Saturday, August 4, 2012

Romney-esque reflections

Dr. Hatim Kanaaneh 

I am struck dumb by the precision and astuteness of Mitt Romney’s observation about the regressive nature of Palestinian culture. Of course, he addressed the subject only tangentially in explaining the obvious: that the difference between the Israeli and Palestinian economies is the result of cultural differences. His formula applies to a wider range of phenomena.

When I first read it, I struggled with the deeper anti-Semitic nuance of the statement. Attributing economic success to Jews on the basis of ingrained cultural traits could well bring ruination on the head of someone like Barack Obama, known for his lack of purity when it comes to race. After all, the man’s mere looks, not to mention his full name, evoke echoes of deep-seated racial intolerance and gut-level sentiments to do with doctrinaire narrow religious beliefs. And now his supporters have come up with a genealogical rumor linking him to the first slave in the USA so as to harp on everyone’s heartstrings and gain their sympathy. None of that is going to wipe away his Islamic and Arab roots, believe me.

Not Romney! To him a spade is a f…ing spade. Palestinians are cultural retards, period. Why else would they refuse the enlightening influence of the only democracy in the Middle East and resist the benign embrace of the most moral army in the world? They insist on keeping their cave dwellings in the South Hebron Hills when right next to them Israelis are building spacious villas and modern high rises. What greater evidence of cultural deprivation do we need?

Or take those Palestinian Bedouins in the Negev: For years the Israelis have afforded them the luxury of enlisting in their armed forces. Yet, despite years of patient and concerted efforts at their modernization through the role models of their Jewish commanders, they still insist on returning to their primitive place of residence in the desert. In the village of El‘araqeeb for example, Israel has extended to them the services of its most efficient demolition crews and equipment on credit for a total of over three-dozen times to no avail. They still go back and rebuild their hovels on the same grounds claiming that their fathers and mothers and their ancestors before them are buried there. It is enough to make one wonder who those barbarians think their dead are! Kabbalistic mystics or Hasidic holy men or what? Whose land is this anyway? Not only no culture but also no shame! No civilized historical perspective whatsoever!

And if that were not enough, take the recent news article by Zafrir Rinat entitled “Ecological Occupation” in Haaretz for example (which I fail to locate for you online!) It opens with the statement that “In the last two years, Jewish settlers in the West Bank have made a concerted PR effort to showcase their commitment to the environment.” So, how do the Palestinians in their ignorance react when such magnanimous neighbors as the NGO Green Now and the municipality of Ariel beseech them to “separate the environment from politics” and invite them to lay their belligerence aside and attend a conference entitled “Environment Without Borders?” As expected, they react by “preferring to hurt their citizens,” as our Minister of Environmental Protection points out. They simply do not participate. Had they attended they would have learned a simple fact or two such as the main conclusion presented at the conference “that Israeli settlement activity … has less of an environmental impact on the Palestinian Authority than the PA has on the environment in general and on Israeli settlements in particular.”

Believe me, it is impossible to help people lacking in culture. Here I am speaking of the same deficient culture that leads to economic poverty that Romney pointed out. Some of us, successful Israelis residing in Israel proper, having put up with the sullying of our Samaria and Judea by the continued presence of so many Palestinians in it, when we try and help some of them escape economic deprivation by hiring them “to dispose of solid or construction waste on public lands,” we get blamed for it even when we go so far as to help them smuggle it across the Green Line. Or on occasion when “The cost of the race to put facts on the ground by Israeli settlement activity was paid by nature,” such as in the prominent case of Ofra where “Currently, the state is trying to authorize a wastewater treatment facility built recently without permits on private Palestinian land,” we wind up having to put up with all the Palestinian whining.

To look at it with Romney’s clear-eyed vision, it is all there in black and white: What do you expect from a culturally deprived invented people in the first place? Why should environmentally aware people like us expect cooperation from the Palestinians? First, you need a culture that values cleanliness. Not the Palestinians, Romney knows.

Dr. Hatim Kanaaneh is a Palestinian doctor who has worked for over 35 years to bring medical care to Palestinians in Galilee, against a culture of anti-Arab discrimination. He is the author of the book A Doctor in Galilee: The Life and Struggle of a Palestinian in Israel.

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