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Tel Aviv on the Seine Flushes Out the Slithery Creatures — Part 1

It’s the 14th edition of Paris Plages, a charming operation that transforms the banks of the Seine, from the Quai du Louvre all the way to rue de Crimée, into a summer playground. From mid-July to mid-August the quais are dressed up as sandy “beaches” with deck chairs, picnic tables, fun & games, rental bikes for kids, restaurants, cafés, ice cream stands, a lending library, and—for want of a dip in the river—a stretch of cool-off mist. It’s all done in nice French taste with a pretty blue & white striped and bright yellow color scheme, t-shirted monitors, and an international crowd.

One day each summer a guest country is invited to bring an exotic accent to the Paris Plages river beach. Tomorrow, August 13th, it’s Tel Aviv sur la Seine and, don’t you know, the slithery creatures are climbing up the riverbanks, determined to strangle the very thought of Tel Aviv and the Israel that goes with it. From pseudo-intellectual analyses of the stalemate in the peace process, attributed exclusively to Israel, to ill-concealed threats to smash up the whole thing if the City Hall doesn’t cancel it, the “debate” spins around a few simplistic notions. Should Tel Aviv be coddled because it’s not really Israel, it’s more of a Levantine Paris on the Mediterranean, populated by peace-making leftist gay-friendly secular progressives who detest Netanyahu like we do, or should Tel Aviv be kicked off the river bank until it can be kicked out of the world, no less guilty than the last baby-burning Occupier on a West Bank hilltop whose army massacred all of Gaza one year ago.

The pathetic postman Olivier Besancenot, whose moribund anti-capitalist party [NPA] was revived last year by acting as straw man for Islamic protests against the Protective Border Operation, is ready to lead another rampage tomorrow. The Euro-Palestine site is in a state of volcanic anti-Zionist eruption. An anti-Tel Aviv petition boasts of 23,000 signatures. Riot police have been mobilized and no one knows how they will handle an ambulatory population of Zionists, non-Zionists, anti-Zionists, tourists, and caliphators moving along a narrow band between the river and the quais. To make things merrier, Euro-Palestine reports that the préfecture has authorized a mixed salad of Palestinian tifosi to hold a Gaza Beach demonstration on a stretch of the riverbank that runs from Châtelet, where the commuter trains roll in from the banlieue, and the Notre Dame bridge, where the Tel Aviv beach begins.

Resisting pressure from members of her governing coalition and beyond, the Socialist mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, currently vacationing in her native Spain, stands by Tel Aviv…after a fashion. The idea of inviting Tel Aviv germinated, she says, during her visit to Israel last May. I was there when our mayor, smartly dressed in black set off with a raspberry red jacket, addressed the opening ceremony of the 5th Global Forum for Combatting Antisemitism, organized in Jerusalem by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Speaking alternatively in French and English the mayor expressed her affection for Israel, its startups, its warmth, and vibrant energy. She was no less enthusiastic about French Jews, without whom France would not be France.

Indeed, that is the aim and purpose of domestic and foreign caliphators working to conquer, beyond a little stretch of riverbank, whole neighborhoods, the entire city, and turn the country into something that would not be France. The wedge of that operation is sic the Jews!

Nothing to do with antisemitism, perish the thought. Personally, I don’t ferret out antisemites, and I like to call people what they call themselves. So let’s see how and why they won’t let us enjoy a falafel on the river bank tomorrow. The general idea is that there’s something indecent about hosting Tel Aviv so soon after “an 18 month-old Palestinian baby was burned alive by Jewish extremists.” Not to mention last year’s massacres in Gaza.

Danielle Simonnet (Parti de Gauche), a member of the mayor’s coalition, denounces the “cynicism” of honoring “a festive Tel-Aviv… one year after the massacres in the Gaza Strip by the Israeli State and army while the government intensifies its policy of colonization …” Furthermore, she laments, there was nothing planned with “Israeli humanists,” no debate on the condition of the Palestinians! “Tel-Aviv is not Copacabana,” she blurted out in a radio interview. “Tel-Aviv is the capital of Israel!”

The mayor’s defense is curiously close to Simmonet’s attack. Tel-Aviv shouldn’t be confused with the State of Israel. The Paris Plages invitation is in no way a show of support for Benyamin Netanyahu’s conservative government. Tel Aviv is appreciated for its night life, it welcomes sexual minorities, it’s so progressive that all the intolerant people in Israel detest it! What’s more, the mayor congratulates Tel Aviv for the most impressive demonstrations of solidarity with the “Palestinian child burned alive by fanatics.”

Bruno Julliard, who worked his way up rather quickly from student rabble rouser to a major role on Mayor Hidalgo’s team, is more succinct: “There should be no confusion between the brutal policies of the Israeli government and the city of Tel-Aviv, whose residents and elected officials take a progressive stand on the Israel-Palestine conflict.”

A few rare voices were heard from political figures on the right. Congratulating the mayor on her refusal to give in to pressure, Eric Ciotti [Les Républicains] is outraged by the controversy fueled by the far left “with anti-Semitic undercurrents.” Claude Goasguen, unfailing friend of  Israel, goes one giant step further, asking how Tel-Aviv, which is something more than a beach, can be distinguished  from the State of Israel. “I don’t think the residents of Tel-Aviv refused to defend their country when it was victim of Hamas rockets.”

Law enforcement, apparently, is far more concerned about the possibilities of uncontrollable violence like they had to deal with last summer, than with the geopolitical niceties of Tel Aviv as opposed to Israel, the colonies, and all that. An unidentified riot policeman admits that they are all thinking about the “antisemitic climate” that raged in Sarcelles in July of last year. While the police are stalking potential troublemakers on social media and with phone taps, elected officials, political cartoonists, militants, and commentators are stoking the flames. Or gently stirring them.

In a Libération op-ed, Alexandra Schwarzbrod cautions: As important as it is to denounce the Occupation and clamor for dismantlement of the colonies that deprive Palestinians of a future, it is just as important to refrain from stigmatizing everything Israeli. The reaction to the “premeditated destruction of a Palestinian family burned alive by what some in Israel call ‘Jewish jihadists’” is understandable. One might question the wisdom of the Mayor of Paris of inviting Tel Aviv a year after a war “between the Israeli army and the Palestinians of Hamas left Gaza in ruins.” But, she concludes, contact should be maintained with secular, open-minded Israelis “revolted by the occupation and the climate of intolerance that ravages their country.”

Socialist deputy Alexis Bachelay brought the debate to incandescence. Tel Aviv on the Seine, he tweeted, is tantamount to Pretoria on the Seine in the days of apartheid South Africa. Heating up from tweet to tweet, Bachelay opined that the South African apartheid regime was probably gentler than Israel’s Far Right government with its “separate development” in the form of the separation fence and the colonies. In a last attempt to clarify his statements, Bachelay explained that he was referring to last year’s Gaza conflict; a level of force never used by the “militarization of apartheid.”

The poor guy went too far. Fellow Socialist Jérôme Guedj awarded him a gold medal for the most idiotic tweet. I too congratulate him for displaying the crude inner pyrotechnics that are feeding this controversy and driving the anti-Zionists crazy. One thinks Tel Aviv is the capital of Israel, Bachelay knows the Israeli government is worse than apartheid South Africa, another pinches his nose over Netanyahu’s “brutal politics” and most of them hug Tel Aviv as if it were an annex to the Quartier Latin.

What will tomorrow bring? A standoff, a clash, or maybe a thunderstorm. A real one, the kind nature produces.

Next year they could invite Iran. There’s nothing controversial about Tehran’s unsullied beaches and they can work out the details when President Rohani will be the guest of President Hollande this November.

The International Media’s Amoral Campaign against Israel

On May 19, 2015, Col. Richard Kemp CBE gave a speech at the Begin Sadat Center of Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv. The prior day he was awarded an honorary degree by  Bar Ilan.  Col. Kemp was the former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan who subsequently worked with the UK Joint Intelligence Committee and later the British Cabinet national crisis group on counter terrorism.  He has testified as an expert witness  defending Israel before the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict and the UN Human Rights Council on the controversial Goldstone Report.  Col. Kemp has been a much sought after speaker on Israel and the IDF roles in the three Gaza wars with Hamas, the most recent being Operation Defensive Edge in 2014. Those talks have addressed IDF purity of arms military doctrine, false accusations of excessive civilian collateral casualties and Hamas’ use of human shields.  He has frequently appeared as an expert military analyst on media in the U.S. and UK regarding  Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. However, with the exception of FoxNews, he has not been invited to discuss the case for Israel’s operations against terror proxies, most especially Hamas in Gaza.

His talk at the Begin Sadat Center was titled, The Amoral Revolution in Western Values, and its Impact on Israel.  The synopsis prepared by the BESA noted points Kemp made:

To fight for Israel on the international stage is also to fight for the values of democracy, freedom of speech and expression, and civilized social values everywhere. Unfortunately, the morality and values of the West have been transformed and undermined over the past thirty years almost beyond recognition. Judeo-Christian principles of honesty, honor, loyalty, family values, patriotism, religious faith and respect for the state have all been eroded; whereas negative values, such as the acceptance of betrayal, duplicity and deceit, have flourished. The Western media is chiefly culpable in advancing this deleterious values transformation. And this transformation is the basis for the growth of anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist perspectives, and anti-Israel narratives.

Watch Col. Kemp’s Begin Sadat Center speech:

Col. Kemp started by drawing attention to his days as an student cadet at Sandhurst , the UK equivalent of West Point . They studied  the Israeli victories in several  wars, notably the June 1967 Six Days of Wars and the Yom Kippur War of 1973. He also drew attention to his youth when the common perceptions in Britain were that the Israelis were David fighting the Arabs, depicted as Goliath. These were  traditional set piece battles and wars, albeit with unconventional, yet successful strategies by the IDF. Hence, the compelling reason why during his Sandhurst years, study of Israeli military campaigns was part of the mandatory curricula. As he noted in his speech that seemed like ages ago. Unfortunately that paradigm has flipped.  Currently, the media has reversed that stance and consider the IDF the new Goliath ‘occupying’ disputed territories fighting Iran-backed Hezbollah, Hamas and Salafist terrorist groups falsely depicted as the new David.  He chastises the media for creating this amoral inversion of roles compounded by deceit and deception.  Fighting this antagonistic view of Israel  perpetuated  by  victimhood portrayals of Islamist terrorists in the Western media  is the crux of the political warfare.   Kemp believes Israel must defeat this  in the court of world opinion to regain its previously well regarded  moral position.

Note these excerpts from Kemp’s address.

Why the perceptions of Israel versus Arab/Islamist enemies have reversed:

All that has changed about this has been that Israel has made repeated costly concessions, including giving up land, for peace. Concessions which have not been reciprocated by the Palestinians, but instead exploited at the grave expense of Israel. Concessions which have not been acknowledged or remembered by the international community, who, like the Palestinians, simply and uncompromisingly demand more and more and more and more.

Nor have the Arabs fundamentally changed. We have of course peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. And the growing threats from Iran and from expanding Sunni jihadism may be leading to some temporary and below the radar mutual cooperation from parts of the Arab world.

But the underlying perspective and agenda, especially among the Palestinians, is the same as it was in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. Rejection of Jewish communities in the land of Israel. The destruction of the Jewish State.

In my view if such events as the Gaza conflict last summer were played out in the 1960s and 70s, the support for Israel in the West would have been greater than it was even then. The savage and murderous actions of the Palestinians are far more shocking today.

So I again ask the question, what has changed? And the answer is: The morality and values of the West. They have been transformed almost beyond recognition.

The underpinnings of the reversal are erosion of values:

The 80s ushered in the insidious campaign of political correctness and moral relativity that has over the last 30 years gripped and taken over so much of our society.

Balanced, level-headed, impartial reporting in our media has been replaced by sensationalism as the purpose of mass media has swung from informing, educating and edifying to making money – and only too often to making the news rather than just reporting it. These negative and destructive values are being promoted constantly in the media.

Why the media has painted Israel as the proxy for the U.S.:

Israel has increasingly become a proxy for the United States, for three reasons.

Firstly, the US President and the US Government is at present left wing and liberal and thus harder for left-wing liberals to attack. Second, Israel is smaller and more easily bullied and impacted by corrosive media sniping than is a superpower. Third, Israel can be portrayed as a Western colonial outpost in a rightfully Arab world.

These three things are underpinned by a pervasive and increasing anti-Semitism which intensifies the obsession with Israel and its portrayal as a true evil to be attacked at every possible opportunity.

This contrasts with the post-Colonial guilt …. combined also with a frequent desire to appease violent Islam and promote its cause and values as being superior to our own and certainly to Israel’s.

Any anti-Islam comment or perspective cannot be tolerated, while anti-Jewish, anti-Zionist and anti-Israel perspectives are all acceptable and encouraged.

How Hamas and the PA manipulate conflicts for maximum media impact:

Hamas and the other Palestinian terror groups don’t use human shields in the hope that Israel will refrain from attacking their rocket launchers, weapons dumps, command centers, terrorist bases or tunnel entrances. They use human shields in the hope that Israel will attack and kill their people

They do this for one purpose: to gain the global condemnation of the State of Israel.

Their particular target is the media, which they know will magnify and intensify their message to the world and force national governments, the UN, human rights groups and other international organizations to bring down unbearable pressure onto Israel.

[…]

Fatah and the Palestinian Authority have a similar strategy. Their violence is of a different nature. Incentivizing terror by paying terrorists and the families of terrorists killed or imprisoned for attacking Israelis. By inciting anti-Israel hatred through speeches, newspapers, broadcast media, school textbooks and school teachers.

[…]

The next stage for the Palestinian leadership of course is to exploit anti-Israel pressure through the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, the European Union, the universities, businesses, trade organizations and now even FIFA.

 […]

It is the media, the agents of moral relativism, the tools of the Palestinian leadership that are Israel’s enemies in this conflict today. They can win over not just Western leaders but the public who are imbued with the new morality.

What Kemp thinks should be the offense in the media political war:

The offense in this form of political warfare is in exposing the bias, distortions, and untruth of the media. This is much more difficult but it is vital. As in all forms of war, the best form of defense is attack. Without effective offensive action our defensive work will succeed much less and can never produce decisive results.

Some good and vital work is already being done by a range of groups. But their effects remain limited. This campaign has had much tactical success and needs to continue and if possible to intensify. But so far there has been no real strategic impact. Nothing that has forced major media networks to fundamentally re-think their anti-Israel agenda.

Of course strategic effect requires strategic assets. And by strategic assets I mean the combination of significant funds, concerted and sustained will and large-scale, thoroughly planned and carefully-focused effort. The challenge is of course immense, and as with any battle, there is no guarantee of success.

As for myself I have gone through the transmutation from Infantry officer to fighter in this new form of political warfare.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Israel Foils Al Qaeda Plot Against US Embassy

Time and time again, Israel has proven to be America’s closest, most reliable ally in the Middle East.

Last week we saw the latest example of Israel’s dedication to America as an ally when Israel’s Shin Bet security service announced that it had arrested Al Qaeda terrorists who were part of a cell plotting to launch an attack on the US embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel.

tel aviv bombers

The al-Qaeda terror suspects. Photo: Shin Bet.

Shin Bet indicated that the three terrorists, two from Jerusalem and one from the West Bank, were recruited by an Al Qaeda terrorist operative based in the Gaza Strip who worked directly for Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The suicide bomb attack on the US embassy was to be part of an audacious plan to conduct simultaneous attacks on three targets in Israel, the other two targets being an Israeli transit bus and a neighborhood in East Jerusalem.

While there have been fears of an Al Qaeda presence in Israel for some time now, this plot is the first indication of actual, active Al Qaeda terrorists inside Israel.

What is particularly upsetting about the aftermath of the takedown of this Al Qaeda cell has been the muted U.S. reaction.

First, in Washington, Obama State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said U.S. investigators and intelligence officials were not yet able to corroborate the Israeli information and declined to comment on specifics of the case. Harf even told reporters, “I don’t have reason to believe it’s not true. I just don’t have independent verification.”

Meanwhile, senior U.S. officials elsewhere, speaking to reporters anonymously, were confirming the plot, while the Obama State Department was essentially giving no comment.

One wonders just exactly what the State Department meant when it said it did not have “independent verification.”

Who would the State Department be looking to for that “independent verification”?

Eventually, the Obama State Department did “acknowledge” the plot and Israel’s arrest of the terrorists, claiming that they had been in touch with the Israelis on the matter for some time.

What has been completely absent from any statement on the matter from the U.S. has been any expression of gratitude toward Israel for breaking up a plot by our sworn enemy, Al Qaeda, to bomb our embassy.

That silence comes just days after President Obama told the New Yorker, that the current Al Qaeda was the “jayvee” team, once again dismissing the threat from jihadist terrorism.

The only strong statement acknowledging Israel’s key role in heading off this Al Qaeda attack came from Illinois Representative Peter Roskam who released the following statement:

“The plot to attack our embassy in Israel reminds us why we must remain vigilant against the continued and evolving threat from Al Qaeda. With the tragic deaths of American personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi still fresh on our minds, the Israeli intelligence community’s work to stop this attack in its tracks once again demonstrates the mutual importance of our close security cooperation with Israel.”

It certainly appears that the Obama administration is actively ignoring this entire event. And no wonder; after all, it’s a bad situation for Obama in three ways:

  1. It indicates that the “on the run,” “jayvee” Al Qaeda that Obama keeps dismissing is still out there plotting against U.S. targets;
  2. Israel, the country Obama seems to dislike and throw under the bus more than any other U.S. ally, came to the rescue;
  3. Israel seems to have done a better job of looking out for the security of our diplomatic personnel and facilities than we have ourselves. It’s too bad that Israel’s security services weren’t in charge of security in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, instead of Hillary Clinton, Obama’s then-secretary of state!

All of this serves as a painful reminder that the U.S. and its allies continue to be the target of the jihadists and that we must remain ever-vigilant.

Most importantly, we must work to maintain close, friendly relations with our allies, such as Israel, who have stood by us for decades.

Is President Obama questioning the loyalty of American Jews?

The Jerusalem Post published an article with a comment allegedly attributable to an Obama White House senior official that has caught the ire of American Jews and Israelis, “US perceives Israel as encouraging anti-Obama backlash among Jews”.  The JP article noted:

A US official close to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry said both men are disturbed over what is being perceived in their inner circle as “Jewish activism in Congress” that they think is being encouraged by the Israeli government, Israel Radio reported on Thursday.

The official has informed Israeli government figures that the president and secretary of state are disappointed over repeated attacks made against them by leading members of the Jewish community in the US.

According to Israel Radio, Israeli diplomats and foreign officers have warned against this trend. According to officials based in foreign missions, the Israeli government is increasingly being viewed as fanning the flames among American Jews by encouraging them to promote the official government position while making no room for opposing viewpoints.

Earlier this month, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon apologized after it was reported that he called Kerry “obsessive” and “messianic.”

In response to this JP report Stuart Kaufman sent an email to me and other colleagues with this comment:

This is dangerously close to the old anti-Semitic accusation of dual loyalty.  We are now on seriously perilous ground.  The rulers of the land are beginning the effort to isolate Jews – to set us apart.  I can’t stress how dangerous this is.  We Jews and those who are our friends must strike back hard.  This serpent can’t be permitted to grow without a major response.

What Kaufman was referring to was the emergence in 19th Century Europe of die Judenfrage, the Jewish question, criticizing Jewish subjects or citizens of being disloyal because of conflicts between nationalism and Zionism; the return of the Jewish people to what is now Israel.  It was from this well of hatred that anti-Semitism arose in the Vienna of the Habsburg Empire, Wilhelmine Germany and the fin de siècle France during the Dreyfus Affair.  It would become transformed into the international Jewish conspiracy forgery of the Czarist secret police, The Elders of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.  Later it becomes embedded in Hitler’s anti-Semitic tract Mein Kampf that lit the match for the Holocaust of Six Million European Jewish Men, Women and Children during World War Two. Mein Kampf is today one of the most popular books in the Arab Muslim world promoted by the Muslim Brotherhood, whose founder Hassan al Banna was an acolyte of Hitler.

Watch this Youtube video of  Julius Streicher, the notorious publisher of the Nazi tabloid Der Sturmer, ranting about Anti-Semitic judenfrage:

In light of that, how callous was this alleged comment from the Senior White House aide in the Administration.  Is the White House really questioning the loyalty of American Jews? Or are the President and Secretary of State simply complaining about Israeli cabinet members and some “American Jews” criticizing them? Are the President and Secretary of State really against Americans, Jews and others, supporting Israel defending its hard won sovereignty against people who would destroy it?

Yesterday, we saw clear evidence of that threat with the World Economic Forum interview of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani by Fareed Zakaria of CNN.  We heard translations of Rouhani  saying he would neither destroy 15,000 centrifuges nor stop building or swap  plutonium producing heavy water reactors at Arak for energy producing light water ones. He was also telling the West that sanctions were illegal.  The Obama White House  Press Spokesman Jay Carney said , in response to  reporters’ questions about President Rouhani’s CNN interview, that  Rouhani’s comments were for domestic consumption back home in Tehran.  AIPAC didn’t think so. They sent out a blast email containing  a link to the CNN interview with Rouhani for its members and others to view.

Rouhani’s CNN interview was a deliberate poke in the eyes of the P5+1 and the denizens of the West Wing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. To warn American Jews they better not defend their Jewish cousins in Israel from this threat was both dangerous and a blatant display of ingratitude towards an ally protecting our assets in the Middle East. Some thanks for Shin Bet saving Amb. Dan Shapiro and his striped pants and skirts brigade in Tel Aviv at the US Embassy and others at the Jerusalem conference center from Al Qaeda attacks orchestrated by Ayman al-Zawahiri’s local henchman in Gaza.  Even peace mongering nonagenarian Israeli President Peres at Davos in response to Rouhani’s interview called  for a boycott of Iran.

Perhaps Members of Congress concerned about these White House follies, both domestic and foreign can express their disdain for accusations like this from the Administration. They could politely sit on their hands and not applaud at the President’s State of the Union Address next Tuesday, the 28th when the President inevitably will do a victory lap about engagement with Iran over its nuclear program.  That would send a visual rebuke captured on national and international TV.  An image that would convey a message that even Iran’s President Rouhani, Foreign Minister Zarif and Supreme Ruler Ayatollah Khamenei wouldn’t require a Farsi translation. The more courageous among US Senate members in the audience of the Joint Session could immediately take up the Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act, S. 1881 and pass it resoundingly next Wednesday.

After this episode we can understand former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ criticism of the mind numbing political apparatchiks in the West Wing inner circle portrayed in his memoir, Duty. Gates has been unfairly maligned by the liberal media reviewers for betraying his trust with the Obama team while Secretary of Defense by releasing his book prior to the end of the President’s term.  In sharp contrast Thomas Ricks published a praiseworthy review of Gates’ memoir, “In Command”, in the New York Times Sunday Book Review.  Note Ricks’ conclusion that provides a measure of the author:

But Gates is doing far more than just scoring points in this revealing volume. The key to reading it is understanding that he was profoundly affected by his role in sending American soldiers overseas to fight and be killed or maimed. During his four years as defense secretary, he states twice, he wept almost every night as he signed letters of condolence and then lay in bed and meditated on the dead and wounded. He was angry and disappointed with White House officials and members of Congress who appeared to him to put political gain ahead of the interests of American soldiers. Fittingly, he concludes the book by revealing that he has requested to be buried in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, the resting place of many of those we lost in Iraq and Afghanistan.

More  than 10,000 American Jews serve in our military.  American Jewish servicemen and women have fought and died in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  Perhaps they are buried in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery that Secretary Gates wrote about in his memoir.  Watch this Forward  Vimeo video about two  valiant American Jews who served honorably and fell  in Iraq and Afghanistan.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.

Gov. Romney Is Correct Cultural Differences Explain Israeli Economic Success

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has stated that Governor Mitt Romney was correct to note, as he did during a fundraiser dinner in Jerusalem, that Israeli culture plays a large part in Israel’s superior economic performance over the Palestinians.

Governor Romney said “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 … As you come here and you see the G.D.P. per capita, for instance, in Israel, which is about $21,000, and compare that with the G.D.P. 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. And that is also between other countries that are near or next to each other. Chile and Ecuador, Mexico and the United States.”

Palestinian Authority (PA) official Saeb Erekat has denounced Governor Romney’s statement as “racist.” Erekat said, “It is a racist statement and this man doesn’t realize that the Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential because there is an Israeli occupation … It seems to me this man lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its people” Ashley Parker & Richard A. Oppel, ‘Romney Trip Raises Sparks at a 2nd Stop,’ New York Times, July 30, 2012).

ZOA National Chairman of the Board Dr. Michael Goldblatt said, “Governor Romney was correct to observe that culture plays a decisive role in economic performance. In particular, he was right to note that this has produced widely divergent results in economic performance between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

“Israel has a culture of private enterprise, competition, innovation and technology and has had it since its earliest days. In contrast, the PA has been bedeviled from its inception with crony capitalism, endemic corruption, distortions of the market and other malpractices which also affect its economy in drastic ways, not least in the loss of foreign investor confidence.”

“Israeli society is characterized by religious, economic and personal freedom. By contrast, the PA is unsafe for political dissidents or religious or sexual minorities. Bethlehem, under PA control since 1995, has seen its traditionally Christian population dwindle to less than 20%. In Hamas-controlled Gaza, there has been an even sharper flight of Christians. And Palestinian gays who wish to live without fear of death or imprisonment often have only one option: refuge in Israel. It makes sense that a society with Israel’s open and broadly liberal culture would be more stable, better educated, attract greater investment and produce more and better goods.

“Palestinian culture is also afflicted with incitement to hatred and murder, glorification of violence and terror. One only has to look at PA TV programs, radio broadcasts and media features to see that it is the terrorist, not the entrepreneur, who is honored. The PA doesn’t name streets, schools and sports teams after scientists and inventors. It names them after suicide bombers and jailed terrorists.

“In the PA, as the ZOA has pointed out on many occasions, a public square, a summer camp for youth, a computer center and several events have been named in honor of Dalal Mughrabi, who led the terrorists who carried out the 1978 coastal road terrorist attack on an Israeli bus, murdering 37, including a dozen children.

Many Americans will recall that Palestinian enthusiasm for terrorism extends beyond Israel to the U.S., as those Americans who saw on their TV screens Palestinians celebrating the 9/11 attacks need no reminder.

“Saeb Erekat claims that Governor Romney’s statement was racist. This is predictably absurd: there was no reference in Governor Romney’s comparison of Israel and the Palestinians to religion or ethnicity, let alone race. He referred to culture, which indeed can make a major difference. A society which aspires to terrorism and ‘martyrdom’ rather than innovation and wealth-creation is going to perform poorly by comparison in the economic sphere.

“Erekat objects that the PA cannot perform well economically because it is under ‘occupation.’ Some people cannot live without alibis and need to blame others for failure, as Erekat does here. But the facts repudiate this shop-worn, opportunistic charge. Before the PA was established – in other words, when the areas now controlled by the PA were under Israeli control – economic growth was steady among Palestinians. Economic performance tapered off immediately after the PA assumed control in 1994, following the Oslo Accords, and all the attendant problems mentioned earlier came into play.”

“Even then, the PA was doing better in the mid-1990s than it was to do after 2000, when it launched a terrorist war against Israel. Naturally, joint projects, Israeli (and much foreign) investment came to a halt and the resultant hostilities destroyed or damaged much infrastructure. You can have war, but rarely can you have war and development. The Israeli economy also suffered from this war but, because of the general soundness of Israel’s economic culture, it recovered much more quickly once Palestinian terrorism was brought under control.”

“On this point, Governor Romney is right and his critics are wrong.”

NOTE: On May 1, 2012 the author returned from a 10 day visit to Israel and observed the vibrant economy and prosperity in the Israeli community he visited.

RELATED COLUMN:

Culture Does Matter by Mitt Romney in the National Review