Romney’s integrity, Erekat’s ire
How could Romney praise Israel's culture over the Palestinians'? Is he not aware of Palestinian poetry, music and art? Let's take a closer look at Palestinian culture, shall we?
At a fundraiser at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on Monday, U.S. presidential contender Mitt Romney made a few statements that got Palestinians' blood boiling. It was bad enough, as far as they were concerned, that the Republican candidate had asserted, at the previous day’s press conference, that Jerusalem was the capital of the Jewish state. But when he had the gall to praise Israel as an economic wonder in the face of adversity, well, that was going way too far.
“As you come here and you see the GDP per capita … in Israel … and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority… you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality,” Romney said. “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.”
These “other things" included Israel’s being a “Start-Up Nation” (the title of Saul Singer’s and Dan Senor’s big best-seller); the Jewish tendency historically to thrive even when faced with difficult circumstances; and the “hand of providence.”
Palestinian Authority bigwig — and “peace” negotiator — Saeb Erekat, couldn’t stomach these statements, calling them “racist.” How in the world could the man who might become the president of the United States in a few months say such an “ignorant” thing?
First of all, an official at the Al-Quds Institute of Research and Documentation, Ibrahim Al-Fani, maintains that the opposite is true. In an interview on PA TV in December 2010, Al-Fani explained the situation as follows: “He [the Israeli] has stolen my culture, turned it into technology, burned my customs and traditions, and taken what I have, leaving me devoid of initiative. … We must put together a cultural team and prevail over the Israelis in disseminating [our] culture, for they have no culture. You know that the Hebrew language is not [really] the Hebrew language, since it is taken from Aramaic. All the universities in the world know this. They stole the Aramaic language and codified it, and it became Hebrew."
Secondly, the PA takes the arts very seriously. Let’s take a look at some examples, provided and translated by Palestinian Media Watch.
Poetry is the perfect place to start. The following verse was recited by a young girl on PA TV this spring.
"... The occupier stole my land and my grandfathers' land ...
Where is your sword, Khaled (Arab warrior)?
Where is your courage, Saladin (Muslim conqueror)?
But no one answered me.
Where is my weapon? I found it — a stone.
I took it and threw it at the enemies of destiny.
I taught the world that the Muslim in the name of Allah cannot be defeated ...
They challenge us with the White House, and we challenge them with the [Islamic] awakening and the Kaaba [in Mecca].
They aren't stronger than Khosrau and Caesar (rulers of Persian and Byzantine Empires).
They [Christians and Jews] are inferior and smaller, more cowardly and despised.
They are remnants of the [Christian] crusaders and Khaibar (i.e., Jewish village destroyed by Muslims in 629) ...
Oh Muslims of the world: Awaken, you have slept too long.
Your fathers and your sons are being massacred, your Al-Aqsa [mosque] is defiled and destroyed."
Now let’s look at the music world. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas honored a particular troupe by making it the PA’s official national band — for performing such harmonious numbers as this one:
"Fight, brother, the flag will never be lowered
The torches will never die out
On [Mt.] Carmel (in Israel) and in the [Jordan] Valley
We are rocks and streams
In Lod (Israeli city) we are poems, and in Ramle (Israeli city) — grenades
We, my brother, shall remain the revolution of the fighting nation
The Zionists went out from [their] homelands
Compounding damage and enmity
But the Palestinian revolution awaits [them]
The orchard called us to the [armed] struggle
We replaced bracelets with weapons
We attacked the despicable [Zionists]
This invading enemy is on the battlefield
This is the day of consolation of Jihad
Pull the trigger.
We shall redeem Jerusalem, Nablus and the country"
And then there’s art. One televised exhibit and interview with artist Abd Al-Hai Msallam shows a painting of “the Gaza massacre.” In the painting, we can see one large ogre impaling children on his bayonet and eating them, while two smaller ogres eat dead children. All three ogres are wearing kippot with stars of David on them.
“Here,” says Msallam, “I show the people, the kids, and the Zionist enemy's cruelty and savagery."
It’s a shame that Romney praised Israel’s accomplishments before being provided with all the facts about Palestinian culture. Had he been better educated by the likes of Erekat, he might have sung a slightly sharper tune. Let’s hope he gets many more opportunities to do so after November.