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Facts and Logic About
the Middle East
P.O. Box 590359
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Do Arabs Have the Culture—and the Society—They Deserve . . . or Do They Want Better?
Dear Friend of FLAME:
Mitt Romney took massive flak---at least from Palestinian leadership and some on the political left---for his observation that Jewish culture is responsible for the island of prosperity and development that Israel represents in the Middle East.
While such a comment grates painfully on the politically correct who believe that all cultures are equal, the facts powerfully support Romney's contention, especially when you expand his analysis to include all of Arab-Muslim culture.
Former Palestinian "peace negotiator" Saeb Erekat delivered the most indignant Arab response to Romney's utterance, blaming the bankruptcy of Palestinian society on---guess who?---Israel and its "occupation" of the West Bank.
Unfortunately for the Arabs, Erekat's retort falls apart upon even a cursory look at Israeli society compared not just with the Palestinian Arabs but with every single Arab nation.
Tiny Israel (population 7.8 million), with few natural resources to compare with the oil wealth of its Arab and Persian neighbors (population 350 million), today outstrips every single one of them in terms of economic, artistic, scientific, medical and technological achievement.
Surely no one believes this superior outcome has been helped by Israel's struggle for security with the Arabs. Indeed, Israel's accomplishments have come despite 60+ years of unrelenting attacks by Arabs intent on destroying the Jewish state.
West Bank-based journalist Hisham Jarallah, writing for the Gatestone Institute last week, astutely noted that,
The Palestinians could have built one of the best economies in the region after the beginning of the peace process in 1993. But instead of using the billions of dollars that were given to them by Americans and Europeans to create new jobs, the PLO leadership stole most of the funds and later blamed Israel for damaging the Palestinian economy.
Suicide bombings and financial and administrative corruption are the main reason why the Palestinian economy remains as weak as ever. The Palestinians are experts in shooting themselves in the foot and then blaming Israel.
In this week's FLAME Hotline article, Rabbi Daniel Gordis provides a stinging rebuke to Saeb Erekat and all those who blame Israel for stagnant Arab societies. An American-Israeli, Gordis dares to confront not only Arab critics of Israel, but also Western leftists, for whom the very notion of cultural superiority is a scandalous and forbidden topic.
I hope you agree that this article helps clarify why Arab culture has failed to keep pace not just with Israeli society, but with the entire rest of the developing world. You'll no doubt find it useful in explaining the situation to friends and colleagues. As usual, I also hope you'll take two minutes to help Israel's cause by passing this week's issue along to your email list. Just use the "send to a friend" button at the bottom of this email and paste in your email list, or use the buttons above to share it via social media.
Thanks for your continued support of FLAME, and thank you for your support of Israel.
Vice President, FLAME
In a world turned upside down by outrageously false Arab propaganda---which contends Israel is responsible for most of the world's ills---FLAME has been fighting with facts and logic to publicize the truth in mainstream media. A great example is our recent hasbarah (public relations) effort published in the wake of the outrageous attempt by CBS's "60 Minutes" to blame the flight of Christians from the West Bank on Israel. We promptly published a refutation, "Why Are Christians Disappearing from the Middle East?," in media reaching more than 10 million people, and delivered it to all U.S. Senators and Representatives. It's one more example of FLAME's determined efforts to tell the truth about the enemies of Israel (and the U.S.). Ask yourself: If FLAME doesn't tell the truth in mainstream media about the Arab persecution of Christians, who else will do it? If you agree that these kinds of outspoken advocacy efforts on behalf of Israel and the U.S. are essential, I urge you to support us. Remember: FLAME's ability to influence public opinion comes from individuals like you, one by one. I hope you'll consider giving a donation now, as you're able---with $500, $250, $100, or even $18. (Remember, your donation to FLAME is tax deductible.) To donate online, just go to http://www.factsandlogic.org/make_a_donation.html. Now more than ever we need your support to ensure that Israel gets the support it needs---from the U.S. Congress, from President Obama, and from the American people.
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A Dose of Nuance: Culture matters, Dr. Erekat
Was Mr. Romney really a "racist" to point out that Israel's success is not an accident?
By Daniel Gordis, Jerusalem Post, August, 16, 2012
Before memories of Mitt Romney's visit to Jerusalem fade for good, it's worth reviewing once again what was perhaps the most discussed moment of his pilgrimage. "As I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation," Romney told a small group assembled with him, "I recognize the power of… culture."
Palestinians and pundits world-over went ballistic. Saeb Erekat, formerly a Palestinian negotiator at Oslo and now adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, complained, "This man doesn't realize that the Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential because there is an Israeli occupation." Not only did Romney not understand the region, he said, but his remarks were "a racist statement." Romney, in fact, was being harder on the Palestinians than even the Israelis were. "He also lacks knowledge about the Israelis themselves," said Erekat. "I have not heard any Israeli official speak about cultural superiority."
Really, Dr. Erekat, no one in Israel is willing to speak about cultural superiority? Well, I'm no Israeli official, but here goes.
There is, indeed, such a thing as cultural superiority, and I, for one, think it's racist to be unwilling to speak about it. It's racist to pretend that you're living up to your potential when you're not. And because I'm no racist, I'll allow myself the liberty of pointing out why you're wrong.
Was Mr. Romney really a "racist" to point out that Israel's success is not an accident? I think not. Israel's economy is the product of an open-minded commitment to education. Israeli education needs to improve, but still, consider the culture of the Middle East. In Egypt, one study suggests, 45 percent of women are illiterate; in Israel the figure is about 4%. Is Egyptian female illiteracy also a result of the occupation? Or is it the result of culture? Am I a racist for pointing to those numbers?
Or consider universities. Israel, a tiny country with a tiny budget, ranks far beyond all Arab and other Muslim countries, including those of the Gulf Arab states like Saudi Arabia, which have virtually limitless assets. In a 2009 ranking of the world's top universities, the Hebrew University ranked No. 102 (shortly thereafter, it climbed to No. 57 on the strength of an award received by a professor of mathematics), Tel Aviv University was No. 114, and the Technion (Israel's equivalent of MIT) ranked 132.
Yet in contrast, in that same study, there was not a single university in any Muslim country anywhere that made it into the top 250. King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Saudi Arabia ranked highest among them at 266, and it was followed by the National University of Sciences and Technology in Pakistan… at No. 350!
Others are ranked far lower. Is the failure of the Muslim world (parts of which have no budgetary constraints at all) to produce even one single worldclass university the result of the occupation? Or is this a matter of culture? Is one a racist to point this out?
Or what about Fareed Zakaria, himself a Muslim, who had this to say: "In the last 50 years, the West progressed and parts of the non-Western world also began modernizing… [But] the Arab world stayed stuck in primitive political and social arrangements. Arab politics is not culturally unique; it is just stuck in a time warp." Is Zakaria a Muslim racist?
And then there's Bernard Lewis, probably the greatest living scholar of the Middle East, who has argued that claiming that the backwardness of Arab societies is the result of Western imperialism is no longer convincing: "Many regions have undergone the impact of the West and suffered a similar loss of economic self-sufficiency, of cultural authenticity, and in some parts also of political independence. But some time has passed since Western domination ended in all these regions, including the Middle East. In some of them, notably in east and south Asia, the resurgent peoples of the region have begun to meet and beat the West on its own terms – in commerce and industry, in the projection of political and even military power, and, in many ways most remarkable of all, in the acceptance and internalization of Western achievement, notably in science. The Middle East still lags behind."
I guess you'll claim that Lewis is also a racist? Dr. Erekat, not every criticism leveled at you or at the Palestinians is racist.
Some of it is just, well, true. Obviously, living under Israeli rule doesn't help.
But if I were advising you, here's what I'd suggest. Stop trying to figure out how to destroy Israel. It's not going to work, and it's just going to mire all of us in endless, painful conflict. Instead of trying to destroy us, admit it – you'd like to be like us. You, too, would like to see your people thrive after its losses in 20th century. You, too, would like your people to have a democratic, economically robust, independent country.
So do what we did. Treasure your heritage, but open yourselves up to the wisdom of the West. Honor your traditions, but make space for women at the top echelons of your society.
Stay out of people's bedrooms and let them make their own decisions about how to live their lives. Create a free press, and guarantee freedom of association.
Stop jailing people for what they think or write. Outlaw family honor killing, and when it happens, instead of looking the other way, arrest the perpetrators and throw away the key. Stop terrorizing Christians (who are among your best-educated citizens) in Bethlehem.
This isn't racism. It's just honesty.
You don't help the Palestinians when you accuse everyone who's critical of you of being a racist. You just avoid dealing with the hard work of nationbuilding.
The Palestinians need to decide that they want to escape the rut into which Islam has slid, and instead, to lead the way toward a renewed, open and moderate form of your ancient tradition.
We Jews have done it, and are still working at it, and you could, too.
You want to end the occupation? State publicly, in Arabic: the Jews have a right to a state, and the Palestinians will live next door to them in peace, seeking not to destroy them, but to emulate them.
Do that, and the next time Romney comes to town, he'll see plenty on your side of the line to praise. Until then, please don't call us racist. Just get to work and build your society. If you're interested, by the way, my new book has lots more to say about this. Drop me a brief email, and I'll happily send you a copy.
I'll even write you a nice inscription.
For, after all, I'm really not a racist.
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