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Monday, September 02, 2013

Peace through profits?

Everyone who is involved with high tech in Israel in any way has been asked to participate or has participated in an event promoting 'Palestinian' high tech. Yes, including me. The unstated goal of each of these events is that through working together on high tech projects, Israelis and 'Palestinians' will see each other as human beings with a basic humanity in common, and that this will somehow magically lead to peace.

So far, it's been very successful in creating a lot of 'Palestinian' high tech ventures through Israeli venture capitalists and through most, if not all, of the American companies who have large investments here. That would include Cisco (which plays a major part in the story below), Google, Intel, Microsoft, etc.

I have mentioned several times on this blog attending a lecture back in the '90's by Natan Sharansky, in which he talked about trying to interest the 'Palestinian' leadership in economic projects during his term as Minister of Industry and Trade. The theory behind such efforts is that if the 'Palestinians' have something to lose economically to terrorism, it will make them think twice about promoting or undertaking it. Sharansky reported that the 'Palestinian leadership' had no interest in any economic projects - they were only interested in how much land they were going to get and how much arms and ammunition they were going to receive to try to take and hold that land.

About a month ago, Richard Behar published an article in Forbes, which included interviews with 'Palestinian' entrepreneurs and which was about the efforts of Cisco - which has invested a huge amount of money in Israel - and its CEO John Chambers to encourage 'Palestinian' high tech. I didn't blog the article for several reasons, although I did read it. Yesterday, I was pointed to another Forbes article by Behar, which is mostly about 'Palestinian' reactions to the original article (the Israelis who were interviewed all reacted positively). Those reactions were mostly fury, demands that the article be taken down from the magazine's web site, and fear of being labeled 'collaborators.'
But the vast majority of Palestinians who were featured by FORBES reacted with disappointment, upset, and sometimes fear or fury. Referring to it as a “political article,” several requested that the entire piece be removed before they would even discuss their feelings with me. (Sorry, that’s not an option.) Some worry that the story will harm their businesses by sparking retaliation from Arab extremists. One says he’s already seeing such a backlash. Only three Palestinians named in our reports spoke positively about them.
The reasons for that are obvious. Many Israelis who are involved in these efforts believe that if they enable the 'Palestinians' to stand on their own economically, it will be much easier for peace to happen. People who have wealth to protect would rather have peace than have their wealth destroyed. But the 'Palestinians' - either due to their education to hatred for generations or due to fear of standing up to their leadership -  do not see these efforts as even being aimed toward peace.
Meanwhile, the word “peace” keeps popping into my head as they expound about their goals and impressive accomplishments. I try and swat the word away, like it’s a nasty locust, because I know that most of the Palestinians who are training and/or working with Israelis on high-tech ventures are emphatic that these are not efforts at peace, or a ‘normalization’ of relations — or some kind of tiptoeing substitute for their own state. I get it. They are simply being sensible, taking advantage of the immeasurable knowledge that exists inside their next-door neighbor’s “Start-up Nation” – a global technological powerhouse in a country the size of New Jersey — to help develop a similar economy.
Even the 'Palestinians' who are arranging the collaboration (why do I hesitate to use that word?) between Israeli and 'Palestinian' high tech entrepreneurs refuse to see them as a stepping stone to peace.
Flash forward. “Your articles are very political and I am very upset,” writes Sam Husseini, one of the men at that April dinner, whose company (LionHeart) is the recruiter of Palestinian CEOs and managers for Cisco-sponsored trainings. “I spoke with many Palestinians here that you quoted in the articles and almost all are very upset. This will definitely hurt our businesses. I honestly don’t know how to react to this…We need this [article] removed NOW. Please.”
Later, by phone, Sam says: “You should have run it by us first. The first thing we would have told you is move the word ‘peace’ out of the article.”
Huh? Move it to where? How could peace not be mentioned in any article that discusses Palestinian-Israeli co-ventures? (Talk about ignoring the proverbial elephant in the room.) In virtually every interview I conducted with Israelis and Palestinians, I touched on politics and the conflict. Even Husseini, during the Ramallah dinner, volunteered that “I don’t understand the tactics of Abbas or Netanyahu [the leaders of the Palestinian Authority and Israel, respectively] — I think they’re both idiots.” Was such talk strictly for dinner consumption? It would be unfair to readers to make believe that politics isn’t omnipresent in a place like the Middle East – lurking in every corner, every sentence, every glance.
“But the thing is, we live here,” responds Sam. “The whole article is written for the American audience, which doesn’t understand the complexities of life here. But for us, Israelis and Palestinians, we see that this took advantage and turned something that is non-political into a political statement. You’re gonna hurt a lot of Israelis and Palestinians.”
What do the 'Palestinians' want? What do they fear? And if they really want peace, why is their leadership taking them in a different direction? Perhaps these comments by historian Benny Morris about Egypt's peace treaty with Israel will elucidate the answer.
Morris then makes a comparison between Palestinians and neighboring Egyptians — worth including here due to the tremendous upheaval that is unfolding in that country. “And don’t forget,” says Morris, “while Egypt had and has a peace treaty with Israel, its middle class completely rejected and rejects Israel – all and any contact with the Jewish state (the lawyers, doctors, academics associations – all are flatly rejectionist, the very people called ‘secular’ and ‘liberal’ by the approving Western press. They may be liberal about democracy, women, human rights – but not about Israel and its existence. The same probably applies to the Palestinian middle class, but it is not averse to clandestine cooperation to make money for itself. That’s part of the problem.”
Morris is right about Egypt. Recall this from the Egyptian blogger Sandmonkey
But then I rememebrd that we- the majority of us anyway- don't want peace with Israel, and are not interested in any real dialogue with them. We weren't then and we are not now. The Entire peace process has always been about getting the land back, not establishing better relations. Even when we do get the land back, it's not enough. People in Egypt lament daily the Camp David treaty that prevents us from fighting. In Gaza they never stopped trying to attack Israel. In Lebanon Hezbollah continued attacking even after the Israeli withdrawel. And the people- the majority of the arab population- support it. Very few of us are really interested in having any lasting Peace or co-existance. I mean, if our left is asking for war, what do you think the rest of the population is thinking?
I think that the Israeli want peace with us because they don't want their lives disrupted. They don't want to have the IDF soldiers fighting in Gaza, rockets coming into their towns from Hamas or having to go to wars against Hezbollah to get their soldiers back. I think they want peace because they want their peace of mind. They view us as if we were a headache. We view them as if they are a cancer.
But is Morris right about the 'Palestinians'? Are they also a case where the leadership is engaging in 'peace talks' to get money from the West, while the middle class really has no interest in it? Honestly... I don't believe that.

Yes, there are many 'Palestinians' who genuinely hate Israelis, and who would do anything to murder us. Maybe even most 'Palestinians.' They are that way because they've been brainwashed by their leaders or because they have lived in poverty for the last 46-65 years  because they fled their homes when the Arab countries ordered them to do so. They've been held hostage for the dream of the 'right of return' by the 'Palestinian leadership' and by the Arab countries themselves. But they're not the high tech entrepreneurs.

The high tech entrepreneurs are the smart people (and the 'Palestinians' are reputed to be the smartest of the Arabs). They fear that the 'Palestinian leadership' and the Arab countries will discover one of their deepest, darkest secrets: That deep down, they don't care about an independent 'Palestine' and would be happy to live as a minority in a Jewish state (Israel) that treats them far better than 'Palestine' would ever treat them. If you think I'm making this up, or that I'm imagining things because they're pro-Israel, please consider this (source here).
The awkward fact is that the 270,000 Arabs who live in East Jerusalem may not be very enthusiastic about joining Palestine. The survey, which was designed and supervised by former State Department Middle East researcher David Pollock, found that only 30 percent said they would prefer to be citizens of Palestine in a two-state solution, while 35 percent said they would choose Israeli citizenship. (The rest said they didn't know or refused to answer.) Forty percent said they would consider moving to another neighborhood in order to become a citizen of Israel rather than Palestine, and 54 percent said that if their neighborhood were assigned to Israel, they would not move to Palestine.

The reasons for these attitudes are pretty understandable, even healthy. Arabs say they prefer Israel's jobs, schools, health care and welfare benefits to those of a Palestinian state -- and their nationalism is not strong enough for them to set aside these advantages in order to live in an Arab country. The East Jerusalemites don't much love Israel -- they say they suffer from discrimination. But they seem to like what it has to offer. Remarkably, 56 percent said they traveled inside Israel at least once a week; 60 percent said access to its Mediterranean beaches was "very important" or "moderately important" to them.

"Quite clearly there is a discrepancy between people's attitudes and the assumption that Palestinian neighborhoods should be part of Palestine," said Pollock, whose work was sponsored by Pechter Middle East polls and the Council on Foreign Relations. "That's not actually what the people want."
How many of those 'Palestinian' entrepreneurs who have been exposed to Israelis feel the same way?

Those 'Palestinians' who have tasted what it means to live in a free state (which 'Palestine' will never be) understand that notwithstanding their tribal loyalties, they and their families will be better off living in Israel and working with Israelis. Take, for example, journalist Khaled Abu Toameh (source here):
But just as frightening as Arab Palestinian bloggers and journalists being arrested for posting on their Facebook pages is the steady drumbeat of pressure that is leading to a decrease in coverage by western journalists who, presumably, are not as vulnerable to the capricious selections for punishment designed to suppress criticism of the ruling regime.

In addition to whispered discussions being heard in Ramallah about the “Facebook Police” are the directives issued to western journalists to focus their reporting on “Israel’s ‘occupation’” and refrain from prying into alleged corruption committed by PA officials, because “nothing else is newsworthy and nothing else should be reported.”

Some western journalists have been warned not to work with Arabic speaking reporters who fail to toe the “All-Occupation, All The Time” reporting. This is how the PA controls not only their own media outlets, but those western outlets. All too many simply play along rather than stand up for press and speech freedoms and possibly risk losing access. For those journalists who behave and report primarily about the occupation, the rewards are access to senior officials. Senior PA officials told Arab Israeli journalist abu Toameh, “Even the Jews at Haaretz behave themselves and for that they are rewarded with interviews of PA President Mahmoud Abbas.”

It is not only individual journalists who are being intimidated, but entire news sites critical of the PA have been blocked on the internet. A report in late April revealed that several websites which had reported on corruption within the PA were blocked, including Inlight Press, which had revealed that the PA had been monitoring the phones of Mahmoud Abbas’s opponents.
Abu Toameh left the 'Palestinian territories' 30 years ago to report for the Jerusalem Post.

What Behar is confronting is 'Palestinians' who may not want peace with Israel, but who are willing to live in peace with Israel anyway and who fear being exposed as 'collaborators' in front of members of their tribes. The only way this will stop is if the world stops subsidizing the 'destroy Israel' narrative pushed by the 'Palestinian Authority,' stops financing UNRWA to maintain the dream of destroying Israel through the right of return, and forces the 'Palestinian street' to grow up and earn a living. It's not likely to happen to anytime soon. The profits will continue but they won't lead to peace.

Read the whole thing

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1 Comments:

At 1:43 AM, Blogger Findalis said...

This is one of the most stupidest things I've heard of. Why would you help your competition to succeed? Instead you should be working to destroy these companies.

 

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