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No, Rashida Tlaib, Palestinians Aren’t Israel’s Victims

Palestinians protest the U.S.-drafted UN resolution condemning Hamas

The Palestinian rage and victimhood machine has been running in high gear this week. First, there were Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib’s semi-coherent, counterfactual words basically crediting Palestinians for saving Jews from the Holocaust while portraying Palestinians as its ultimate victims. And on Wednesday, on the ground in Gaza and the West Bank, there was another Nakba—or “Catastrophe”—Day, an annual negative commemoration of Israel’s establishment in 1948 and the failure of Palestinian forces and five Arab armies to strangle it at its birth.

“In Gaza,” The Times of Israel reported,

[A]t least 10,000 people flocked to the border between Israel and the coastal enclave…. “The rioters are setting tires on fire and hurling rocks,” the army said. “A number of explosive devices have been hurled within the Gaza Strip, as well, and a number of attempts have been made to damage the security fence. IDF troops are responding with riot dispersal means.”

…Several balloon-borne incendiary devices landed in southern Israel, where they sparked at least nine blazes, according to area firefighters.

…In a speech at the border area, senior Hamas official Fathi Hamad…warned Israel that “The day of your slaughter, extermination and demise is approaching.”

As for the West Bank: “In Ramallah…, hundreds of people marched from the grave of the late Palestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat to a rally downtown, calling for the return of Palestinian refugees to lands that are now a part of Israel.”

But was Israel’s creation really a nakba, a catastrophe, for the Palestinian Arabs?

Consider the 1.8 million Palestinian Arabs who are now Arab citizens of Israel, constituting about one-fifth of its population. They’re the only Arabs in the Middle East lucky enough to live in a full-fledged democracy, in which they have full citizenship. They’re now 17% of the students in Israel’s colleges and universities and 11% of its government employees—a huge jump from 0.8% in 2008. They rank “highest in the Arab and Muslim world” on life expectancy and infant mortality rates. They’ve served in Israel’s Supreme Court, legislature, and cabinet.

It makes sense, then, that a 2017 poll found 67% of Israeli Arabs saying they viewed Israel favorably and 63% calling it “a positive place to live.” While 47% said they felt “generally treated unequally,” when asked to rate on a 1-10 scale how much “belonging” to Israeli they felt, 45% “gave responses between 8 and 10, 17% between 5 and 7, and 35% between 1 and 4.”

For another 1.8 million Palestinian Arabs living in Gaza, of course, things are much bleaker. But is Israel to blame for it?

It was in Gaza that, seemingly, the dream of reversing the nakba was realized when, in 2005, Israel withdrew every last soldier and civilian from the place and left it totally in the hands of its Palestinian Arab residents. It didn’t help matters when, in 2006, they voted in Hamas as their leadership. Since then—with, not surprisingly, no further elections in the offing—Gaza has declined into a reality of severe unemployment, electricity and water shortages, and constant, pointless, bruising hostilities with Israel.

What has created that situation, though, is a hate-culture that fostered the rise of Hamas in the first place. Once Israel was out, there was nothing—that is, no external force—to stop the Palestinian Arabs of Gaza from showing what they could do, what a flourishing polity they could build now that the “occupation” was gone. In fact, Israel and dozens of other countries would have been all too happy to help. Yes, the Gaza Palestinian Arabs are victims—of themselves.

And that leaves the approximately 2.5 million (estimates vary) Palestinian Arabs of the West Bank. There, the picture is more mixed. The 200,000 or so West Bank Palestinians who work in Israel or—yes, in Israeli West Bank communities or “settlements”—earn far more than in Palestinian Authority jobs and get benefits that otherwise they could only dream of. On the other hand, with most of the Israeli “occupation” now gone from the Palestinian-populated areas of the West Bank as well, the Palestinian Authority, too—if less drastically so than Gaza—is an Arab dictatorship with rampant corruption, oppressive rule, and glaring inequality.

But, again, who’s to blame? No population on earth has ranked higher in international concern and received more aid than the Palestinian Arabs of the West Bank. If the autonomous entity known as the Palestinian Authority nevertheless replicates the pathologies prevailing in the Arab world at large, lay the problem at the door of a problematic culture—not at Israel’s door.

The picture then, is much more complex than the victim-narrative of Congresswoman Tlaib, and too many like her, would lead you to believe. And if something can make the picture better for Palestinians not lucky enough to be citizens of Israel’s democracy—like those in the West Bank and Gaza—getting rid of the victim-narrative would be the place to start.