian economy have made some commendable progress. But Abbas’ intransigence toward negotiating with Israel—itself a consequence of the rejectionism, Israel hatred, and allergy to compromise that permeate Palestinian culture—along with his Fatah’s partnering with Hamas, has stymied any progress toward Palestinian statehood, and Fayad’s very success has damned him; he is widely viewed as a tool of Israel and the West among the Palestinian leaders, Hamas in particular, for whom good governance is what the Q’uran and the Hadith say it is.

Which brings us to Hamas.

In 2005, Israel withdrew all of its population, settlements, and military from the Gaza strip. It did so unilaterally and without asking for, or demanding, any concessions in return. In the hope of leaving assets that could be converted by the Gazans into capital that would assist in building up their economy, the Israelis left behind intact greenhouses and other economic assets. The Israelis also withdrew from the Egypt-Gaza border.

For the first time in centuries, the people of Gaza were free from any occupation. Turks, British, Egyptians, and Israelis had all occupied at one time or another. Now they were free. This freedom, along with the generous array of foreign economic aid open to them, could have greatly assisted the Gazans in building up a civil and economic infrastructure that would, for once, have promoted the welfare of its citizens and allowed them to finally live in peace with its neighbors. In the absence of the Israeli occupation, however, Hamas quickly gangsterized the territory, rounding up “collaborators” for torture, imprisonment, and murder, and spreading a swarm of criminal “protection” rackets enforced by gun-toting thugs sporting keffiyeh head cloth. The financially lucrative greenhouses left by the Israelis were vandalized and their contents stolen.

After winning the election in 2006, Hamas staged a counter-coup against its Fatah rivals in Gaza in 2007; scores of Fatah members were killed, maimed and mutilated in the most brutal fashion, and scores of others were dropped from rooftops with their hands tied for the benefit of the cameras. Now Hamas were the sole masters of Gaza. With the Israelis now gone, all efforts by Hamas would now be solely focused on the production, positioning, and firing of mortars and rockets into Israel, some several thousand being fired into an area encompassing nearly a million Israeli civilians over the next several years, largely to the indifference of the UN and left-leaning “peace” activists; they blame Israel.

Hamas is a Palestinian offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, now masters of Egypt, and the Brotherhood has pursued Hamas’ objective of ejecting the Jews from Palestine and destroying Israel ever since the founding of the group in the 1920’s. In 1938 the group declared that to eject the (400,000) Jews from Palestine was an “inescapable obligation on every Muslim.” Also, in 1948:

“Jews are the historic enemies of Muslims and carry the greatest hatred for the nation of Muhammad.”

The Brotherhood’s founder, Hassan al-Banna wrote:

 “In our souls Palestine occupies a spiritual holy place which is above abstract nationalist feelings. In it we have the blessed breeze of Jerusalem and the blessings of the Prophets and their disciples.”

Hassan al-Banna also excoriated his fellow Muslims’ “love of life” over martyrdom in the service of jihad, which he praised as “the art of death.”

All of these sentiments and objectives were reaffirmed and enshrined in the Hamas charter of 1987, and vindicated in the bloodiest of deeds over the next two decades in the form of scores of suicide bombings and rocket attacks on Israel.

The fact that Hamas won a plurality of the vote (mostly to protest the failures of Fatah) in the 2006 municipal elections does not make them practitioners of democracy. Like every other totalitarian entity in history, they recognize no law but force and fraud and murder to achieve their barely concealed goals, and mock and deride the ethnic, religious, and cultural pluralism of Israel and the West.

Now, does this make for a culture hospitable toward the fostering of economic progress?  

 Does Hamas’ brutally medieval drive to “Islamicise”Gaza, where they force women to wear the hijab and men to grow beards? Where bands of youths calling themselves “Brigades of Enforcing the Good and Combating Evil” raid homes in search of alcohol, Western music and videos, un-Islamic T-shirts and other “sinful items?” Where young men and women found together in public, or even in private cars, are stopped and interrogated to make sure unmarried couples do not violate Sharia law?

Does it matter that they conduct round the clock media indoctrination where children are fed a diet of pure hate ofIsraeland Jews on a daily basis in schools and TV programs? Where they are sent to Hitler-youth like camps where they are taught to worship and pursue Jihad against Jews through violence, murder, and martyrdom? Where they are taught the use of weapons? Does any of this violently poisonous, criminally negligent brainwashing of youth for hatred and mass murder— tantamount to a kind of mass child abuse—make for a culture that might be deemed inhospitable to foreign investment and economic progress?

It’s just my humble opinion, of course, but I would have to say: Yes, it does.  



About the Author
Robert Werdine lives in Michigan City, Indiana, USA. He studied at Indiana University, Purdue University, and Christ Church College at Oxford and is self-employed. He is currently pursuing advanced degrees in education and in Middle Eastern Studies.