The media is accusing Mitt Romney of having committed another “gaffe” abroad — this time when he suggested that cultural differences help explain why the Israelis are so much more economically successful than Palestinians.
One small problem with that: What Romney said was not a gaffe. He was absolutely right.
In reporting the so-called gaffe, the New York Times explained that Romney simply does not understand that the Palestinians’ economic problems are all Israel’s fault: “The Palestinians have long complained that their economy is in a chokehold from Israeli security measures,” the Times declared, adding “The West Bank is subject to trade restrictions imposed by the Israelis, while Gaza was subject to a near-total Israeli blockade on people and goods after Hamas took control of its government five years ago. Mr. Romney mentioned neither during his speech on Monday.”
But these security measures are the direct result of culture — the culture of terrorism that permeates the Palestinian territories. In 2009, the Pew Global Attitudes Project showed support for suicide bombing on the decline across the Muslim world, with just one lonely exception: the Palestinian territories: “[M]ajorities or pluralities among eight of the nine Muslim publics surveyed this year say that suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilians can never be justified to defend Islam; only in the Palestinian territories does a majority endorse such attacks.” [Emphasis added].
According to Pew, a full 68 percent of Palestinian Muslims support suicide bombing, while just 17 percent say it is never justified. That is in contrast to Pakistan, where just 5 percent expressed support for suicide bombing, while 87 percent said it was never justified. Think about that: The Palestinian territories are so radicalized, they make Pakistan seem like an oasis of peace and moderation in the Muslim world.
Palestinians were also the only other people surveyed (besides Nigerians) where a majority expressed support for Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden had the support of 52 percent of Muslims in the Palestinian territories, down from 72 percent in 2003. What progress!
It should comes as little surprise then, that when Palestinians went to the polls five years ago, they voted a terrorist network — Hamas — into power in Gaza. Even the Times admits that the “near-total Israeli blockade of Gaza” occurred “after Hamas took control.” Israelis have taken the necessary steps to prevent the suicide bombers that a majority of Palestinians support from entering Israel and killing innocent people. The resulting “chokehold” on the Palestinian economy is the fault, not of Israel, but of a Palestinian culture that prioritizes terror over prosperity and peace.
Another difference in culture that contributes to the economic vitality gap between Israelis and the Palestinians is the culture of corruption in the Palestinian territories. A poll this year by a Palestinian NGO, the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center (JMCC), revealed that 82.3 percent of Palestinians said there was corruption in the Palestinian government. If the vast majority of Palestinians recognize that their government is corrupt, then it is no that shock foreign investors and international donors see that corruption as well — and are reluctant to pour good money in a society when they know that officials will simply steal it.
The culture of corruption in the Palestinian territories is abetted by a culture of political repression. In a free society, people have the liberty to speak openly and call out public officials for wrongdoing. But most Palestinians say they do not enjoy this kind of liberty. According to the JMCC survey, 55.2 percent of Palestinians say freedom of opinion in Palestinian society is permissible to little or very little extent. Only 29.7 percent said it is permissible to a large or very large extent.
Freedom House reports in its latest annual survey that in Gaza “[j]ournalists were harassed, detained, and summoned for questioning by security forces,” that “Freedom of religion is restricted,” the “judicial system is not independent,” and that “[s]ecurity forces and militants continued to carry out arbitrary arrests and detentions.” Not exactly a recipe for economic prosperity.
Of course, Mitt Romney did not get into any of this in his Jerusalem speech. He focused instead on extolling Israel’s culture of entrepreneurship and economic freedom. Citing books such as Harvard professor David Landes’ “The Wealth and Poverty of Nations” and Dan Senor’s “Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle,” Romney talked about “the cultural elements that have led Israel to become a nation that has begun so many businesses and so many enterprises and that … become so successful.”
Next door, by contrast, is a would-be nation with culture of repression, a culture of corruption and a culture of terrorism — a place where a majority say suicide bombing is fine, Osama bin Laden was great, corruption is rampant, free speech is non-existent, and voters cast their ballots for a terrorist government in Gaza.
Never mind all that, we are told, Romney has it wrong — culture has nothing to do with it. Another Romney gaffe.
Sorry, what Mitt Romney said in Israel was not a gaffe. It was the truth.