Romney arrives bearing gifts for King Israel
This posting has 5 items:
1) Johara Baker: Romney – just go home;
2) Donald Macintyre: Romney’s ‘culture’ and ‘providence’;
3) Juan Cole: Ten reasons Mitt Romney’s Israel visit is in bad taste;
4) Irish Independent: Romney accused of racist remarks as gaffes pile up;
5) Please sign JVP’s Open letter to Mitt Romney;
Mitt Romney…Just Go Home
Joharah Baker, MIFTAH
July 30, 2012
The Palestinians are more than eager to bid Mitt Romney farewell. The US Republican presidential candidate came to Israel, pledged his allegiance, and is off again, leaving us all with a very bad aftertaste.
It is not that we Palestinians are not used to American presidential hopefuls falling over themselves trying to please Israel. Even President Barack Obama is wearing his proverbial “I Love Israel” t-shirt lately. Just one day before Romney’s visit, Obama signed off on a new law which will increase U.S. military aid to Israel. The billoffers $70 million in funding for Israel’s missile defense system, Iron Dome.
So, when Romney stood with the Old City as a backdrop and declared Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel, no Palestinian was shocked senseless. Nevertheless, this whole competition over which American official can please Israel more is frankly, getting a bit old.
And while Romney’s meetings with Israeli officials – and he met quite a few – were splashed across newspapers and websites for days, the one meeting he did agree to with a Palestinian official was kept on the down-low. The brief meeting with Prime Minister Salam Fayyad was held in Jerusalem rather than Ramallah and no details were given about what the two men talked about. While some say Romney meant to slight President Mahmoud Abbas by not meeting with him, other Palestinians say they did not expect anything more from Romney who clearly came to rally Jewish votes by cozying up to Israel.
Nevertheless, calling Jerusalem the capital of Israel was a bit too much, even for those with very little expectations. Romney was pushing the envelope, even by American standards, given that even the United States does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. On the contrary, officially, the US still considers east Jerusalem as occupied territory; Israel’s unilateral annexation has no bearing on the US’s legal discourse on the conflict.
Of course, this does not mean US presidential hopefuls fail to clamor for Israel’s affections anyway. Romney has hinted that if he reaches the Oval Office, he will finally do what so many other US presidents wanted to do but never had the gumption to pull off: move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that. Already, PLO executive committee member and negotiator SaebErekat has called Romney’s classification of Jerusalem as ‘totally unacceptable’ but is obviously trying not to accumulate a lot of bad press yet. This time, they are letting Romney – and indeed Obama – vie for Israel’s affectionswith minimal complaints by the Palestinians, not because they are happy with the situation but because they are powerless to the mighty Israel machine churning away behind the scenes of the US’s presidential elections. Some would say Prime Minister Fayyad should have passed on the Romney meeting completely, given its insincere and half-hearted nature. Romney insulted the Palestinians twice over, once by agreeing only to meet with Fayyad and then by insisting the meeting was held in west Jerusalem instead of on Palestinian turf. That should have been enough for the Palestinians to politely say “thanks but no thanks.”
In any case, what’s done is done. Right now, the bigger question is how the Palestinians should reshape their relationship with the United States, given how futile it is to view them in even the slightest light of “honest broker”. Even the likes of President Obama, who we all know is far more knowledgeable on the conflict and possible solutions, still ends up acquiescing to the mighty machine. He cannot say enough how ‘unshakeable’ the US’s relationship is with Israel or how committed he is to its security.
The point is, the dimensions of the US’s relationship with Israel and the Palestinians is not going to change drastically (at least to our favor) any time soon. The only thing that can change is how much we bank on the US helping to resolve this conflict fairly. On that note, let us suffice to say: Mitt Romney – good bye and good riddance.
Joharah Baker is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.[Click here for more information about MIFTAH]
Donald Macintyre, The Independent
July 30, 2012
JERUSALEM–US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney today ignored the depressive impact of a 43-year occupation by telling Jewish donors to his campaign that “culture” and “providence” were reasons why Israelis were more economically successful than Palestinians.
In terms which outraged Palestinian officials, Mr Romney used a fundraising breakfast in Jerusalem to advance his own explanation for “the dramatically stark difference in economic vitality” between the two economies.
Seated beside the right-wing billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who has indicated he could give up to $100m to the Republican campaign, Mr Romney said he had read books and drawn on his own business experience to understand why the difference is so great.
“And as I come here and I… consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things,” he said. Mr Romney listed an innovative business climate, the Jewish history of thriving in difficult circumstances and the “hand of providence.”
The former Massachusetts Governor compounded his controversial remarks by severely understating the disparity between the two economies, saying that per capita GDP in Israel was around $21,000 (£13,375) compared with $10,000 (£6,370) in the areas “managed by the Palestinian Authority.”
In fact, Israel had a per capita gross domestic product of around $31,000 (£19,745) in 2011 while the World Bank estimates GDP in the West Bank and Gaza at $1,500 (£955) per head. The Bank and the International Monetary Fund have repeatedly said the Palestinian economy can only grow in earnest if Israel lifts checkpoints and other restrictions.
Saeb Erekat, the senior Palestinian negotiator, accused Mr Romney of “racism” for saying that Israeli “culture” was more advanced than the Palestinians’. “It’s Israeli occupiers and Palestinians under occupation, and that’s why Palestinians cannot realize their potential,” he added.
Mr Romney’s explanation may have been more congenial to Mr Adelson, who has endorsed the contention by Mr Romney’s defeated rival Newt Gingrich that the Palestinians are an “invented people.”
Mr Romney was speaking hours after Israeli security forces shot dead one of 14 Palestinian workers seeking jobs in Jerusalem, who arrived at a checkpoint in a vehicle which police said failed to stop when ordered to do so. The Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad demanded an investigation and said he was holding Israel’s government responsible for the death of Akram Badee Baader, 46, and the injuries of two others “who were all on their way to work.”
Eyewitnesses told the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights that the workers had no permits and after being alerted to the presence of Israeli forces the driver was trying to turn back from the checkpoint when they opened fire.
The Republican presidential hopeful is holding a fundraiser and playing war enabler in Israel – it’s wrong on so many levels
Juan Cole, Comment is Free, Guardian
July 30, 2012
The trip of US Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney to Israel is in bad taste for lots of reasons.
1. He is holding a fundraiser at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. It is distasteful for an American political candidate to hold a high-profile fundraiser abroad, implying a commitment to a foreign country as a means of reaching out to American interest groups (in Romney’s case, Christian Zionists among the evangelicals and the minority of American Jews who would be willing to vote Republican).
2. Romney has broken his pledge of transparency and declared the fundraiser off limits to the US press.
3. Romney won’t explain why he has abruptly gone back on his word, and closed the Jerusalem event to the press.
4. There is a convention in US politics that you don’t criticise the sitting president, even if you are an opposition politician, while on foreign soil. Romney clearly intends to slam Barack Obama while in Israel.
5. Romney is clearly holding the event in some large part to please casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who first bankrolled Newt Gingrich and now is talking about giving $100m to elect Romney. Adelson is a huge supporter of rightwing Likud party prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and published a free newspaper in Israel to support all things Bibi all the time. Adelson is under investigation on suspicion of bribing Chinese officials in Macau in reference to his casino empire there. Since Adelson is potentially an agent of Chinese influence and is a partisan of one of Israel’s most rightwing parties, Romney’s indebtedness to him is disturbing.
6. Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu is interfering in an American domestic election by openly favouring Romney over Obama.
7. Romney is promising his donors in Jerusalem a war on Iran. When George W Bush promised his pro-Israel supporters a war on Iraq, it cost the US at least $3 trillion, got hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed, destabilised the Gulf for some time, cost over 4,000 American soldiers’ lives and damaged American power and credibility and the economy. As Nancy Reagan said of drugs, so US politicians must say to constant Israeli entreaties that the US continually fight new wars in the Middle East on their behalf: “Just say no.” Instead, Romney is playing war enabler, and that abroad.
8. Romney will not meet Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestine Authority, who actually was elected by Palestinians, but only with an appointed and toothless “prime minister” known for co-operation with Israel’s Likud.
9. Romney will not commit to a two-state solution within 1967 borders or demand Israel cease illegal squatting on and unilateral annexation of Palestinian land. If he is going to this Middle East hotspot, why doesn’t he visit a Palestinian refugee camp so as to understand the nub of the dispute, instead of hobnobbing with the uber-rich in Jerusalem.
10. The fundraiser is being held in the King David Hotel, which was famously blown up by the Zionist terrorist organisation Irgun in 1946, in a strike that killed 91 people and wounded dozens, many of them innocent civilians. Irgun leader Menachem Begin (later a leader of the ruling Likud party) hit the hotel because there were British security offices there, which were tracking violent organisations like his own, during the British mandate period of Palestine. He maintained that he called ahead to warn of the bombing, but that is just propaganda to take the edge off the deed – who in 1946 would have taken such a call seriously? When Netanyahu and other Likud leaders attended a commemoration of the bombing, the British Foreign Office sent over a sharp note of protest. I guess Romney is not finished with insulting London.
Troubled Mitt accused of racist remarks as gaffes pile up
By Adrian Blomfield, Matthew Day and Jon Swaine, Irish Independent
July 31, 2012
MITT Romney was accused of racism yesterday after he appeared to suggest that Israelis were richer than Palestinians because of their cultural and religious superiority.
Struggling to regain momentum after a troubled trip to London, where he criticised Olympic preparations, the Republican presidential candidate stirred up further ill-feeling as he ended the Israeli leg of his world tour facing charges that he promoted “extremism” and “hatred”.
Mr Romney demonstrated what critics see as a penchant for causing offence abroad at a fundraising breakfast in Jerusalem. He said Israel was more prosperous than the Palestinian Territories because of its culture and the “hand of providence”, seen by some Palestinians as a reference to God.
“As I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognise the power of at least culture and a few other things,” he said.
“As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000 (€17,000), and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 (€8,000) per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality.”
Saeb Erekat, the veteran Palestinian negotiator with close ties to the US, said: “It is a racist statement and this man doesn’t realise that the Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential because there is an Israeli occupation. “It seems to me this man lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its people. What this man is doing here is just promoting extremism, violence and hatred, and this is absolutely unacceptable.”
Mr Romney’s aides tried to dispel the impression that he had intended to offend the Palestinians, saying his comments had been “mischaracterised”.
It did not help that his figures were also wrong. Israel’s per capita GDP stands at $31,000 (€25,000) while the figure for the Palestinians is just over $1,500 (€1,200). (© Daily Telegraph, London)
Open letter to Mitt Romney
Jewish Voice for Peace
31 July, 2012
Yesterday in Jerusalem, Governor Mitt Romney made some statements that were not only wrong, but frankly, prejudiced and ignorant.
Romney declared that “cultural differences” were the reason the Palestinian economy is not doing as well as Israel’s, without even acknowledging the Occupation. On top of that, he managed to get his facts completely wrong, claiming the Israeli GDP is twice that of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, when in fact it is actually about ten times as high.
Sign our open letter to Governor Romney asking him to apologize to the Palestinian people, and we’ll deliver it to his campaign headquarters by the end of the week.
Most people who even cursorily keep up with the news know that Israel largely controls not only the entry and exit of goods to and from the West Bank and Gaza, but the entry and exit of the Palestinian people as well. Israeli soldiers can arbitrarily block the access of farmers from their land, students from their studies, and patients from medical care. Israel can, and has, closed Palestinian universities for years at a time.
Israel won’t allow even the most innocuous materials, like strawberries from Gaza, to be sold in the West Bank, which serves to prevent Gazan farmers from making a living. (2) At various times, it has not allowed steel, glass, or even pasta in to Gaza to allow it to re-build after the devastating war on Gaza in 2008-2009. And Israel allows private companies like Ahava to take take natural resources in the West Bank and sell them for a profit.
It’s this infrastructure of control that chokes not only economic growth, but anything approaching normal life.
Governor Romney’s willful lack of understanding of facts on the ground and what appear to be racist assumptions about Israelis and Palestinians do not represent us. Sign our letter calling on him to set the record straight and apologize. We’ll deliver it to Romney’s campaign headquarters at the end of the week.
Romney stakes his value as a leader on his success in business. But any businessperson should know that blocking free trade and commerce, profiting from exploiting stolen land, and holding an entire economy hostage is not exactly fair play.
Please help us send a message to Mitt Romney that this kind of ignorance and racism is unacceptable. JVP members in Boston will be delivering your signature personally to Romney Headquarters before the end of this week. Spread the word so to your friends and communities—we want enough signatures by the end of this week to make it clear that his statements are not a reflection of the values Jews, Americans, and our allies hold dear.