You know the story of the pitiful Palestinians, right? Crowded in concentration-camp-like conditions, dependent on handouts from the UN and developed countries, focused only on hatred of Jews.
Not so, according to a stunning story by Tom Gross at National Review today. (It first appeared in the Wall Street Journal Europe.) It begins:
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.
….Nothing could be farther 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.
You probably haven’t heard about the increased ease of movement, either:
And perhaps most important 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 Pres. 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.
Oh, so crushing terrorists makes a place safer, does it? Imagine that. There’s a lot more about the prosperity of the West Bank, and how Israelis are helping to bring it about, with training by agricultural and other experts. And:
Two weeks ago, 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.
It’s not just this reporter’s impressions either. Here’s an official figure:
Palestinian economic growth so far this year — a year dominated by economic crisis elsewhere — has been an impressive 7 percent according to the IMF, though Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayad, himself a former World Bank and IMF employee, says it is in fact 11 percent, partly helped along by strong economic performances in neighboring Israel.
So why did Palestinian president Abbas turn down an Israeli offer last year to create a Palestinian state? You’d never guess from reading the mainstream media.
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 percent of the West Bank (with three percent 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 with a candor he rarely employs when addressing Western journalists.
Nablus stock exchange head Ahmad Aweidah went farther 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.
And the conclusion:
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 demands for the process to be completed more quickly than it can be, I am confident the outcome will be a positive one.
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. 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.
But I suppose we’ll continue to hear the pitiful pleas for more aid to help out in the financial crisis. In fact, my Google alert on Palestinian refugees is full of such stories, but this inspiring story of reality on the ground has not appeared there.