The more the left recognizes that their traditional base of Jewish and pro-Israel support is rapidly eroding, the more shrilly they cry foul. The rules of the game haven’t changed, nor have the players. Americans overwhelmingly support the state of Israel and its efforts to defend itself from terror; Moral clarity has always been a litmus test for leaders, and those who fail at it are all too eager to decry this or that as taboo.
So it was small wonder that Thomas Friedman, the formidable American Olympian in the field of mental gymnastics, attempted to explain why Mitt Romney’s trip to Israel this week was not the smashing success that it appeared to be. The Republicans, you see, are making Israel into a wedge issue (which is, naturally, totally out of bounds when it’s not being done by the left).
That doesn’t work with voters; elections are all about choices and contrast, and Romney has credibly staked his ground as the pro-Israel candidate not because he has deviated drastically from the standard American position, but because Barack Obama has, for four years.
Friedman criticizes Romney for not taking the time to visit Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian authority, on his trip to Israel, his implication being that Romney should have more equally distributed his attention between one of America’s closest allies and strategic partners, and the non-nation next door, so that he could have better paid undue credence to the corrupt, anti-American thug du jour, who is nominally leading the Palestinian people whilst redirecting international funds to questionable uses, and showing a disconcerting penchant for terror; er- sorry – rather so that he could have advanced the “peace process”. Never mind the fact that his time would have been better and more fruitfully spent at a game of water polo with the corpses of Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin.
Here’s hoping that Obama, who couldn’t be bothered to set foot in Israel whilst jet setting across the entire Middle East bowing to the whims of fascists and vacillating with murderers, picks up the same line of attack as Friedman has.
It is no wonder that Friedman has his tzizit (religious Jewish undergarment) in a knot. He can’t, for the life of him, understand why his coreligionists won’t just shut up and eat whatever the left says is good for them, because he’s missed the entire point of the Romney trip.
Romney wasn’t there to hum and haw and equivocate with terrorists in the name of balance; he flew to Israel to tell the truth, and in doing so, draw contrast between himself and the man currently passing sleepless nights on Pennsylvania Avenue.
With Iran and its proxies playing a dangerous game of chicken with the United States, with the fate of the world’s only Jewish state hanging in the balance, and with China and Russia watching, for now, from the sidelines, less equivocation and more moral clarity is just what the doctor ordered.
Thousands of massacred Syrians stand silent testimony to the evil that can be visited upon a world where America does nothing, while maniacs murder with the impunity granted them by their totalitarian allies on the Security Council. This is happening in our world, on our watch, once again, and it’s happening right next door to Israel. So Jews are right to sweat, and are doubly right to be impressed by a man who is willing to tell the truth about the situation, no matter how impolitic.
Enter Romney, and his comments that cultural differences largely account for the prosperity gap between Israel and the Palestinian territories. That Thomas Friedman regards this as a gaffe speaks more to Friedman’s ignorance than Romney’s. With gaffes like that, Romney will gaffe his way soundly to the white house.
Take for example, this headline from Wednesday’s Toronto Star:
The article details how the woman had been regularly beaten by her husband for a decade, and was killed in public after attempting to divorce him. The article explains that violence against women is on the rise, in part because “abusers don’t fear punishment.” It also reveals that, despite the police being fully aware of the beatings, “[her husband] was never arrested. Police only made him sign pledges he would stop hitting his wife.”
Contrast that with Israeli society, where women enjoy full protection and equal rights over the law, and accounted for 51.3% of the workforce in 2008, and one begins to see where Romney’s claim takes root.
To make the claim that the rule of law as a cultural staple contributes to a healthy GDP is not outlandish, it’s basic economics (which apparently do not terribly concern the Obama camp, but I digress).
Moreover, as best-selling author George Gilder points out in his 2009 book The Israel Test, Palestinian society, particularly in Gaza, operates as a violent racket, underwritten by foreign aid; what the House Foreign Affairs Committee has referred to as a “chronic kleptocracy.”
That is to say that, in contrast to Israel’s relatively and increasingly free market, if you built a Palestinian business, you really didn’t build that. Palestinians are the largest per capita recipients of international aid in the world, and it’s the crooks in charge that dole out all that cash, none too generously. Good luck building any private enterprise in a market flooded with international welfare, where the corrupt (at best) leadership has a strangle hold on every industry.
There is no freedom of press. There is no freedom of speech. There is no freedom of association. There no choice, but the choice to stand by the ruling class, or to be cut off from the sole source of income available to you and yours, assuming that some heinous violence doesn’t find you first.
But Friedman, like other apologists for the deplorable way that Palestinian political and social culture has been contrived to crush any entrepreneurial spirit, prefers to position just about anything else as the reason for Israel’s success relative to their neighbours.
He goes as far as to credit the influx of Russian brain-power (leaving one to wonder if he understands why those same Russians fled communism for the free-market culture enjoyed in Israel in the first place) before finally reverting to form, and blaming Israeli occupation.
There exists any number of readily available refutations to this tired trope, my personal favourite being the striking similarities between Palestinian anemic growth and that of other nations who share their cultural tendencies, but not their excuse of “Israeli occupation.”
It is, however, expedient, in this case, to humour Friedman’s line of thinking.
Suppose that it is the Israeli occupation that accounts for weak economic performance of Palestinians. Is it, then, Friedman’s assertion that the occupation exists at the behest of trigger-happy ideologues in the Israeli government, who simply enjoy wasting vast amounts of resources policing the Palestinian population? Based on his past writings, and his admission this week that he’s still unsure that the Palestinians can be trusted as a partner for peace, one would think not.
Rather, reason would indicate, as Marc A. Thiessen so eloquently did in the pages of the Washington Post, “these security measures are the direct result of culture — the culture of terrorism that permeates the Palestinian territories”. The same rulers who control all enterprise in the Palestinian economy certainly condone terror, if they’re not too busy actively supporting it. The self-same rulers who are now crying foul over Romney’s comments.
They name parks and squares after murderers. They teach hatred of Jews in their elementary schools, and run summer camps that promote hateful ideology, and in many cases look more like terrorist training camps.
As all of this is paid for with American aid dollars, it is not only fair, it is imperative, for the next President of the United States to name and shame this culture as the leading obstacle to prosperity.
The leader of the free world should be unafraid to tell the truth, no matter how much the cacophony of assorted villains from China to Sudan to Syria howls in protest.
The leader of the free world should, and must be unafraid to say that America stands shoulder to shoulder with her fellow democracy, Israel, in opposing the very culture of terror, hatred, and oppression that keeps peace and prosperity out of reach.
If the leader of the free world won’t tell the truth, for fear of political molestation at the hands of equivocators and appeasers, the truth will go simply unheard.
“Why didn’t they do the whole thing in Vegas?” asks Friedman.
Because that would have softened the impact of the truth – a truth that Barack Obama has failed to so much as whisper, but which Romney trumpeted this week with astounding moral clarity – that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish state, and that the President of the United States ought to say so.