Mitt Romney’s global tour of offensive remarks has moved on to the Middle East. Fresh off of telling Londoners their Olympic preparations stunk, Romney offered his analysis of the economic disparity between Israel and Palestine at a $1 million fundraiser in Jerusalem today. Occupation didn’t make the list. But “culture” and the “hand of providence” did. The Guardian recounts his speech:
“And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognise the power of at least culture and a few other things,” the presumptive Republican candidate told his audience. He cited a climate of innovation, the Jewish history of thriving in adversity and the “hand of providence”.
The remarks are among the most revealing thus far of Romney’s view on economic inequity. It’s a striking analysis to conclude that the dramatic poverty in Palestine, laid next to the wealth of Israel, is driven primarily by culture and God, rather than generations of occupation.
As the Guardian points out, it’s also notable that Romney far underestimated the actual economic gap between the two, er, cultures.
“As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000 dollars, 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,” he said.
In fact, according to the World Bank, Israel had a per capita gross domestic product of about $31,000 in 2011, while the West Bank and Gaza had a per capita GDP of just over $1,500.
Romney didn’t go to the West Bank or Gaza to see that poverty for himself. He did however declare Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital—a hotly contested point throughout decades of negotiations and one that all sides have agreed remains unresolved.
Palestinian official Saeb Erekat asked the obvious question: “Isn’t this racism? Israelis and Palestinians have a conflict, but they are people, they are equal, it is not a better culture or advanced culture.”