Romney’s Comments on Palestinian Economy Stir Controversy

Voters in the U.S. will likely not notice, but comments made by the Republican candidate for president while on tour in Israel have led to charges of racism

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Uriel Sinai / Getty Images

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on July 29, 2012

Mitt Romney almost escaped the Holy Land without a significant controversy. And the one he kicked up likely won’t hurt him with the U.S. voters his visit to Israel aimed to impress — Protestant evangelicals who want to oust President Obama and who love Israel but whose enthusiasm for Romney is restrained by questions about his conservative credentials and his Mormon faith.

Still, his observations on the Palestinian economy and why it pales beside the success story of Israel’s has the look of a self-inflicted wound. Whether it amounts to racism, as Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat framed it, is a subjective question. What’s empirically clear is that the former turnaround artist did not have his facts in front of him early Monday, July 30, at a breakfast fundraiser with American titans of industry at the King David Hotel:

“As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel, which is about $21,000, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality,” he said. “And that exists also between other countries that are near or next to each other. Chile and Ecuador. Mexico and the United States. And I noted that part of my interest when I used to be in the world of business, as I would travel to different countries, was to understand why there was such enormous disparities between the economic success of various countries.”

“I recognize power of culture,” Romney said, hailing Israel’s strides in its 64 years as a nation. He allowed that a person would “have a hard time suggesting natural resources and land account for it all.”

Start with the numbers, which were more than a bit off: The World Bank puts Israel’s gross domestic product at closer to $31,000 per capita, while residents of the West Bank and Gaza struggle to get by on just $1,500. The bigger problem, however, is the parallel: Mexico is not occupied by the United States, nor Ecuador by Chile. But since 1967, Israel has controlled the economy of the Palestinian territories, restricting movement of people and goods in and out of the territories, collecting excise taxes — and withholding them from the Palestinian Authority to punish its leaders when they are perceived as being out of line. The disadvantages of Israel’s situation — the high cost of living, partly because it imports so much from so far away — are passed on to Palestinians, but few of the advantages are.

It’s on the combustible question of “culture,” however, that Romney is playing with fire. And not only because it attributes unflattering characteristics to the Palestinians. The fact is, when Palestinians are not living under occupation, they tend to write business success stories. In neighboring Jordan, Palestinians utterly dominate the economy, so much so that their success as onetime refugees has fueled resentment among so-called East Bank Jordanians. In El Salvador, Palestinian businessmen and -women amount to an oligarchy, so thoroughly do they hold the Establishment in their hands. The Palestinian community there and in other Latin American nations, including Brazil, has been in place for nearly a century, having fled during World War I to avoid becoming cannon fodder for the Ottoman Empire as it threw in its lot with the Kaiser. The Palestinians have done very well for themselves.

“Palestinians have the highest productivity in the Arab world,” economist Omar Shaban of the Gaza think tank Palthink boasted in an interview last year.  He didn’t have the figures at his fingertips to prove it, but he at least seemed to know what he was talking about.

179 comments
Ceausescu
Ceausescu

I suggest people read "Sustainable Trade" by Zoltan Ban, before they dismiss the argument that culture is very important for economic development.  The book includes a chapter entirely dedicated to analyzing the effects of culture on economic development in post-communist Eastern Europe.  The correlation between culture and economic development is undisputable.

mnominous
mnominous

Yeah, in your own little world you are right.  But step out a little.  Maybe you'll discover a whole new universe.

mnominous
mnominous

Oh, you mean like when there bombs in Telaviv killing kids 16 and youger on a daily basis, or you mean when a kid 10 old takes the wrong turn and an adult 32 years old grabs a stone and breaks the kid's skull?  Or when three Israelis take the wrong turn and are getting butchered by a mob.

RationalLogic
RationalLogic

Mitt Romney knows literally nothing about the average life, either home or abroad. He doesn't even understand the reality of the world around him. Absolutely nothing, and I mean literally nothing, matters to him other than making money at the expense of other's, continuing the traditions of the good ol' boy club (Mormon version), and putting the influence of his religion into America by becoming President.

All evidence points to this and nothing about him has been sincere or honest, other than his extreme thirst for power at any cost and under any lie he thinks his audience a the time wants to hear, regardless of how contradictory it is to the last lie he told his last audience.

Jerry Ram
Jerry Ram

Palestinian economy, what economy? At least Romney had the balls to say what he felt. Why the American electorate chose Obama and Romney as future leaders comes the 2012 election, is beyond me!

How many billions of dollars were given to the Palestinians over the last 15-20 years?

Where has it gone, and in whose pockets? Obviously, their "economy, and I use the word very loosely, is in the toilet."

Matt McLaughlin
Matt McLaughlin

The Mormons on the Israeli/non-Israeli conflict is to never take sides.

Then how is it Mormon Mitt advocates for an israel, let alone an exclusive, 'Jewish state'? can't have it both ways.

TimUpham
TimUpham

If Mitt Romney is such as astute businessman, then he will know that the Palestinian economy is on the verge of collapse.  If it does collapse, then it will pull Israel down with it.  If the Palestinians become a nation-state, then they will qualify for assistance from the World Bank.  This is one of the needs to a two-state solution, and Mitt Romney can be an active supporter of it.  So if he wants to please the Jewish vote within the United States, then he will have to advocate the Palestinians to be strengthened, so Israel can be strengthened.  Because the two are connected to each other by an economic umbilical cord.

compareguy
compareguy

Little has been made of it but I find his comments about the Israeli healthcare system far more damaging to him and of importance to the US electorate.  His gushing and comments on what is essentially a single-payer system is right up there with his culture remarks in terms of gaffes IMHO.

frostback
frostback

They always tell us that there are no borders when you look at the earth from outer space. That's true, with one significant exception: Israel and the surrounding states. 

The difference between the West Bank and Israel is so pronounced that it can be seen from outer space. Try it with GoogleEarth - you'll find that you don't even need to enable the 'borders' function to see where Israel ends and the West Bank begins. 

Why this should be so is open to interpretation. But could it be because peoples the Quran calls "peoples of the Book," meaning the Bible, feel an obligation to take care of the earth? After all, the Bible mentions Adam and Eve entrusted to care for the Garden and Noah gathering the animals for the Ark. There are even the prohibitions on cruelty to animals and the wanton destruction of fruit trees. The sabbath year also gave the land a year of rest, an extremely enlightened policy.

Why would this be different in Islam, which claims to draw its inspired scriptures from the same source? Perhaps there's a clue in Hirsi Ali's report of a visit to her family. When she suggested draining some local ponds to deprive malarial mosquitoes of a place to lay their eggs, her mother remonstrated with her: "Who are you to decide if they will be sick or not? God will decide."

It is up to people to decide which religion they will follow. But is it 'racist' to take note of the varying results of these decisions?

eileen fleming
eileen fleming

Tikkun is Hebrew for mend, repair and transform the world. Tikkun is also an organization that researched to discover that there are three distinct elements energizing the Christian Zionists:

1.

A strong commitment to conservative and ultra-nationalist American

politics (so strong, I believe, that if the U.S. were to decide to break

with Israel, this part of the Christian Zionist leadership would go

along with that and drop its defense of Israeli policies).

2.

Dispensationalist religious commitments that lead many of the Christian

Zionists to yearn for a cataclysmic “end of history” eschatological war

in the Middle East that will precipitate the second coming of Jesus and

the Rapture in which all true Christians will go to heaven and all Jews

who have not yet converted to Christianity will burn in hell for

eternity.

3.

A widespread understanding among many Christians that atonement and

repentance is needed for 1700 years of murder, rape, and oppression of

Jews that was frequently generated by the Church (though, of course, the

Evangelicals do not recognize that church as their church). In this

category are many Christian Zionists who genuinely feel terrible about

what has happened to the Jews and genuinely want to help the Jewish

people. Their philo-Semitism is real and sincere. [Rabbi Lerner, Tikkun Magazine page 9, Nov/Dec. 2007]

As a candidate for US HOUSE, District 5, Fl. I have asked "Will Romney View The Real Wailing Wall and Israel's WMD Facility?" And have offered this Message to Mitt: Courtesy of CIA, FBI, Bibi's nephew and Israel's Nuclear Whistle Blower @ http://www.wearewideawake.org/

Lucia Matias
Lucia Matias

Palestine ans Palestinians.... What is good about them?

It is always about blaming someone else.  

Romney is right, even with a country of their own, even if Israel did not exist, the Palestinian would still be a backward and retrograde bunch of religious zealots!

Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar

here is the funny thing ... Palestinians are a lot smarter than the Israeli, why?

Because when you keep killing a people for several generations, like what Israel is doing to Palestinians, (which is what the rest of the world has done with Jewish people earlier) , what you get is that the smart ones will more likely survive.

In the end, you get a quite well selected group fo people where smarts dominate. The tactic used by Israel now, which is what was used against Jewish people in the past, is to lock them down in poverty to prevent from developing. All it does is pushing the smart survivors to become very efficient at surviving with little resources. 

I know many Jewish people. all of them think really they are superior to Palestinians .. and all of them are really wrong. 

They just are in control of the faith of Palestinians people .. , which is why they are poor .. 

Now consider that the smart Jews do not live in Israel .. if they were smart, they would have found a way to cohabit with Palestinians .. but since they aren't that smart, they didn't.

The result is that on the day the Palestinians get their State, which is when Israel will finally accept that Palestinians have the right to exist, that they have the same rights Israeli have, then Israel will be in real economic troubles .. cause they will have generated a formidable group of smart people, who all they want is economically overwhelm the Israeli a.. and guess what .. they will succeed.

This is the real reason the true agenda of Israel is to keep Palestine in poverty, they know, the day Palestine is free, is the day Palestinians will start proving Israelis wrong,.

frostback
frostback

Mitt Romney's creepy obsequiousness aside, you have to agree that there is a cultural and religious reason for Israeli success and Islamic failure.

You can even see the difference from near-earth orbit. Look at the Sinai border on GoogleEarth. The land on the Israeli side may not be cultivated, but it has natural reddish growth. The land on the Egyptian side is very different - bare sand, yellow or white.

Whether it comes to the matter of caring for the earth, equality before the law or caring for all the members of society, people with a Bible heritage are very different. Even if they never look at a Bible or Torah, they come out of a culture deeply influenced by those scriptures.

When the evidence is considered, there's something about Islam that doesn't inspire the best behavior in people. This acts as a drag on even the nations which are richest in natural resources. That doesn't go down well with cultural relativists. But if things were the other way around, you'd be quite happy to point it out, wouldn't you?

Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar

the more he speaks, the more the real IQ of Romney comes out .. not impressive.

temzil
temzil

Mitt R. is starting to look more like the idiot George.

The Republicans are nothing more than 

warmongers, sending young Americans to die fighting for Israel.

Just shows how Israel actually does control the American media.....and politics.

Hang in Palestinians,  the global view of Israel is shifting to the global view of Nazis. The only current difference between IDF and the Nazis is the Nazis had Auschwitz.

rory2012
rory2012

Is USA  a nation or colonial land?Is USA actually ruled by the people of their land or they have a master behind the curtain?Nothing worse than to submit your dignity to anyone by your own free will.

NoFoolJule
NoFoolJule

Don't forget people an embarassingly large proportion of the USA supports this baffoon. God help the rest.

sovring
sovring

Didn't someone say once "you can't handle the truth". Obviously alot still can't.

Chinga_Tu_Madre
Chinga_Tu_Madre

For the life of me, I still don't understand why Israel is considered an ally. Remember the USS Liberty? We still haven't made Israel pay for the mass murder of our sailors.

Jfante1452
Jfante1452

Another gaffe by Romney. How unusual.

Scotty_A
Scotty_A

Romney's commentary leaves a lot to be desired. While I take issue with some of Obama's political positions, I find Romney to be not a suitable replacement for Obama because of his character flaws and lack of leadership skills.

drorbenami
drorbenami

Hey Karl,

I am confused...you say that the palestinian economy is suffering because it is occupied by israel.....syria, jordan and egypt are not occuppied by israel....why are their economies suffering ???

Are you really trying to say karl that if there were no Jews in Palestine then its economy would not resemble egypts, but would resemble present day israel's....

You know Karl, if you keep lying the way you do, maybe Time will give you Tony Baloney Karon's job....

drorbenami
drorbenami

hey karl....

your articles about israel have also led to charges of racism, have they not ???

while this particular article is not a good example, many of your articles about israel attract comments and rave reviews from white supremisists, anti semites and neo nazis, do they not ???

Also Karl, that palestinians in Gaza and the west bank only make 1,500 dollars a year is an out right lie....i.e. you are a liar, karl !!!

this is a page from a palestinian website:

http://www.pipa.gov.ps/emplpym...

it clearly states that in the west bank the minimum salaries for an un skilled worker is 3oo dollars a month and that the minmum for a skilled worker is 750 dollars a month . In Gaza the minumum figures are 250 dollars a month (unskilled) and 600 dollars per month (skilled)...

Please Karl: Why don't you give us the figures for workers in Jordan and Egypt ???

By the way, in addition to these salaries they also receive food subsidies from the United Nations.  In other words: a Palestinian who earns 8,000 dollars a year also receives a full food subsidy from the U.N. while an Egyptian who earns 800 dollars a year receives nothing from the U.N.

So, think about that the next time you organize a flotilla !!!  

Also, the people now straving to death in Africa receive no subsidies fom the U.N. but fully employed palestinians do.....

r_m_reddicks
r_m_reddicks

"And I noted that part of my interest when I used to be in the world of

business, as I would travel to different countries, was to understand

why there was such enormous disparities between the economic success of

various countries.”

And I, the Mitten was unable to understand why. 

He probably wonders why his gardener, pool boy, groom and elevator operator are not as rich.  Well, probably doesn't wonder.  Probably can't even figure out why.

Read more: http://world.time.com/2012/07/...

 

Al Dente
Al Dente

Everyone knows you can make money Mitt Rawmoney but even you wouldn't have financial  success against an illegal Israeli blockade.

Ire Dragustinovic
Ire Dragustinovic

Romney said he recognizes the power of culture. Perhaps he should have said he recognizes the culture of power. 

El Prez
El Prez

this is the guy who said hes not worried about "very poor people"...why are we surprised that he's also insensitive to the plight of the Palestinians?

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/po... 

Guest
Guest

Cheap votes from ignorance. Mitt the Twit is managing to show how really ignorant his foreign affair agenda potential nightmare will be. This guy seriously needs to keep his mouth shut. First England, then the Palestine, now the world. And, he's done it all in less than a week. This guy seriously needs to get his job back at Bain's and then outsource himself, to China.

Goyo Roth
Goyo Roth

You can't even drill for water in the West Bank without an Israeli permit, which are routinely denied.  Try creating a software start-up.

jimmy kraktov
jimmy kraktov

Yet another example of Romney not knowing what he's talking about. Nothing new here.

Jacob Blues
Jacob Blues

So you're saying the smart Palestinians are getting the dumb ones to conduct suicide bomb attacks. 

Talk about a head-scratching moment. 

Jacob Blues
Jacob Blues

Yes, the USS Liberty, a tragic 'blue on blue' mistaken attack.  Given that there were not one, but 10 seperate investigations, with Israel apologizing and paying reparation to the sailors who were injured and died, your comment exposes you for little more than a bigot and hate-monger. 

Chinga_Tu_Madre
Chinga_Tu_Madre

...Or Israel could stay out of the Palestinian territories and cease all interference with their economy and political affairs.

NoFoolJule
NoFoolJule

 Do you understand the concept of averages?

Chinga_Tu_Madre
Chinga_Tu_Madre

Oh, get over yourself. Truth knows no ideology, political party, or sectarian opinions. You sound like a pompous ass when you frame your argument the way you do. If your parents didn't teach you how to engage in a proper discourse, then perhaps you should stay off the comments section. 

Anybody can level the charge of racism, as it is, it's normally used by people who merely want to avoid substance and engage in ad homniems.

ricardo lion
ricardo lion

  What Palestinians?  Palestine (just the name of a region, never a country) today:  The judenrein autocratic Muslim Arab kingdom of Jordan, given by GB to one family from Arabia (Saudi Arabia today), Gaza, ruled by a Muslim terrorist group like Al Qaeda and Taliban, for example and

the most of Judea and Samaria

given  by stupid Israeli politicians to Muslim Arab terrorist Arafat and his corrupt PLO.  In 

the 20% of Palestine called Israel:  Rights for all.  The Arabs in judenrein Gaza and

the  judenrein 80% of Judea and Samaria get money from

the UN, EU, US, rich Arabs and even Israel.  Their per capita income is higher 

than Norway's.  BTW, is Madame Arafat still renting the whole floor of a Parisian luxury hotel?

Jacob Blues
Jacob Blues

Can you drill for water without a permit in the US either?

ricardo lion
ricardo lion

 80% of Judea and Samaria, reconquered in a defensive war against Jordan and not "Palestine", a country that never existed, was given to Muslim Arab terrorist Arafat, is judenrein and under the PA rule.  We are talking about an area 0,0000...1% of the ME, 0,00000000000000000000000000000000000000....1% of the world.

drorbenami
drorbenami

no chinga, you are an idiot....the only reason palestinians don't make 3 dollars a day like the average egyptian, syrian or jordanian is because of israel

drorbenami
drorbenami

(there was no reply button to your comment)......israel already is in the territories.....i think YOUshould stay out of the territories....why is this particular issue so important to you.? go now to a map of the world on google. you can't even see israel and the west bank is even smaller.

why do you think this issue is so important to you??? the killing in sudan is not important, tibet is not important, brazil killing tens of thousands of indians isn't important....why is the palestinian economy, which is better than egypts and jordan, so important to you???

drorbenami
drorbenami

that is a seperate issue.....what you and karl seem to be implying is that if jews hadn't entered the area in large numbers 140 years ago, palestine would have a healthy and vibrant economy.

that is a lie....the ONLY reason palestinians have any success at all is that associated with or work for israeli companies...

drorbenami
drorbenami

yes, i understand that an average o 9 million children die every year and very, very few of them are palestinians....i also understand that an average of one billion people earn less than two dollars a day and they do not receive U.N. subsidies...

Chinga_Tu_Madre
Chinga_Tu_Madre

Way to avoid the real topic. Who cares what they call "Palestinians," or "Palestine?" It's just an easy way to navigate the conversation when you know who you're talking about, the issues remain the same: Israel, stay out of the territories and stop your interference.

Chinga_Tu_Madre
Chinga_Tu_Madre

The only reason Palestinians are murdered on mass is because of Israel too. But hey, they make more than $3.00 a day, so they're good.

Chinga_Tu_Madre
Chinga_Tu_Madre

Umm, no. Stay out of the territories. Full stop. I don't what, who got there tens or thousands of years ago.