Saturday, January 12, 2013

12-Jan-13: Like an alien planet

This post is triggered by a handful of news reports this past week that got us thinking.

Imagine you came down from another planet and learned, for the first time, about a people who claim their national path to autonomy and self-fulfillment requires honoring the cold-blooded murderers who are central to their historical tradition (a certain neighbourhood politician did this recently; we posted about him on Thursday: "11-Jan-13: When pundits or commentators next tell us Israel must relax its anti-terrorism measures, here is what they are hiding or ignoring").

Imagine further that this people credits its strength and resilience to the fact that it belongs to a mighty and united brotherhood of nations (see Fayyad: "We plead with our brothers etc"). Imagine, as well, that this nation blames all of its suffering on the efforts of one hated and specific other people.

But you have not just arrived  from another planet. And you are visiting this site. So chances are you understand we mean the Palestinian Arabs.

Good, because now it's time to think about cognitive dissonance.

Why? Because the war of terrorism conducted by the Arabs in our part of the world has been an existential factor for generations, reaching well back into the nineteenth century. Explanations for why it continues well into the twenty-first century are not in short supply. But on the whole we think they baffle more than they clarify. In a few brief paragraphs, here's how we come to that view.

First, let's note how closely tied the Palestinian Arabs are by genes, marriage and blood to the world's most super-wealthy statelets and countries. Plainly, this has failed to generate anything like the kind of spill-over prosperity one might conceivably expect. The misery of most Palestinian Arabs is visible and manifest. Understanding why this is so seems to depend on where you stand on the political and social spectra, though really (we say) it should not.

In terms of charitable donations and aid given to them during the past decade at least (see reports by the authoritative US Insitute of Peace and Wikipedia), they are the single largest per capita recipients of international development assistance in the world. This is a non-trivial observation, in an era in which oceans of money are fed into global aid programs. Yet those torrents of cash pouring into the always-open, Palestinian Arab collective palm never ever seem to make any impact on their lack of resources, industry,  basic facilities and upwards-traction. The money has failed to create industrial parks, scientific centers or even impactful writers who have managed to rise about the morass. Foreign aid does not seem to alleviate any of the disadvantage and profound national unhappiness that, as anyone who reads Palestinian self-promotions knows, goes on and on and on and on. (But never say it lacks an effect. Effects it certainly does have.)

Pan-Arab conferences and initiatives based on the theme of "the Palestinians are our brothers" keep happening. Yet the funding of the one, single, most important means of keeping their bodies and souls together - we refer to UNRWA - continues to be provided overwhelmingly by... non-Arab sources. When you ponder that for a moment, it's simply incredible. We quoted the actual numbers in a our blog nearly a year ago (see "20-Feb-12: Strategically, what is the most striking aspect of Israel's response to the ceaseless rocket attacks from that nest of terrorist vipers, the Gaza Strip?"). We wrote at that time:
If UNRWA's work is so important, if it brings us closer to peace, if it restores dignity to the lives of dispossessed and destitute Arabs, then why, when you look at the top twenty list of donors to this agency that exists entirely from donations do you see that only one is Arab? In 2010, the most recent year for which we can find reliable data, that Arab donation (Islamic Development Bank) comes in at number 19. Australia gave three times as much... [more]
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was created by Britain, and was known officially as the Emirate of Transjordan right up until 1951. That was roughly the time it massively expanded its borders with the military capture of almost all the land that the Palestinian Authority today claims to be its ancient patrimony. Today's Jordan has 6.2 million people, according to World Bank 2011 figures. More than half of those Jordanians are Palestinian Arabs by their own reckoning. (Just in case you missed the point: the country is statistically half Palestinian.)


Huge numbers of Palestinian Arabs have fallen victim to the vicious Arab-on-Arab bloodbath underway in Syria today and for the past 20 months. An op ed in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz noted in April 2012 that Jordan had just admitted some 100,000 Syrian refugees into its territory as a humanitarian gesture - exactly the sort of thing that brothers do for each other.

But it goes on to note that Jordan had refused to admit more than 1,000 Palestinian Arabs stranded on the Syria-Jordan border, a small part of the estimated 500,000 Palestinian Arabs living in Syria. The author wrote ["Palestinians are not wanted in Jordan"] that
"Clearly the last thing the rulers of Jordan want is for them to come streaming into Jordan". 
This was no momentary act of insanity. His stunning conclusion is validated by an article [here] focusing on Jordan's current prime minister Abdullah Ensour who said this past Thursday in an interview with the London-based Arab daily al-Hayat, about as clearly as one brother can say to the another, that
Jordan will not allow Palestinian refugees fleeing Syria to enter the kingdom, for fear that doing so would encourage Israel to deport Palestinians to Jordan... Our Palestinian brothers in Syria have rights in their country of origin, and they should remain there until the crisis is over... Jordan is not the place to solve Israel’s problems. Jordan has taken a sovereign and explicit decision not to allow Palestinians carrying Syrian [travel] documents to enter Jordan... [more]
So you'll say the Jordanian's principles are plainly self-serving. But let's agree you have to admire his determination and single-mindedness. Even a report from Al Jazeera some weeks ago that
a PLO official said more than 700 Palestinians have been killed in Syria's violence
failed to shake either his principled resolve or that of his Hashemite regime colleagues. What, after all, are 700 lives, even the lives of your own brethren, when there's a lofty principle at stake? (Sorry for the deep cynicism, but how else are civilized people to understand the motivations behind such a policy?)

Can we touch again on this strange issue of financial aid to Arabs from Arab sources? Here the story gets to be even more 'uplifting'. In a touching report, Al Arabiya said on Friday that
Saudi King Abdullah has ordered the spending of $10 million on Syrian refugees in Jordan... The kingdom pledging aids to Syrians came after the United Nations issued an urgent appeal for funds to help refugees in the northern Jordanian camp of Zaatari, home to 30,000 refugees, which was almost entirely flooded on Wednesday, with residents battling mud and sub-zero temperatures... More than 600,000 Syrian refugees have fled to neighboring countries exposed to the storm. Many in Lebanon and Jordan were forced to move after their tents were flooded.
No one needs to tell us that $10M is not the sort of money that grows on trees, and we're sure those freezing in the tents of Jordan appreciate it enormously. Even so, as Wikipedia points out, some of them might recall that Abdullah has a personal worth of $21 billion. That's billion with a 'b'. Perhaps there's a principle at work there too. But if so, it's not so obvious to us.

The Palestinian government in Ramallah understands the roots of its ongoing poverty and the yawning gap between the capabilities of their Arab cousins and their results that arrive in their Ramallah mail box. This December 2012 news report notes 
Arab countries agreed in their Baghdad summit for an Arab safety net of $100 million dollars each month [for the Ramallah government], but unfortunately none of this has been achieved yet... Palestinian were cheered by a strong majority in the U.N. recognizing them as an "observer state," but have struggled to get Arab support to make up $100 million in shortfalls left by Israeli sanctions following the U.N. move [more].   
Concerning that "hated people" trope we mentioned above, we want to mention some minor reports from this week's news. Soldiers of an explicitly-religious IDF battalion called Netzah Yehuda (part of the army's Kfir brigade) undertook a rescue operation in the fierce winter storm that has been affecting this area all week. This happened on Wednesday, and resulted in three Palestinian Arab men being rescued before the fierce currents washed them away near the Nablus River where they were among several carloads of people stranded with their drivers trapped in a constantly intensifying current. Ynet says "The storm was too severe for helicopters to arrive at the scene, and the battalion commander resorted to utilizing a Palestinian's tractor that was passing by." The company commander is interviewed [here] on how - not why, since every Israeli understands why you try to save a drowning person - his men accomplished the rescue. You can see some video coverage of the rescue here and (for Hebrew speakers) here. Also in this past week's unusually stormy weather, IDF soldiers rescued a school bus carrying 30 Palestinian Arab children near the PA-controlled city of Jenin [report].

For some inexplicable reason, Maan, a Palestinian news agency that seems to be on top of almost everything happening over here, missed these news items.

But we understand: rescuing people in danger is not the kind of thing that gets other people to change their deeply ingrained prejudices. We're not suggesting they happen (or are reported) for their political effect. They simply happen to be part of the mosaic of mundane life events in this turbulent part of the world. But what to us is extraordinary is they way they get inverted by people with hostile agendas (small examples here and here) to stand for something wicked.

So we think it's valid to occasionally point readers to websites like Israel21CKeren Malki and Save a Child's Heart, among many others, that throw some light on the essentially one-way nature of Arab feelings of revulsion, and gives them a context. At the same time, we're not embarrassed to remind readers yet again that when Palestinian Arabs are in mortal danger, as we mentioned above concerning Syria, the general Arab reaction, and the specifically Jordanian reaction (another reminder: more than half of the Jordanians call themselves Palestinians) is nothing less than astonishing.

Sometimes you get the sense that all of this must be taking place on another planet where people think and act in ways that are totally strange and incomprehensible to the rest of us. Welcome to the Arab/Israel conflict and this ongoing war.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nobody likes us