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Gaoics79
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My Aunt routinely spams me with pro-Israeli articles. Frankly, what she sends is usually just propaganda. Still, this last article was from the Wallstreet Journal, so I had a quick scan throught it.

Here is the text, cut and pasted from the e-mail:

quote:

It is difficult to turn on a TV or radio or pick up a newspaper these days, without finding some pundit or other deploring the dismal prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace or the dreadful living conditions of the Palestinians. Even supposedly neutral news reporters regularly repeat this sad tale. "Very little is changing for the Palestinian people on the ground," I heard BBC World Service Cairo correspondent Christian Fraser tell listeners three times in a 45 minute period the other evening.

In fact nothing could be further from the truth. I had spent that day in the West Bank's largest city, Nablus. The city is bursting with energy, life and signs of prosperity, in a way I have not previously seen in many years of covering the region.

As I sat in the plush office of Ahmad Aweidah, the suave British-educated banker who heads the Palestinian Securities Exchange, he told me that the Nablus stock market was the second best-performing in the world so far in 2009, after Shanghai. (Aweidah's office looks directly across from the palatial residence of Palestinian billionaire Munib al-Masri, the wealthiest man in the West Bank.)

Later I met Bashir al-Shakah, director of Nablus's gleaming new cinema, where four of the latest Hollywood hits were playing that day. Most movies were sold out, he noted, proudly adding that the venue had already hosted a film festival since it opened in June.

Getty Images

A Palestinian man sells sandwiches in Gaza City during Eid al-Adha festivities.


Wandering around downtown Nablus the shops and restaurants I saw were full. There were plenty of expensive cars on the streets. Indeed I counted considerably more BMWs and Mercedes than I've seen, for example, in downtown Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

And perhaps most importantly of all, we had driven from Jerusalem to Nablus without going through any Israeli checkpoints. The government of Benjamin Netanyahu has removed them all since the Israeli security services (with the encouragement and support of President George W. Bush) were allowed, over recent years, to crush the intifada, restore security to the West Bank and set up the conditions for the economic boom that is now occurring. (There was one border post on the return leg of the journey, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, but the young female guard just waved me and the two Palestinians I was traveling with, through.)

The shops and restaurants were also full when I visited Hebron recently, and I was surprised to see villas comparable in size to those on the Cote d'Azur or Bel Air had sprung up on the hills around the city. Life is even better in Ramallah, where it is difficult to get a table in a good restaurant. New apartment buildings, banks, brokerage firms, luxury car dealerships and health clubs are to be seen. In Qalqilya, another West Bank city that was previously a hotbed of terrorists and bomb-makers, the first ever strawberry crop is being harvested in time to cash in on the lucrative Christmas markets in Europe. Local Palestinian farmers have been trained by Israeli agriculture experts and Israel supplied them with irrigation equipment and pesticides.

A new Palestinian city, Ruwabi, is to be built soon north of Ramallah. Last month, the Jewish National Fund, an Israeli charity, helped plant 3,000 tree seedlings for a forested area the Palestinian planners say they would like to develop on the edge of the new city. Israeli experts are also helping the Palestinians plan public parks and other civic amenities.

Outsiders are beginning to take note of the turnaround too. The official PLO Wafa news agency reported last week that the 3rd quarter of 2009 witnessed near-record tourism in the Palestinian Authority, with 135,939 overnight hotel stays in 89 hotels that are now open. Almost half the guests come from the U.S or Europe.

Palestinian economic growth so far this year—in a year dominated by economic crisis elsewhere—has been an impressive 7% according to the IMF, though Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad, himself a former World Bank and IMF employee, says it is in fact 11%, partly helped along by strong economic performances in neighboring Israel.

In Gaza too, the shops and markets are crammed with food and goods. But while photos from last Friday's Palestine Today newspaper, for example, depict sumptuous Eid celebrations, these are not the pictures you are ever likely to see on the BBC or Le Monde or the New York Times. No, Gaza is not like a "concentration camp," nor is the "humanitarian crisis in Gaza is on the scale of Darfur," as British journalist Lauren Booth (who is also Tony Blair's sister-in-law) has said.

In June, the Washington Post's Jackson Diehl related how Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had told him why he had turned down Ehud Olmert's offer last year to create a Palestinian state on 97% of the West Bank (with 3% of pre-1967 Israeli land being added to make up the shortfall). "In the West Bank we have a good reality," Abbas told Diehl. "The people are living a normal life," he added in a rare moment of candor to a Western journalist.

Nablus stock exchange head Ahmad Aweidah went further in explaining to me why there is no rush to declare statehood, saying ordinary Palestinians need the IDF to help protect them from Hamas, as their own security forces aren't ready to do so by themselves yet.

The truth is that an independent Palestine is now quietly being built, with Israeli assistance. So long as the Obama administration and European politicians don't clumsily meddle as they have in the past and make unrealistic demands for the process to be completed more quickly than it can be, I am confident the outcome will be a positive one. (The last time an American president—Bill Clinton in 2000—tried to hurry things along unrealistically, it merely resulted in blowing up in everybody's faces—literally—and set back hopes for peace by some years.)

Israelis and Palestinians may never agree on borders that will satisfy everyone. But that doesn't mean they won't live in peace. Not all Germans and French agree who should control Alsace Lorraine. Poles and Russians, Slovenes and Croats, Britons and Irish, and peoples all over the world, have border disputes. But that doesn't keep them from coexisting with one another. Nor—so long as partisan journalists and human rights groups don't mislead Western politicians into making bad decisions—will it prevent Israelis and Palestinians from doing so.

Mr. Gross is a Middle East analyst and former Jerusalem correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph.

Any thoughts? I usually take what she sends me with a grain of salt, but I'm just wondering: what is life like in Palestine for the majority of people on a day to day basis?
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Funean
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This is not consistent with what my kids' dad, who went there with a peace mission in 2008, saw. I don't know if it's possible for such changes to have taken place so quickly, or if either or both are showing only the narrowest of slices of everyday life, but what we heard and saw of his trip was very different from what's described above.
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Viking_Longship
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One sees tremendous prosperity in parts of Russia, particularly Moscow and Saint Petersburg. What gets reported from here is corruption, poverty and gangsters.

I don't find the possibility of another side of life in Palestine implausible.

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RickyB
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things are looking up economically, yes. And the steps taken by Israel have much to do with it. Yes. However, anyone who thinks that the Palestinians will forget, put off or yield their national demands because they're so grateful Israel is letting them actually subsist with any kind of dignity is simply dreaming. Palestinians were doing well economically compared to the vast majority of the region when they opened both Intifadahs.

Abbas is not snatching the tiny Palestinian state he's offerend because he knows that if Israel doesn't leave on its own, very soon, the two state solution will be dead and the world will demand a bi-national state - which has always, always been the option preferred by all Palestinians.

Fun - if your baby daddy was there in early 08 - yes, it is. It's amazing what removing physical and bureaucratic barriers will do. Especially in the north west Bank.

Now, if your guy was in Gaza - that's different. Nobody is claiming economy is good or doing better in Gaza, and if they are they're lying.

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aupton15
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I was there in the summer of 08 as well. Any time we would cross from Israeli territory into the West Bank it looked and felt like we had taken a wrong turn into the bad part of town. I think going to Bethlehem was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. Let's just say it's changed a bit since the good book was written, and not for the better. But the people were wonderful to us, and I was most pleased to note that the Palestinian adolescent boys that I saw seemed much more interested in flirting with girls than fighting anybody. I am certainly not naive in my optimism, but there are people on both sides of this issue who really want peace. I hope they can find a way to make their voices heard.
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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by Funean:
This is not consistent with what my kids' dad, who went there with a peace mission in 2008, saw. I don't know if it's possible for such changes to have taken place so quickly, or if either or both are showing only the narrowest of slices of everyday life, but what we heard and saw of his trip was very different from what's described above.

Went there as in went to the West Bank?

Because the Gaza Strip, thanks to Hamas, is a very different kettle of fish.

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by RickyB:
things are looking up economically, yes. And the steps taken by Israel have much to do with it. Yes. However, anyone who thinks that the Palestinians will forget, put off or yield their national demands because they're so grateful Israel is letting them actually subsist with any kind of dignity is simply dreaming.

Agreed. But to the extent that the unity between the West Bank and Gazhamaz is built on hatred of Israel, diminishment of that hatred in the West Bank may weaken those ties of national unity.

Conversely, to the extent that Israeli resistance to a one-state solution is based on rational fear of murder by Hamasniks, a prolonged period of peace might make that solution viable. But under the current facts, Palestine seems the more likely one to blink -- if anyone blinks.

Most likely neither side will blink, but while the conflict may remain unresolved, like the article says, that doesn't mean that it has to remain murderous.

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RickyB
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"Because the Gaza Strip, thanks to Hamas, [and Israel's total blockade, which extends to stuff like pasta] is a very different kettle of fish.

Fixed that for ya [Smile]

Also, this sentence is very strange to me:
"But to the extent that the unity between the West Bank and Gazhamaz is built on hatred of Israel, diminishment of that hatred in the West Bank may weaken those ties of national unity."

I don't know what to say to this. Do you really think that these are two unconnected populations whose only common denominator is having been occupied by Israel? The Gaza Strip and the West Bank are two regions of the same country, and are only a few dozen miles apart at their closest. By a few I mean 2-3, like. The family ties are too numerous to count. The institutional ties are enormous despite the Hamas-Fatah divide and there are still many Fatah supporters in the Strip. To think what you said requires a severe lack of knowledge about Palestine, no baiting intended.

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RickyB
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And finally (for now), this:

"Most likely neither side will blink, but while the conflict may remain unresolved, like the article says, that doesn't mean that it has to remain murderous."

In other words, you say to the Palestinians, be content with the current state of affairs while we continue to talk about talking about it."

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by RickyB:
"Because the Gaza Strip, thanks to Hamas, [and Israel's total blockade, which extends to stuff like pasta] is a very different kettle of fish.

To some extent the blockade is simply the reasonable extension of Hamas' victory. To the extent that it covers stuff like pasta, well for shame, Israel. That one was not my idea, Ricky.

quote:
Also, this sentence is very strange to me:
"But to the extent that the unity between the West Bank and Gazhamaz is built on hatred of Israel, diminishment of that hatred in the West Bank may weaken those ties of national unity."

I don't know what to say to this. Do you really think that these are two unconnected populations whose only common denominator is having been occupied by Israel?

No. Hence my use of the phrase, "to the extent that ..." I am not certain what proportion Palestinian unity is based on hatred of Israel. Note that I also hypothesized that there was probably more to tie them together, saying they probably wouldn't blink. HOWEVER --

I do suspect that the Yankees and the slaving southerners would have been less likely to agree to become (to some extent) one country if it were not for their common struggle against the UK.

quote:
The Gaza Strip and the West Bank are two regions of the same country, and are only a few dozen miles apart at their closest. By a few I mean 2-3, like. The family ties are too numerous to count. The institutional ties are enormous despite the Hamas-Fatah divide and there are still many Fatah supporters in the Strip. To think what you said requires a severe lack of knowledge about Palestine, no baiting intended.
No baiting taken, Ricky. I posted that statement here and referenced you specifically because this is an issue I was curious about, and hoped that you could fill me in, or point me to other sources. What makes Gazans and West Bankers Palestinians, while Jordanians are a whole 'nother people?

Setting aside ties resulting from Israel or the occupations, do West Bankers really have that many more ties to Gazans, than Gaza has to the nearby Sinai inhabitants, or than the WB's have to the Jordanians?

I asked TomC this in a previous argument, and he got so pissy that I figured he either didn't know the answer, or that the answer wasn't what he wanted it to be. Whatever it was, he didn't want to admit it, so he just got all sarcastic about how ignorant I was. Which I frankly admit. But since I live on the other side of the world, and since I've been unable to find sources that answer this question, I reckon the best way to inform myself is to engage with conversations with folks that know more about it than I do. If I'm wrong about you being one of those persons, please let me know and save us both the time.

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by RickyB:
And finally (for now), this:

"Most likely neither side will blink, but while the conflict may remain unresolved, like the article says, that doesn't mean that it has to remain murderous."

In other words, you say to the Palestinians, be content with the current state of affairs while we continue to talk about talking about it."

Again, I frankly admit my ignorance regarding your hood. I don't know what y'all smoke or put in the water. But in my neck of the woods, there are ways of dealing with conflict that don't involve actual murder. There was this dude named Martin Luther King, for example ...
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RickyB
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Yeah, one man come in the name of love. Heard that one...

Time's past for "accept the state of affairs for an indefinite time".

Now, you aren't all wrong, of course. Palestinian nationality is a direct consequence of the Jewish national movement. If there were no Zionism, some of the people that now call themselves Palestinians would be Syrians, some Lebanese, some Egyptians... etc. However, that's a done deal. It would take decades upon decades of Palestinian statehood in the WB - not "we're not starving and the Israelis aren't being total dicks", but actual independence - as opposed to continued Hamastan existence in the Strip, for that to begin to have an effect. By then we'll unite in a federation anyway. This land ain't big enough for two states not acting in concert on most issues.

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RickyB
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"Setting aside ties resulting from Israel or the occupations, do West Bankers really have that many more ties to Gazans, than Gaza has to the nearby Sinai inhabitants, or than the WB's have to the Jordanians?"

I don't know how much is "that many". Jordan is 50% Palestinian, and obviously Gazans also have tight ties with their over the border Bedouin neighbors. However, Gazans and "Dafawis" (West Bank residents) totally consider themselves of the same nation. Much more so than a Gazan and a Sinai Bedouin. Jordan is more complicated, because Jordan is a fabrication. [Smile]

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RickyB
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I'll elaborate on Jordan: Jordan as originally created was mostly Bedouin/Arabian - whether tribes indigenous to the region or Arabian tribes loyal to the Hashemite dynasty who came with them to Jordan when that was created to compensate the Hashemites (allied forces allies in WW1) when Abd al-Aziz Ibn Saud conquered most of the Arabian Peninsula from them and created Saudi Arabia. The other part of the population was residents of towns and cities along the river. These did not view either of the Bedouins as "us", owing to the age-old divide in the fertile crescent between nomads and non nomads.

In 1948 Jordan acquired a huge increase in its non-Bedouin, non-intrinsically-tied-to-the-Hashemites population when it conquered the West Bank in Israel's independence war. In addition it found itself with tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees who fled from what became Israel. The people who were already living in the West Bank became Jordanian subjects. I don't think the refugees did.

In the 1967 war, a significant number of Palestinians (with Jordanian citizenship) fled east of the river. Finally, from 1967 until the 1980's, Jordan still considered itself formally responsible for the West Bank Arabs and most of the local economy was in dinars and through Jordanian banks. So the Palestinian half of Jordan is intrinsically tied to the West Bank population, to answer your question. The Bedouin half is not.

[ December 11, 2009, 09:25 PM: Message edited by: RickyB ]

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Funean
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I believe he was in Gaza, primarily, although he also spent time in Jerusalem and in Tel Aviv.
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Pete at Home
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Thanks for the info. Have read that several times to digest -- been looking for that sort of breakdown for some time.

Good book on formation of nationalisms is "Imagined Communities" by Benedict Anderson. Anderson is clearly leftier than either of us, but he's well-sourced on the matter, and makes a persuasive argument based mostly on colonial examples in Latin America and Asia.

In that light, I disagree with your assessed need for Israel to play nice in order for that effect to take hold, I think your man Simon Bolivar would disagree with you on that one ... something about ploughing the sea, neh? Not to mention that the Palestinians don't seem likely to produce their own Simon Bolivar any more than a Martin Luther King.

I concur that it would take almost certainly more than a single generation, and probably many of Hamasistan separation from WB to engender separate nationalisms ...

And I certainly hope that you're right that you and your cousins will have some sort of acting in concert solution before the time that Hamas and other factors fracture Palestinian nationalism into something that looks more like the proto-Israeli tribalisms.

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RickyB
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Fun - That explains why he didn't see any economic improvement. Gaza is the world's largest open air prison, which we are choking to death with a total blockade. In the northern WB, we're building a huge state of the art hi-tech industrial park and stuff like that with them. Right on the border line, employing mostly Pals. Fruit of cooperation by the highly commendable Danny Attar, head of Regional Council Gilboa in Israel, and Musa Kadure, Palestinian Governor of Jenin. Kadure is under death threats for his good work, natch.
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Pete at Home
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Do those death threats proceed from Hamas, by any chance?

Drag this out for a couple of generations, and those thuggish morons actually might bungle Gaza into a Bengladesh-Pakistan split.

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RickyB
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A couple generations is a long time, so I ain't arguing that, but other sh!t would happen before that.

And yeah, well, not from Hamas officially, but you know.

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Pete at Home
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Wow. An assassination of that scale could break Abbas' resolve against "fighting with our own." And after that, it's just a matter of time until Hamas is not "our own."

What clods.

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Pete at Home
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Ricky, how do you assess the accuracy of the factual claims in the article, other than what seems to be an overly favorable selection in Gaza?

I'm particularly interested in the accuracy of this:
quote:
And perhaps most importantly of all, we had driven from Jerusalem to Nablus without going through any Israeli checkpoints. The government of Benjamin Netanyahu has removed them all since the Israeli security services (with the encouragement and support of President George W. Bush) were allowed, over recent years, to crush the intifada, restore security to the West Bank and set up the conditions for the economic boom that is now occurring.

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RickyB
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Not all checkpoints were removed, but most, yes. And lo! This has not resulted in a single death from terrorism. So maybe the great wonder is not that they were removed, but that they were in place for so long. Most of the West Bank is doing better, and the removal of checkpoints was key to that. So? [Smile]

Pete - Hamas and Fatah are already fighting, and have been for several years now. If Abbas could crush Hamas in the WB efectively, he would. General Dayton is helping him get there...

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by RickyB:
Not all checkpoints were removed, but most, yes. And lo! This has not resulted in a single death from terrorism. So maybe the great wonder is not that they were removed, but that they were in place for so long. Most of the West Bank is doing better, and the removal of checkpoints was key to that. So? [Smile]

Pete - Hamas and Fatah are already fighting, and have been for several years now. If Abbas could crush Hamas in the WB efectively, he would. General Dayton is helping him get there...

Interesting. But trying to crush them in Gaza would be another matter practically and perhaps philosophically as well. Another big threshold would be actual terrorist acts committed between Fatah and Hamas.
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ken_in_sc
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Minor point—the American colonies did not rebel against the UK in 1776. They rebelled against the British Empire. The UK did not exist until the Act of Union was passed by both the British and Irish Parliaments in 1800.
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