SEARCH BLOG: CULTURE
The latest flap making its way through the news is Mitt Romney's comments about Israeli and Palestinian "cultures."
Culture makes all the difference. And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things.Reason magazine posts this:
Writes Bernard Avishai, a business professor at Hebrew University, "Try growing a supermarket chain when your just-in-time logistics system has to deal with 600 roadblocks." These are just part of what Palestinian entrepreneurs have to overcome.
Israelis, and Romney, may say all this is entirely the fault of the Palestinians for not making peace.
But that's a separate issue. Given the many obstacles that have been erected, blaming the Palestinian culture is a stretch. Even the most business-friendly culture can't create prosperity where governments won't let it. [full article]The argument is that the Palestinians are victims of Israeli oppression... economic oppression. Reason tries to sidestep the violence endemic in the society of the people who call themselves Palestinians... a violent antipathy toward Jews going back well before Israel was established. Reason ignores the fact that "Palestinians" have prospered inside of Israel and have representation in the Israeli parliament. Reason ignores that perpetual state of "almost war" or actual war by those who call themselves Palestinians against Israel.
Perhaps it is not "cultural," but it is pervasive and enduring... call it what you will... that antagonism of those who call themselves Palestinians toward Israel. It is a culture of destruction, not building and growth.
The claim that Romney’s statement was ‘racist’ is inflammatory but silly. Neither Jews nor Arabs constitute a distinct race; in the usual racial taxonomy both are classified as white. Ethnically, they are closely related, both Semitic peoples—as Arabs will sometimes point out to deflect the charge of ‘anti-Semitism,’ a European word for Jew-hatred that translates awkwardly into the Middle Eastern context.
The differences between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs, or between Jews and Arabs more broadly, are in fact not racial but cultural, with ‘culture’ understood broadly as encompassing everything from religion and politics to prevailing norms about work, family and all manner of social activity.
But the story of Palestinian antipathy toward the Jewish people and abject poverty go back nearly a century. As evidence of the former, consider a passage from the 1936 Report of the Palestine Royal Commission:
"An irrepressible conflict has arisen between two national communities within the narrow bounds of one small country. There is no common ground between them. Their national aspirations are incompatible. The Arabs desire to revive the traditions of the Arab golden age. The Jews desire to show what they can achieve when restored to the land in which the Jewish nation was born. Neither of the two national ideals permits of combination in the service of a single State."
"The conflict has grown steadily more bitter since 1920 and the process will continue. Conditions inside Palestine, especially the systems of education, are strengthening the national sentiment of the two peoples. The bigger and more prosperous they grow the greater will be their political ambitions, and the conflict is aggravated by the uncertainty of the future. “Who in the end will govern Palestine?” it is asked. Meanwhile the “external factors” will continue to operate with increasing force. On the one hand in less than three years’ time Syria and the Lebanon will attain their national sovereignty, and the claim of the Palestinian Arabs to share in the freedom of all Asiatic Arabia will thus be fortified. On the other hand the hardships and anxieties of the Jews in Europe are not likely to grow less and the appeal to the good faith and humanity of the British people will lose none of its force." [source]Okay, if it isn't cultural, what is it? It sounds eerily similar to the "non-cultural" comments and slogans against Israel coming out of Egypt these days. What other underlying commonality binds Egypt and Palestine and Iran and Syria against Israel? What could it be?