Commentary Magazine


Contentions

How the World Enabled 25 Years of Palestinian Decline

One of the saddest comments I’ve ever heard was Gaza resident Ziad Ashour’s statement to the New York Times last week. Ever since the first intifada erupted in 1987, the 43-year-old butcher said, “things have steadily declined in Gaza.”

Think about that for a moment: After 25 years of fighting Israel in every possible way–“popular resistance,” suicide bombings, rockets, diplomatic warfare, boycott/divestment/sanctions efforts–all the Palestinians have to show for it is 25 years of steady decline. Indeed, the facts bear out Ashour’s assessment: Despite massive international aid, Gaza’s per capita GDP has remained virtually flat, totaling $817 in 1987 and $876 in 2010. Unemployment, which was generally under 5 percent in the 1980s, had soared to 45 percent by the end of 2010. And to add insult to injury, neither the terror nor the diplomatic warfare succeeded in preventing Israel from flourishing over those 25 years.

But the sadder part of the story is that none of this has managed to persuade the Palestinians that such tactics are self-defeating. As Steven Erlanger’s report shows, Hamas is riding high in Gaza; even a desperately poor woman who describes her life as one of “depression and deprivation” proclaims pride in Hamas’s ability to launch rockets at Israel. And Gazan political science professor Mkhaimar Abusada tells Erlanger this is a never-ending story:

He remembered a similar burst of Hamas popularity in October 2011, after the release of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, whom Hamas held for five years and exchanged for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. “But a month later the Palestinians woke up to the same problems: poverty, mismanagement, siege, unemployment, little freedom of movement,” Mr. Abusada said.

Yet if Palestinians are primarily to blame for their addiction to such counterproductive tactics, the international community has played a crucial role as enabler. First of all, the massive international aid–more than four times as much per capita as any other nation receives–has cushioned them from the consequences of their bad decisions. Gaza’s situation may not be rosy, but it’s better than that of many other countries: As Michael Rubin noted, Gaza outranks more than 110 countries worldwide in terms of both life expectancy and infant mortality. And as long as international aid is keeping them relatively comfortable, Palestinians feel little incentive to change their tactics.

Far worse, however, is that by offering the Palestinians almost unstinting diplomatic support while relentlessly criticizing Israel, the world feeds Palestinian fantasies that these tactics will someday succeed–that eventually, the world will force Israel to its knees. The recent farce at the UN was a classic example: 138 countries voted to recognize “Palestine” as a state in gross violation of the Palestinians’ own signed commitments, even though it meets none of the criteria for statehood. But the world then went into a frenzy of condemnation when Israel responded by advancing planning processes–not even actual construction–in an area that every peace plan ever proposed has assigned to Israel in any case. So why would Palestinians conclude that they are the ones who need to change their behavior?

A few sober-minded Palestinians do know better. “Gaining the support of the Israeli authorities in West Jerusalem for a Palestinian state is more important than the support of 138 countries that voted for Palestine at the UN,” Ibrahim Inbawi, a Fatah activist from East Jerusalem, told the Jerusalem Report last week.

Unfortunately, the world seems unwilling to tell his countrymen the same thing. For all its vaunted concern for the Palestinians, it seems the international community would rather let them suffer another 25 years of steady decline than try to wean them from their failed strategies.



Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »





Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.