• The leaders of Hamas "run away, and do not even have the courage to take responsibility for their casualties. They treat Gazans like sheep for slaughter." — Walid Awad

Even though Zahi Khouri, in "The Palestine Romney Doesn't Know"in the the Washington Post on August 10, charges the U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney with suggesting that cultural differences help explain why Israel's achievements are in sharp contrast to the economic predicament of the territories administered by the Palestinian leadership, Romney is not the only person to attribute to cultural elements the poor performance in the Arab world: "The Arab Development Report 2002," commissioned by the UN Development Program and prepared by around 100 experts from the Arab world, points to the stark need to revitalize and modernize the Arab culture.

Contrary to the critical conclusions of the UN Development Program's report, Mr. Khouri offers a self-complacent view of the cultural situation of his fellow Arab Palestinians, and opts for blaming Israel for the latter's predicament.

In so doing, Mr. Khouri's article attempts to deny the impact of Jews and of Jewish culture on the Palestinian region. The article says, for instance, that "Israel did not make the desert bloom." The truth is that Jews living in the Palestinian region in the late 19th century and early 20th century carried out an afforestation program without precedent in history – in addition to founding, among other things, the city of Tel-Aviv, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Daniel Sieff Research Institute at Rehovot and the Bezalel Art School at Jerusalem. It is difficult, as a matter of fact impossible, to list comparable realizations made by Palestinian Arabs over that time span.

Mr. Khouri continues by asserting that "like more than three-quarters of Palestine's population, my family was forced to leave this land after Israel's creation in 1948." Here, too, Mr. Khouri gives a lopsided picture of reality. To a very large extent, the Palestinians who fled the region at that time did it compelled by the Arab nations that had declared war on Israel: the Arab troops forced the Arab-Palestinian population to leave their homes so that they could kill Jews more leisurely.

Mr. Khouri then states that Palestinians established in other Arab countries "became known for [their] business acumen and management know-how." What Mr. Khouri neglects to specify in this regard is that, at the instigation of the Palestinian leadership, Palestinians are inhumanely kept under the status of refugees in most of the neighboring countries, with the sole -- and spurious -- purpose of continuing to blame Israel for their vicissitudes.

The blame-Israel stance adopted by Mr. Khouri is not shared by prominent Palestinian figures with no less-solid credentials than his -– to say the least.

Nonie Darwish, for example, the Gaza-born daughter of a Palestinian Fedayeen who led anti-Israel attacks from the Egyptian border in the 1950s, outspokenly defends Israel. It must have been heartrending for Mrs. Darwish to come to the conclusion, as she has, that the culprit of her people's suffering is not the "Zionist entity," but the Arab and Palestinian leaders who have misled the Palestinian population in a refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Mrs. Darwish has created a website, Arabs For Israel, calling for Arabs, in particular Palestinian Arabs, to support the state of Israel and learn from the vitality of Jewish culture.

This is also true of Zakaria Zubeidi, former commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, who in 2007 relinquished his violent struggle against Israel and accused the Palestinian leadership of having taken his people into a blind alley.

Mention can also be made of Walid Awad, a senior Gaza leader of the Palestinian People's Party (PPP), who accused Hamas of cowardly launching missiles against Israel. The leaders of Hamas, said Mr. Awad, "run away, and do not even have the courage to accept responsibility for their casualties. They treat Gazans like sheep for slaughter."[1]

Above all, while in Israel, journalists are free to write anything they want without fear of being thrown in jail -- and presidents, prime ministers, and any figure in power can stand trial like any ordinary citizen; in Syria, the regime makes unrelentingly a butchery out of its own people; and in the disputed territories of Palestine, Fatah and Hamas keep putting off overdue elections -- showing scant regard for democratic values. Is this appalling contrast not the best proof that, contrary to Mr. Khouri's self-righteousness, there is need for an aggiornamento, a bringing up-to-date, of cultural and political values in the Arab world -- including within the Palestinian-Arab leadership?

A former international civil servant, Fabio Rafael Fiallo writes on issues related to international politics and the world economy. His latest publication, "Ternes Eclats" or "Dimmed Lights" (Paris, L'Harmattan), presents a fictional critique of multilateral diplomacy, including of the anti-Israel bias that prevails in a number of international organizations.

[1] "Gazans tired of their rockets: An Alternative to Violence?" The Economist, April 15th, 2010.

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