Can Palestinians change?, Re: Tel Aviv Cluster, International Herald Tribune/New York Times, January 12, 2010

The contrast between Israel’s economy and the economy in Gaza and the West Bank could not be more striking. Israel has weathered the global recession very well, all things considered. Barclays analysts have written that Israel is “the strongest recovery story” in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The country’s economy is flourishing and there is every reason to believe that it will continue to flourish for some time to come, even though Israelis constantly have to deal with the threat of war with their neighbors or others in the Islamic world and the possibility of being maimed or killed by Palestinian terrorists.

Israel’s economic strength has obviously had a very salutary effect on it’s people’s standard of living, which is among the highest in the world.

The economy in Gaza and the West Bank is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Both areas are very poor for the most part and the people could not survive without significant amounts of aid from the international community. Very little is produced which can be sold internationally and the human and financial capital to create and foster a vibrant economy does not exist. There is continual infighting and the culture punishes rather than rewards forward thinking and entrepreneurship. This is nothing new. Throughout history people living in these areas have been impoverished without the willingness or wherewithal to improve their general economic well being. It is not Israel’s fault and never has been.

Palestinian’s economic weakness has just as obviously had a deleterious effect on their standard of living, which is among the lowest in the world.

Two questions arise from this. First, why is the Palestinian economy so weak and second, can it be changed….can there be a Palestinian economic miracle to match the Israeli economic miracle?

The answers aren’t difficult. In order for Palestinians to have a strong economy they must change their attitudes and behavior so that they can emphasize and concentrate on economic affairs. Their society is consumed by anti-semitic and anti-Israeli hatred and their culture is atavistic, misogynistic, intolerant, narrowminded and insular. An attitude of victimhood prevails and there is a general unwillingness to accept responsibility for their own malaise. Violence is rife and their culture, including their religion, is firmly rooted in the seventh century, not the twenty first. Thugs, villains and terrorists are everywhere and people of good heart and modern views dare not risk stepping out to any great degree for fear of being ostracized at best or tortured or murdered at worst. All of this is soul destroying and time consuming and precludes the development of a viable economy.

Can this be changed? Can there be a Palestinian economic miracle, along with all the concomitant benefits for everyone, including Israelis? Absolutely. Unfortunately however the nature of Palestinian society and culture is so deep rooted that they are unable to make the required changes on their own within any sort of reasonable time frame. The international community will have to either coerce or force them to do so. There are any number of actions it can take and the sooner it starts moving the better off Palestinians will be.

And the sooner they’ll have their own state as well.

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