Romney Israel Position: If Only CEO Mitt Romney Could See That Palestinians Are Hard Working and Business Focused

As I was trolling the internet the other day, I came across an article on CATO’s website about Mitt Romney’s comments regarding Palestinians. The writer was defending Romney’s comments as factually accurate and deeply “insightful.” That got me thinking about how ignorant, offensive, and bigoted some columnists can be, and the main point that most people discussing Israel and Palestine have missed: If Palestine has failed to succeed economically, Israel is to blame

Just to put things in perspective: on his tour of Israel, Romney compared Israel and Palestine’s economies and said that Palestinians don’t have a comparable GDP because there is something inherently wrong with their “culture.” To use his exact phrase, he said “Culture makes all the difference.” The difference between the GDPs (Israel’s per capita GDP is roughly $32,000 to the Palestinians’ $1,500) is actually a reflection of how total and repressive the Israeli occupation is.

Now, that reminds me of a joke we have in South India (where I am from) about North Indians – that the only culture up-North is “agri” culture. This is a constant refrain one hears, as a response to the rivalry that exists between the two regions.

Now, that is said in good humor to poke fun at some of the roughness that exists in the North Indians. But Romney, who could be the future president of the U.S. should not be making such statements. These are bigoted, ignorant, and racist remarks.

Here are some facts:

1) Israel controls virtually all of the roads and checkpoints in the Occupied Palestinian Territories ( there are well over 500 of them in West bank). That means the Palestinians have no freedom to move their goods or persons, without the permission of the IDF and Israeli authorities

2) It is also well-known that Israel controls over 80% of the water resources that supply water to Palestinian territories – and in the West Bank, Israelis consume on an average more than four times as much water as the Palestinians, per person, adding insult to injury.

3) The seaports are all dominated by Israel and virtually all economic activity by land and sea has to go through Israeli scrutiny.

Historically, Palestine has been an important region and the Palestinian people are known for their hard work, great work ethic, and entrepreneurial skills. In my two years in the Gulf, I met several very successful professionals and entrepreneurs who were Palestinian, and one can see this even in the United States.

If there is one thing that has impacted the Palestinians, it is the persecution and unnatural barriers placed by the Israeli occupation. This is what Romney should have focused on – not pandering to the powerful and mighty supporters in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

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Sabith Khan

Sabith Khan is a social entrepreneur, researcher and founder of MENASA, a think-tank and policy shop engaged in issues related to MENA and South Asia. Sabith has worked for several years in the field of strategic communications, public affairs and nonprofit management, trying to understand and communicate issues pertaining to civil society, development and youth in the US and MENA region. Sabith has worked with several large global public affairs firms, on award-winning campaigns in healthcare, entertainment and government relations. During his stint at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, he ideated and executed a global award-winning campaign for Apollo Hospitals (Abby and Clio Awards). He has also worked in the Middle East managing accounts as diverse as Dubai Film Festival, Mohammed bin Rashid Foundation, Dubai International Film Festival, Dubai School of Government. Most recently, he served as the Executive Director of Muslim Public Service Network in Washington D.C, an NGO that engages and inspires young American Muslims to do public service. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Planning Governance and Globalization at Virginia Tech. He has been involved as a team member and leader in several international development projects including consulting for the Near East Foundation, in helping set up their Monitoring and Evaluation system for their offices across the MENA region. Sabith has a Master of Public administration and a Master of Arts in International Relations from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. In Summer 2013, he conducted research on American Muslim philanthropy at the Lilly School of Philanthropy, Indianapolis, in an attempt to map giving behavior among Muslims over the last ten years i.e., 2002- 2012. Sabith’s research interests include Religion and Philanthropy, Youth issues in USA, Middle East North Africa and South Asia, Governance and Civil Society. Sabith is also the co-editor of Millennials Speak: Essays on the 21st century, a snapshot of the ideas and opinions of the global Millennial Generation. Twenty writers from five continents, a diverse mix of young academics, policy professionals, and future thought and creative leaders, cover topics from the legacy of the Arab Spring, the global food system, the U.S. student loan crisis, youth unemployment, to popular culture. Currently working: Founder and Executive Director, MENASA Publications: 1. Humanitarian Aid and Faith-Based Giving: The Potential of Muslim Charity - Unrest Magazine, George Mason University. May 2013. Accessible at http://www.unrestmag.com/about-unrest/past-issues/#sthash.GEqNfv0U.dpuf 2. Arab American Diaspora and American Muslim Philanthropy: impact of crisis situations on mobilization and formation of a “community.” American University in Cairo Press. Cairo. (NP). Expected Fall 2013. 3. Middle-East Peace Talks 2010: Investigating the Role of Lobbying and Advocacy Groups in Washington, D.C. as Spoilers. Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Spring 2011. Accessible at : http://www.maxwell.syr.edu/parcc/Research/intrastate/Spoilers_of_Peace_Project/ Blog: www.sabithkhan.wordpress.com

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