The Associated Press reported, and National Public Radio has repeated, a vicious lie about Mitt Romney–one that is being propagated by Palestinian propagandists with a proven history of lying, and that is being circulated by the mainstream American media, delighted by the prospect of painting the presumptive Republican nominee as a bigot.
NPR’s hourly news, read by Craig Windham, alleged that Romney told Jewish donors at a fundraiser in Jerusalem on Monday that “Jewish culture” allowed Israel to be more successful than its Palestinian neighbors. That blurb was accompanied an hour later by a short story from Sheera Frankel–who had reported earlier that nothing Romney said at the event had been made public, but that “one of the attendees” had told her his remarks had been “light and easy.” She also had reported initially that the fundraiser had been for “supporters…both from Israel and abroad,” as opposed to “Jewish donors.”
In her new story, Frankel reported the remarks as the AP presented them–including the reference to “Jewish donors.” She also repeated the AP’s implied criticism of Romney, using quotes from Palestinian official Saeb Erekat, who called Romney’s comments “racist.” Another report by Frankel later reinforced the AP and Erekat’s false meme.
In the first place, Romney never said the words “Jewish culture.” They were put into his mouth by Palestinian officials looking to score points against a pro-Israel candidate–and to shore up Barack Obama. (He may not have met their wildest expectations, but has reset the starting point of peace talks in their favor with his push for a settlement freeze, his references to the 1967 borders and his refusal to declare Jerusalem Israel’s capital.)
It is astounding that the AP and NPR continue to credit the words of Erekat–the man who did more than anyone else to propagate the lie, ten years ago, that there had been a “massacre” of hundreds of Palestinian civilians in Jenin during Israel’s Operation Defensive Shield. Yet Erekat somehow still has an open line to the AP and other western mainstream media outlets, who repeat his propaganda to the world as fact.
The AP and NPR also editorialize that Romney ought to have mentioned “the stifling effect the Israeli occupation has had on the Palestinian economy in the West Bank” as a factor in the two countries’ relative economic success. In fact, the Israeli occupation is not a cause of Palestinian poverty. The Palestinian economy grew during the two decades prior to the first intifada, and has also enjoyed periods of growth since then. It has contracted during periods of confrontation–particularly during the second intifada, a pointless terrorist war that caused Israel to turn elsewhere for trade and labor.
Even from the AP’s report, it is clear that Romney did not refer to Jewish culture but Jewish history–specifically, survival in hard times–as a contributing element to Israel’s “economic vitality” and an Israeli–as opposed to specifically Jewish–culture of success:
“As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000, and compare that with the GDP 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,” the Republican presidential candidate told about 40 wealthy donors who ate breakfast at the luxurious King David Hotel.
Romney said some economic histories have theorized 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,” Romney said, citing an innovative business climate, the Jewish history of thriving in difficult circumstances and the “hand of providence.” He said similar disparity exists between neighboring countries, like Mexico and the United States.
The AP and NPR have twisted his words to make it appear as if Romney was making a bigoted remark about Arabs or Palestinians–using an negative Jewish stereotype in the process.
But it is the AP and NPR that introduce that stereotype with their description of “Jewish donors.” The goal–as with the apocryphal “Anglo-Saxon” comment in the UK–is to make Romney out to be a bigot, lest American voters be impressed by his trip abroad.
It is neither controversial nor racist to describe cultural differences between societies–or even within societies–as a factor in creating different economic outcomes. Israel is a society that venerates Nobel Prize winners; Palestinian culture celebrates suicide bombers. Israel attempts to provide equal opportunity for all–including Arabs, who benefit from affirmative action policies; the Palestinian Authority is insular and corrupt. The point is that economic culture can change–as it did in East Asia, and as it is doing even in parts of the Arab world.
Romney made no claim about the “cultural superiority” of Jews over Arabs, as Erekat claims–and as the AP and NPR report dutifully, recycling a false meme of Jewish self-regard that is common in both anti-Israel propaganda and antisemitic literature. Instead, Romney praised Israel’s entrepreneurial culture–which is striking precisely because it runs counter to the socialist politics many Jews brought with them to their new state. The AP and NPR have disgraced themselves in twisting Romney’s words to provide fodder for his critics.