For a man known for his jerky, robotic movements, everyone expected Mitt Romney to find difficulty when he went abroad to a place that is not also a vacation home. He started off badly in London by criticizing his hosts and their Olympic preparations, didn’t attend his horse’s dressage event, and then hopped on down to Israel, where the foreign policy grave that he is digging for himself keeps getting deeper. At issue: his complete lack of knowledge of the Israeli-Palestinian situation.
What was meant as a compliment to the nature of Jews at a fundraiser with perennial trouble maker Sheldon Adelson — who wishes to run the country without running for office — came out of Romney’s voice box and stung deep into the sensitive flesh of the Palestinians and as a result, the Arab world.
Romney, eager to separate himself from other Republicans such as Sarah Palin by showing that he actually reads books, quoted a number of tomes about how the difference in GDP per person between Israel and Palestine was a result of their respective cultures. Basically, Jews are hardworking, Arabs are lazy.
This strategy of insult by compliment is dangerous in politics. Comparisons between groups that control their destinies, like in America sometimes, are one thing, but picking on a group that is locked down under occupation — a group whose plight fuels anti-American sentiments and jihad around the world — that is a little less fair.
Romney tried to say that Israel and Palestine are like the US and Mexico. But actually it is more like the US and Cuba, where one country forcibly embargoes and cripples the economy of another. Except in the Palestinian case, Israel blocks nearly all commerce and goods in and out of Palestine while making it impossible for Palestinians to move around, find work, or even get to hospitals. It is a true sign of the strength and resiliency of the Palestinian culture that they have the meagre GDP per person they do, in light of the obstacles they face every single day with no reprieve.
Romney’s efforts to shore up Jewish swing state votes is entirely misguided. Instead of meeting with donors in Florida like he normally does, he paraded false information in front of the world, flouting facts, reason, and sensitivity on a global scale, and ended up doing what he did in London, acting eerily like George W Bush.