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Facts and Logic About
the Middle East
P.O. Box 590359
San Francisco, CA 94159
(415) 356-7801


February 23, 2010

What is being done to help the 'poor' Palestinians . . . and what role is Israel playing?

Dear Friend of FLAME:

Radical leftists from the U.S., the U.K. and other Western nations charter ships in their (so far unsuccessful) attempts to run the Israeli blockade of Gaza, claiming that the Palestinians are victims of a humanitarian crisis imposed by Israel. Of course, the media cover the stunt widely.

We also read press reports referring to high unemployment and poverty among the Palestinians, especially within the so-called "refugee camps," and especially in Hamas-controlled Gaza.

These reports do not, however, bother to report the reasons for the blockade, the unemployment and the poverty.  They do not mention that the root causes of these conditions are the open, ongoing war waged by Hamas against Israel, the refusal of West Bank-based Fatah to negotiate peace with Israel, and the use by Palestinian authorities of hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to purchase weapons and support militias, instead of to invest in industrial development.

Instead the press blames Israel for the Palestinians' troubles.  Time and again, we see the tendency of liberals to treat the Palestinians like noble savages who don't mean it when they say they want to push the Jews into the sea, who are not responsible for their fate when for 60 long years they have refused to recognize the Jewish state, and who despite more than 2,000 years of Jewish history in the holy land, still claim they are victims of Jewish colonialist invaders.

Forget the fact that the blockade was set up to prevent the shipment of weaponry and weapon-building materials into Gaza and that Israel has already detected many arms-bearing vessels and turned them away.  Forget the fact that Israel allows shipments of tons of food and other materials into Gaza.  Forget the fact that Gaza's food markets are full of supplies and thriving. 

Forget the fact, too, as is highlighted in this week's FLAME Hotline, that Israel itself is helping nurture the Palestinian economy in the West Bank.  The incisive and revelatory article below, by Tom Gross, former Middle East Correspondent for the (London) Sunday Telegraph, dispels many of the false myths about the economic condition of the Palestinian territories and Israel's helpful role it preparing them for possible statehood---without pressure or meddling from the Obama administration.

Please review this piece and forward it on to friends and colleagues. 

Am Yisrael chai!  Long live the people Israel!

Best regards,

Jim Sinkinson
Director, FLAME


Have you seen the latest FLAME hasbarah message? It's titled "Myths About Israel and the Middle East (I): Do the media feed us fiction, instead of fact?" This piece tells the truth about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians---about the Palestinian claim to the Holy Land, about the so-called occupation, about the myth that Jewish settlements are an obstacle to peace. I hope you'll review it and pass it on to friends. If you agree that FLAME's outspoken brand of public relations on Israel's behalf is critical, I urge you to support us. 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 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.

P.P.S. President Obama has asked for input from U.S. citizens on his Middle East policies.  To give him your opinion about Israel's need to continue the blockade around Gaza and the need stop pressuring Israel to make more concessions, please write the President---immediately.

Building peace without Obama's interference: A promising, independent Palestine is quietly being developed, with Israeli assistance
By Tom Gross, The Wall Street Journal, December 3, 2009

It is difficult to turn on a TV or radio or pick up a newspaper these days, without finding some pundit or other deploring the dismal prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace or the dreadful living conditions of the Palestinians. Even supposedly neutral news reporters regularly repeat this sad tale. "Very little is changing for the Palestinian people on the ground," I heard BBC World Service Cairo correspondent Christian Fraser tell listeners three times in a 45 minute period the other evening.

In fact nothing could be further from the truth. I had spent that day in the West Bank's largest city, Nablus. The city is bursting with energy, life and signs of prosperity, in a way I have not previously seen in many years of covering the region.

As I sat in the plush office of Ahmad Aweidah, the suave British-educated banker who heads the Palestinian Securities Exchange, he told me that the Nablus stock market was the second best-performing in the world so far in 2009, after Shanghai. (Aweidah's office looks directly across from the palatial residence of Palestinian billionaire Munib al-Masri, the wealthiest man in the West Bank.)

Later I met Bashir al-Shakah, director of Nablus's gleaming new cinema, where four of the latest Hollywood hits were playing that day. Most movies were sold out, he noted, proudly adding that the venue had already hosted a film festival since it opened in June.


Wandering around downtown Nablus the shops and restaurants I saw were full. There were plenty of expensive cars on the streets. Indeed I counted considerably more BMWs and Mercedes than I've seen, for example, in downtown Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

And perhaps most importantly of all, we had driven from Jerusalem to Nablus without going through any Israeli checkpoints. The government of Benjamin Netanyahu has removed them all since the Israeli security services (with the encouragement and support of President George W. Bush) were allowed, over recent years, to crush the intifada, restore security to the West Bank and set up the conditions for the economic boom that is now occurring. (There was one border post on the return leg of the journey, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, but the young female guard just waved me and the two Palestinians I was traveling with, through.)

The shops and restaurants were also full when I visited Hebron recently, and I was surprised to see villas comparable in size to those on the Cote d'Azur or Bel Air had sprung up on the hills around the city. Life is even better in Ramallah, where it is difficult to get a table in a good restaurant. New apartment buildings, banks, brokerage firms, luxury car dealerships and health clubs are to be seen. In Qalqilya, another West Bank city that was previously a hotbed of terrorists and bomb-makers, the first ever strawberry crop is being harvested in time to cash in on the lucrative Christmas markets in Europe. Local Palestinian farmers have been trained by Israeli agriculture experts and Israel supplied them with irrigation equipment and pesticides.


A new Palestinian city, Ruwabi, is to be built soon north of Ramallah. Two weeks ago, the Jewish National Fund, an Israeli charity, helped plant 3,000 tree seedlings for a forested area the Palestinian planners say they would like to develop on the edge of the new city. Israeli experts are also helping the Palestinians plan public parks and other civic amenities.

Outsiders are beginning to take note of the turnaround too. The official PLO Wafa news agency reported last week that the 3rd quarter of 2009 witnessed near record tourism in the Palestinian Authority, with 135,939 overnight hotel stays in 89 hotels that are now open. Almost half the guests come from the U.S or Europe.

Palestinian economic growth so far this year — in a year dominated by economic crisis elsewhere — has been an impressive 7 percent according to the IMF, though Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad, himself a former World Bank and IMF employee, says it is in fact 11 percent, partly helped along by strong economic performances in neighboring Israel.


In Gaza too, the shops and markets are crammed with food and goods — see for example, these photos from last Friday's Palestine Today newspaper about the Eid celebrations in Gaza. These are not the pictures you are ever likely to see on the BBC or Le Monde or The New York Times. No, Gaza is not like a "concentration camp," nor is the "humanitarian crisis in Gaza on the scale of Darfur," as British journalist Lauren Booth (who is also Tony Blair's sister-in-law) has said.

In June, The Washington Post's Jackson Diehl related how Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had told him why he had turned down Ehud Olmert's offer last year to create a Palestinian state on 97 percent of the West Bank (with three percent of pre-1967 Israeli land being added to make up the shortfall). "In the West Bank we have a good reality," Abbas told Diehl. "The people are living a normal life," he added with a candor he rarely employs when addressing Western journalists.

Nablus stock exchange head Ahmad Aweidah went further in explaining to me why there is no rush to declare statehood, saying ordinary Palestinians need the IDF to help protect them from Hamas, as their own security forces aren't ready to do so by themselves yet.


The truth is that an independent Palestine is now quietly being built, with Israeli assistance. So long as the Obama administration and European politicians don't clumsily meddle as they have in the past and make unrealistic demands for the process to be completed more quickly than it can be, I am confident the outcome will be a positive one. (The last time an American president — Bill Clinton in 2000 — tried to hurry things along unrealistically, it merely resulted in blowing up in everybody's faces — literally — and set back hopes for peace by some years.)

Israelis and Palestinians may never agree on borders that will satisfy everyone. But that doesn't mean they won't live in peace. Not all Germans and French agree who should control Alsace Lorraine. Poles and Russians, Slovenes and Croats, Britons and Irish, and peoples all over the world, have border disputes. But that doesn't keep them from coexisting with one another. Nor — so long as partisan journalists and human rights groups don't mislead Western politicians into making bad decisions — will it prevent Israelis and Palestinians from doing so.

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