Racism is reprehensible, and people of good will are right to reject it whenever it rears its ugly head. In like manner, we should also recoil every time someone levels spurious accusations of racism at political opponents when no such racism exists.
In his trip to Israel, presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney noted that the the average Israeli has a per capita GDP of $21,000, compared to the per capita GDP of just $10,00 for the average Palistinian. He attributed the difference to “culture and a few other things.”
“It is a racist statement” to give voice to that conclusion, according to Palestinian official Saeb Erekat. If it is, there is no evidence that it is. Why should anyone conclude that “culture” is synonymous with “race?” And would Mr. Erekat have us believe there are no significant differences between Palestinian and Israeli culture?
Certainly Mr. Erekat can’t argue with Mr. Romney’s numbers. Other reports maintain that the disparity between Israeli and Palestinian economic performance is much broader than Mr. Romney suggested – $31,000 in Israeli per capita GDP, compared to just $1,500 per capita among the Palestinians. These are hard facts, and hard facts are incapable of being racist.
So how, then, does Erekat account for the chasm between Israeli and Palestinian economic performance? Apparently, it’s all Israel’s fault.
“The Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential,” Erekat maintains, “because there is an Israeli occupation.” This same unrelenting hatred of Israel is what fueled Palestinian outrage when Governor Romney rightfully acknowledged Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The Palestinian Authority refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist, which has created a national culture of bitterness and resentment. That kind of cultural toxicity is bound to contribute to the negative economic consequences that Governor Romney described.
Compare that to Israel, which built the first representative democracy in the Middle East while surrounded by neighbors who would like nothing more than to wipe them off the face of the earth. What does it take to thrive under those kind of adverse circumstances? It takes a culture of economic resilience and a great deal of courage, one that fosters a sense of individual responsibility that rejects the call to blame someone else for failures and setbacks. Were the Palestinians willing to imitate the positive aspects of Israeli culture and adopt similar economic principles, they would no doubt produce similar results.
Instead, they resort to calling Mitt Romney a racist. That’s entirely unfounded, and it certainly doesn’t do the Palestinians, the Israelis, or the rest of the world any good.