Why Romney Insulted the Palestinians

Exclusive: A favorite neocon theme is that the superiority of Western culture explains the world’s wealth disparities, not the accident of natural resources and the aggressive use of military force. Mitt Romney echoed those neocon sentiments in touting Israel and disparaging the Palestinians, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Some pundits are excusing Mitt Romney’s comment about why Palestinians are so much poorer than Israelis as a slip of the tongue caused by a shortage of staff on his overseas trip, but the Republican presidential candidate makes the same point in his book, No Apology, which he claims to have written himself.

While discussing his thoughts about world travel, he wrote, “I wondered how such vast differences could exist between countries that were literally next door to each other. How could Americans be so rich and Mexicans so poor? How could Israelis have created a highly developed, technology-based economy while their Palestinian neighbors had not yet even begun to move to an industrial economy?”

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney while visiting London on his international trip. (Photo credit: mittromney.com)

In his book, Romney praised the writings of Harvard professor David Landes, who in Wealth and Poverty of Nations said “culture makes all the difference.”

Romney added that “What people believe, value, strive for, and sacrifice for profoundly shape the nature of their society and affect its prosperity and security. So while America’s abundant natural resources certainly facilitated its ascent, it is America’s culture that enabled the nation to become and remain the most powerful and beneficent country in the history of humankind.”

Then, Romney cited some cultural aspects possessed by countries that prosper – contrasted with those that don’t – including a strong work ethic, creativity, entrepreneurial spirit, cooperation, commitment to education, faith in God, devotion to family, patriotism, honor, trust in the law, and respect for life.

“There are cultures where life is cheap, but thankfully, ours is not one of them,” Romney wrote.

Wealth from Culture

Overall, Romney makes clear that he views American culture – and those of U.S. allies like Israel – as superior to those of other nations. That superiority is then reflected in the greater wealth of the citizenry, Romney maintains.

While Romney touts this superiority to praise the United States and Israel – as he sought to do in his remarks on Monday to a group of Jewish-American backers in Jerusalem – the comments have a disparaging side when applied to those who are judged as being poorer due to a lack of these positive characteristics.

To say that one nation thrives because of its magnificent culture means that another one fails because of its deficient culture. For the Palestinians, that assessment is particularly hard to swallow since much of their poverty relates directly to the harsh conditions from decades of Israeli occupation, including barriers to outside trade.

Saeb Erekat, a top aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told The Associated Press that Romney’s comment was “a racist statement” and ignorant of the facts.

“This man doesn’t realize that the Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential because there is an Israeli occupation,” Erekat said. “It seems to me this man lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its people.”

In his speech in Jerusalem, Romney also misstated how great a discrepancy there was between what the average Israeli makes versus the average Palestinian. He claimed the difference was about 2 to 1, when it is more like 20 to 1.

In citing Landes’s book, Romney asserted that “culture makes all the difference. And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things,” an apparent reference to divine intervention on Israel’s behalf.

“As you come here and you see the G.D.P. per capita, for instance, in Israel, which is about $21,000 and compare that with the G.D.P. per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality.”

According to the World Bank, Israel’s per capita G.D.P. actually is $31,282, compared to a Palestinian per capita G.D.P. of around $1,600.

Romney’s campaign denied that his remark was intended to slight the Palestinians. However, Palestinian leaders were so outraged that some analysts suggested that the comment could come back to haunt Romney if, as President, he seeks to act as a negotiator between the two sides.

But that seemed to be the least of Romney’s concerns as he has pandered incessantly to the Israelis in a presumed strategy to drive a wedge between Jewish-American voters and President Barack Obama, who has criticized the Israeli government’s policies of expanding Jewish settlements in the Occupied West Bank.

Moral Superiority

The idea of cultural and even moral superiority as explaining success is a dominant theme in Romney’s book, No Apology, for both countries and individuals. The book, which is subtitled “The Case for American Greatness,” returns again and again to the theme of U.S. cultural superiority.

For instance, Romney is disdainful of “progressives” who offer more culturally neutral judgments about differing nations and ethnic groups. He wrote:

“During the 1960s, the idea set associated with progressivism gained ascendancy in educational circles. Our classical education tradition had held for decades that we should imbue each generation with the wisdom of the ages and the discoveries of modernity.

“Progressives, on the other hand, rejected the notion of universal truths, objective judgments, and, ironically, progress itself, embracing neutrality among competing belief sets and rejecting the primacy of Western civilization, the great thinkers of the ages, and the principles espoused by the Founding Parents of the nation. In their view, all cultures are of equal value.”

Progressive scholars respond to such criticism by noting that their duty is to present history and cultures objectively, not to indoctrinate students with propaganda that ignores the wrongdoing and hypocrisies of any group, including the fact that some of America’s white Founders professed liberty for all while owning slaves.

There is also the inconvenient truth that the U.S. government engaged in genocide against Native Americans, stole large tracts of Western land from Mexico, and insisted on placing U.S. military bases all over the world.

A key point of No Apology is to disparage President Obama for supposedly “apologizing” for America, though Romney is short of specifics as to exactly what Obama has said that would constitute an apology, rather than just the occasional recognition that the U.S. government hasn’t always been perfect. Oddly, Romney makes the same point in the book, writing:

“That doesn’t mean, of course, that America is a perfect country. We have made mistakes and committed grave offenses over the centuries. Too often we have failed to live up to our ideals. But to say that is to say that we live in this fallen world rather than a perfect one, a world composed not of angels but of flawed and imperfect beings.

“And, crucially, our past faults and errors have long been acknowledged and do not deserve the repetition that suggests either that we have been reluctant to remedy them or that we are inclined to repeat them. What we should say and repeat is this: No nation has shed more blood for more noble causes than the United States. Its beneficence and benevolence are unmatched by any nation on earth, and by any nation in history.”

Romney insisted that he actually wrote his own book, although he acknowledged assistance and advice from many of America’s leading neoconservatives, including Robert and Frederick Kagan, and from a variety of right-wing think tanks.

To read more of Robert Parry’s writings, you can now order his last two books, Secrecy & Privilege and Neck Deep, at the discount price of only $16 for both. For details on the special offer, click here.]  

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there.

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29 comments on “Why Romney Insulted the Palestinians

  1. Excellent articles lately on the corruption of power – politics – money religion and stupidity.
    This is from a recent article in the Palestinian Chronicle by Patrick O. Strickland, travelling along the Green Line and presently in Hebron:

    “A former IDF soldier had once told me that everyone dreaded being stationed in Hebron. “It’s disgusting. I don’t want to protect those settlers,” he had said.
    “The settlers start over 90 percent of the violent confrontations. If I could, I’d drag every single one of them out of there myself. Everyone—I mean everyone—hates serving there. It’s the worst place on earth. It’s hell on earth.””

    The great Israeli divide between racists and those who could bring a peace.

  2. If I change my culture from Irish to international banker can I get a ground level investment w/ Sachs? And Mormons are sposta be neutral in the Israeli/non-Israeli conflict. But Mitt’s over there advocating for an Israel? On top of that, a Jewish state? Sounds like he’s gone against Mormon creed of neutrality and has gone Evangelical to secure the South vote where he never won a caucus. the South is like Berlin though. They hate paper-pusher international bankers who make profits from doing business w/ China.

  3. Romney:”How could Israelis have created a highly developed, technology-based economy while their Palestinian neighbors had not yet even begun to move to an industrial economy?”
    My answer: Because they steal from everyone, just like you do! They have been stealing everything from money to science. They never invented or developed anything on their own. All they do is steal and pretend it is their invention.
    BTW:What is your personal accomplishment in terms of improving the lives of people other than your own and your numerous off-springs? What is the contribution to society of those numerous off-springs? Please listthem here………………………………..
    Money-grabbing? (based on your religion: Like your “brother Jews”?)
    What do you know about culture, literature, history, physics, math, science?
    Nothing!!!!!
    You are an embarrassment, posing as an “educated” specimen, now of a pathetic university, since it had you and some other not-too-bright graduates.
    Religious freaks like you don’t know anything about science or art.
    You and the Moonies should get together. (If you have not already.)

    How could you go on and on traveling in Europe and not have even begun to be humanized?

  4. Hebe PP on said:

    Cultural superiority, is that what racists are spouting today? This kind of accidental honesty gives a good peek into the brain of a modern-day bigot. It’s repulsive. Why is it such a threat to elites like Mitt to simply be a man like any other? Instead he is a man who comes from a superior culture and a superior nation. In what other ways is he superior to the rest of us?

  5. The comparison between state of Israel and Palestinians without a state – is ridiculous.

    The 2011 report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) proves once again that while the US economy is in the drain due to US-Israeli wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya – the Israel’s economy is booming.

    Growing by 7.8% last year, the Israeli economy ranked fifth highest in growth among the world’s most prosperous OECD’s 34 members. Israel’s growth outstripped that of the United States, Britain, Japan, Germany and France.

    However, the report also claimed that poverty is almost twice as widespread in Israel, 19.9% of the population, compared to the OECD average, 10.9%. The gap between the overall standard of living in Israel and that of the lowest tenth of the population was three times higher than the OECD average. In its latest release of data, made public April 12, the OECD reported that 39% of Israelis find it “difficult” or “very difficult” to live on their current incomes, well above the OECD average of 24%. How sad indeed!

    http://rehmat1.com/2011/04/27/israel-the-rich-parasite-state/

  6. rosemerry on said:

    I find breathtaking the list of so-called US attributes and the completely hubristic assumption that these are a) true for the USA and b)not applicable to countries with less success in the world. eg cooperation? respect for life, by the mercans? lack of work ethic by Mexicans or others whose lands have been taken over by the “superior” nation?
    The rich Mutt has no idea of real life people, and I am surprised he has even read a book, let alone written one.

  7. Only in “post Reagan” America would such an empty headed jackass be a serious contender for president.

  8. Pingback: Romney’s Palestinian Gaffe — How Countries Get Wealthy – Huffington Post | How To Make Money Online Or Offline

  9. richard vajs on said:

    I had no idea that the Israelis were doing so well (per capita GDP of $31,282) – so why are US taxpayers having to support Israel?

    • rcardulla on said:

      Because Israel controls the US Congress and to stay in office, our representatives sell out their country.

    • Goldhoarder on said:

      Ummmm…. We give them several billion dollars a year… There are only seven million jews there. How would they so well without us? Oh… Forgot… They have that culture thing going for them… Plus a nazi like fever to wipe all “inferiors” off the face of the Earth

  10. Romney is proof that economic dunces run the so-called Investment Houses. He seeks to lead a country that has done everything possible to keep some countries, Iran in particular, ignorant and impoverished.

    Yes, culture does play a role in prosperity but, to take the position that Iran can’t have the knowledge to enrich uranium is akin to not wanting the slaves to learn to read and write.

    Disugusting.

  11. Romney was right. Culture breeds the attitude toward freedom and individial liberty which includes economic liberty. Okay, maybe it is unfair to compare Israel to the Gaza/West Bank based on geographic control of land. But it is very fair to state that Western Civilization is superior to non-Western ones. Just about all of the scientific, medical and technological advances were made by Europeans and European settled lands such as USA and Canada. Look at Mexico and the USA. Mexico has a culture that is somewhat hostile toward free enterprise. What scientific, medical and technological advances have come out of Mexico? Of course Mexico also has a defacto racial caste system that causes problems. In the end, culture matters. Anyone who denies this deniees reality.

    • rcardulla on said:

      Is Israel culturally inclined to steal land, water and homes from their neighbors? As you say, “Culture breeds attitude”

      • dahoit on said:

        What culture?Hate?Spies?Thieves?Calumny?Sounds like anti-culture to me,a postjudice observation.

    • Eli Machintosh on said:

      Wrong!!. Do you think science started only 100 years ago?. Go back and read history. Go to spain and see what other nations built when europe was living in dark. Who developed algebra, medicine… Who invented the number, 1,2 3… Europe!!. It is so sad that some people do not yet realize that science is the heritage of all human being regardless of their origin. The Pyramid were built in a certain precisions that the current scientists are amazed how thinks were advanced then. India, china, islamic word (look to what they left in spain). If you want why the west and the US is declining is because some people still believe they are superior so they will be Ok. Keep drinking your kool-aid. Guess what see how these countries rank in math and science and go and check who is winning the spelling bee contest every year to have a pretty clear idea.

      But as Michael J Fox said to Rush Limbaugh. Keep talking rush.

    • Rex in Australia on said:

      Although in the modern age it might seem that Europeans were/are responsible for scientific and technological advances, before 500 years ago Middle Easterners/North Africans brought maths and science to Europe and likewise the Chinese were far more advanced much earlier than Europeans.

    • “For almost eight hundred years (under Muslim rule), human energy in Spain had produced such an abundance of food, comforts and luxuries as the world had never before imagined. After Granada fell, human energy continued to operate in Spain and through Spain upon the New World and Europe, for two more generations. The third generation no longer knew that men are free, and energy weakened in Spain.The fifth generation could not get support the government, and their children died of strvation. Spain had practically ceased to exist,” Wrote Rose Wilder Lane, an American journalist and author wrote in ‘Islam and the Discovery of Freedom’.

      http://rehmat1.com/2011/10/08/spain-jewish-history-without-muslims/

  12. dahoit on said:

    The press does nothing but attack Mitt,so he’s just buttering them up in hopeful anticipation they won’t sink his attempt at POTUS.
    The Ziomonsters can kill a candidate at will,look at Dean,Carter,GBsr,Moindale,McGovern and all the other guys.What about Condit,and his rape and murder of the poor Jewish girl,which turned out total fiction.He shaved his body hair!
    Where’s the FCC and media monopoly rules?And all the other rules?
    A joke.Total.

  13. Robert Houston on said:

    Sounds like we’ve heard this before: All the human culture, all the results of art, science and technology that we see before us today, are almost exclusively the creative product of the Aryan. This very fact admits of the not unfounded inference that he alone was the founder of all higher humanity, therefore representing the prototype of all that we understand by the word “man.” He is the Prometheus of mankind from whose shining brow the divine spark of genius has sprung at all times, forever kindling anew that fire of knowledge which illuminated the night of silent mysteries and thus caused man to climb the path to mastery over the other beings of the earth . . . It was he who laid the foundations and erected the walls of every great structure in human culture.
    Adolf Hitler
    Mein Kampf

  14. Yvonne on said:

    I just cannot imagine anyone of such low intelligence putting himself forward to be President of the United States. And I cannot imagine that no one of some standing has not advised him to the contrary.

  15. JimBob on said:

    Actually it’s average IQ that determines whether a country is wealthy or less so. Culture is a product of IQ.

  16. Roger Lafontaine on said:

    Why did Romney insult the Palestinians ? Because he wanted to show the Evangelical Zionist Christians that he is one of them and he despises the Palestinian people just like they do.

  17. Goldhoarder on said:

    I was half expecting him to visit the West Bank and cap a couple Palestinian children and dare Obama to top that. Of course God only knows what hell Obama would have unleashed on them.

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  19. Robert Houston on said:

    The press doesn’t want to emphasize Romney’s branch of Mormonism, The Latter Day Saints because they don’t want to be viewed as anti-Christian. However they ran the President’s religious affiliation into the ground (his former membership in Rev. Wright’s church). And the majority’s insistence that he’s Muslim even though he’s denied it. I doubt Muslims will allow a Muslim state that they’re a Christian and still accept them as a Muslim. Then there’s the Birther’s campaign against his birthcertificate, personal verbal attacks against him and his family, etc. As a result, ignoring Romney’s religious beliefs allows them to ignore Mormon doctrine. I.e their belief that the darker people are inferior because “God” has cursed them with servitude to white nations. Especially dark nations that aren’t honorary whites, such as the Palestinians. Which coincides with the Israeli belief that they are the “chosen people” and that God gave them that land. The Israelis broke treaties and made war on the Palestinians with their “superior war machine, etc,” Romney can lie and insult during his campaign with his “superior” propaganda machine. Compare his to Obama’s propaganda machine. Whose winning? What Romney campaigned on in Israel is Christian Zionism. If you recall in Romney’s first Presidential campaign, his Christianity was challenged and it’s challenged today. What better place to assert his Christian belief than in Israel whereas it might not go over well here where he’s still suspect. Now, looking at Romney’s statements in Israel from this perspective allows one to understand his insistence that the Palestinians and other darker people, as he mentioned the Mexicans, are inferior and the Israelis and the American’s (white Americans) culture are superior. It’s his religious belief that whites and their culture are superior and darker people and their culture are inferior. Remember what happened at a luncheon in rural Kentucky: “However, what turned from a nice preplanned lunch with “common-folk conversation” ended up getting off track when one of Romney’s supporters asked him how he was so certain he would win. Romney turned to the man seated on his left and seemingly forgetting the ten plus reporters in the room said, “Well between you and me, we have to think about the reality of the situation. Obama is a popular guy and his supporters are hell-bent in getting him reelected. There is one thing that his campaign seems to keep forgetting over and over, and that is how many Americans can’t stand the guy for an obvious reason. Of course I’ll win, I’m the white guy.”