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Time to end the human rights atrocity in Gaza

There were three new data and analysis releases in the past week in advanced Western nations (the US, the UK and Australia) that indicate that the policy settings that are in place are not delivering prosperity and should be changed to allow governments more fiscal freedom to stimulate growth. But while these nations continue, variously, to endure the costs that the wrongful policy settings have wrought, a World Bank report issued last week (May 27, 2015) – Economic Monitoring Report to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee – allows us to understand a little bit (in numbers and narrative) the terrible (“staggering”) cost of the blockade on the Gaza economy and living standards of the Palestinian people in that region. The plight of the advanced world is nothing by comparison, not that I want to get into a relativist defense of the situation in the advanced world.

The UK Office of National Statistics released its – Second Estimate of GDP, Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2015 – last week (May 28, 2015) which defied expectations that a more positive revision on the interim estimates would be forthcoming.

I wrote about the first estimates in this blog – The slowest recovery in modern history just slowed down again.

Despite all the claims by business economists that the data would be more favourably revised upwards, the second release (taking into account more data) shows that:

1. The UK economy grew at 0.3 per cent in the March-quarter 2015 (unrevised).

2. GDP per head increased by 0.1 per cent in the March-quarter 2015 but is still well below the peak reached before the onset of the crisis.

The next graph, which shows real GDP and GDP per head since that peak quarter (March-quarter 2008), where the index value is 100.

It is clear that the British population overall, are poorer in real income terms than they were before the crisis.

UK_real_GDP_GDP_PC_March_2015

It is also clear from related data release that George Osborne’s “March of the Makers” is not going to happen any time soon.

The UK Guardian report yesterday (June 1, 2015) – Gloomy outlook in manufacturing sector as firms scale back investment – indicated that British manufacturers are “scaling back their investment and hiring plans as overall business confidence slips”.

So any surge in optimism from the recent election outcome is not persisting.

It also bears on the discussion as to whether falling oil prices are positive or negative. Most commentators immediately assumed that they would be positive – boosting real incomes and spending.

But the other side is that the decline “has sent negative ripples along the energy sector’s manufacturing supply chain” which translates into less investment and less economic and employment growth. The lower prices also impede the penetration of renewable energy technologies into the mass markets (given their so-called cost disadvantage).

Last week (May 27, 2015), the US Federal Reserve released its latest – Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households, 2014.

While compared to the low-points endured during the GFC the lot of the US household has improved (mostly), there is still a massive exposure to risk being reported.

For example:

Only 53 percent of respondents indicate that they could cover a hypothetical emergency expense costing $400 without selling something or borrowing money. Thirty-one percent of respondents report going without some form of medical care in the past year because they could not afford it.

This is the richest nation in the World!

In terms of employment, 15 per cent have “at least two jobs” and “working multiple jobs is slightly more common among respondents with less income”.

While official unemployment may have fallen over the last few years, underemployment is rife:

Forty-nine percent of part-time workers and 36 percent of all workers would prefer to work more hours at their current wage if they were able to do so.

Yesterday, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released its latest – Business Indicators, Australia – for the March-quarter 2015.

There were mixed signals but the striking result is that real wages fell again – for the third consecutive quarter. Real wages and salaries have fallen in seven of the last eleven quarters (since September 2012).

The following graph shows the annual and quarterly growth in real wages and salaries in Australia since the March-quarter 2002.

Australia_Real_Wages_March_2015

But if we think times are tough (which they are – this is no salvation in relativities argument), then think of the Gaza economy, which has been nearly destroyed by the illegal – Blockade, which clearly constitute human rights abuses.

On September 15, 2009, the UN’s press release – UN Fact Finding Mission finds strong evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the Gaza conflict; calls for end to impunity – stated that:

… there is evidence indicating serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law were committed by Israel during the Gaza conflict, and that Israel committed actions amounting to war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity.

They called the Israeli blockades a “collective punishment” and “a systematic policy of progressive isolation and deprivation of the Gaza Strip”.

The Israeli military operation led to the destruction of productive infrastructure, schools, hospitals and schools and the murder of “more than 2,100 Palestinians die during the hostilities, more than 11,000 were injured and a third of the population was internally displaced.”

It aimed to “punishing the Gaza population … as a whole” with “disproportionate force aimed at the civilian population”.

The action deprived “Palestinians in the Gaza Strip of their means of subsistence, employment, housing and water, that deny their freedom of movement and their right to leave and enter their own country” and a “competent court” could “find that a crime of persecution, a crime against humanity” had “been committed”.

Last week (May 27, 2015), the World Bank released it – Economic Monitoring Report to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee – which allows us to understand a little bit (in numbers and narrative) the terrible (“staggering”) cost of the blockade on the Gaza economy and living standards of the Palestinian people in that region.

It is a horror story in this era of austerity. The combination of ruthless brutality and austerity. Hard to match.

It is hard keeping up with the data profile of this region. I subscribe to the – Palestinian Central Bureau of Statists – data service but the most recent labour force data for example mid-2014. So it is not an easy task staying current.

The official data shows that the unemployment rate in the second-quarter 2014 in the Gaza Strip was 45.1 per cent. Only 44.7 per cent of the working age population participated in the labour force.

Poverty rates were around 38.8 per cent, with 21.1 per cent in deep poverty.

The World Bank Report notes that the:

The Palestinian economy fell into recession in 2014 for the first time since 2006 following a sharp economic contraction in Gaza. Preliminary estimates indicate that the Palestinian economy shrank by 0.4 percent in 2014 due to a strong contraction of nearly 15 percent in Gaza’s real Gross Domestic Product (GDP), primarily as a result of the war that extended over 52 days during the third quarter of 2014.

But “the Gaza economy was struggling even before the onset of the war … when the majority of the illegal trade tunnels connecting Gaza to Egypt were destroyed”.

The tunnels were the lifeline to the construction sector which has been the “main contributor to growth and employment in recent years”.

The 52-day war “had a devastating impact on Gaza’s economy” with “Economic activity in the private sector virtually stopped throughout the war’s duration as many enterprises were partially or fully destroyed”.

The Israelis also destroyed a “a large part of Gaza’s farms and arable land” either through direct bombardment or through “the enlarged security buffer zone”. Agricultural output fell by 31 per cent.

Per capita income in Palestine declined by 3 per cent in 2014 as a result of the collapse in GDP and the rise in unemployment.

Youth unemployment is above 60 per cent in the Gaza in 2014 and worsening.

The Gaza economy contracted by 15 per cent in 2014.

The Israeli government (GoI) also withholds funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) by acting as an agent for the private firm Israeli Electricity Company (IEC), which supplies most of the power into Palestine. Apparently, local government units in Palestine collect electricity bill revenue and divert it into their own spending to maintain basic infrastructure.

Relatedly, is the fact that the “electricity supply in Gaza meets only 46 percent of its estimated needs” with “regular electricity outages” which starve companies of growth opportunities and cause many households in to lack homeheating (and the winters are harsh).

The Palestinian Authority earns so-called ‘clearance revenues’, which are a major source of funding for its activities (around 70 per cent). They include VAT, import duties, petrol taxes on fuel imports. However, they are collected and administered by the GoI, and as part of the blockade, the GoI has refused to pass all the revenues on.

They also deduct from the PA clearance revenues a portion of the unpaid electricity, water and sewerage bills which further restrict the capacity of the PA to spend.

In May 2011, for example, the “GoI withheld the transfer of clearance revenues for the month of April (NIS 352 million, about $100 million), which prevented the PA from paying salaries to its 150,000 employees.” (Source – IMF).

The World Bank reports that:

The GoI withheld clearance revenues for December (2014), January, February and March (2015) … Due to the liquidity strain caused by clearance revenue suspension, the Palestinian Authority only paid 60 percent of staff salaries … during the first three months of 2015, while delaying most other expenditures and accruing NIS1.85 billion in arrears to the pension system and the private sector.

The impact on domestic demand, particularly when the blockade and the closure of the tunnels has stifled any export trade has been devastating.

The World Bank says that the overall real GDP growth rate for Palestine is suffering “due to the liquidity squeeze that was brought about by the Israeli decision to withhold Palestinian taxes”.

Some growth is expected due to the donor pledges that were made at the Cairo Conference on “Reconstructing Gaza” on October 12, 2014.

The problem is that while $US3.5 billion was pledged “to support Gaza”, to date only $US967 million has been disbursed for this purpose – that is, 27.5 per cent.

In terms of ‘new’ funding pledged at Oslo (rather than previous commitments), the World Bank has calculated that only 13.5 per cent has been disbursed.

The worst offenders are the top seven donor nations. The World Bank finds that:

Pledges from the top seven donors combined represent around 78 percent of total support to Gaza announced at Cairo Conference over the period 2014-2017 (USD2.7 billion). Total disbursements so far by the top 7 donors amounted to USD525 million –19 percent of their total original pledges.

The following graph summarises the pledges (blue bars) against the actual disbursements as at April 24, 2015 (red triangles).

Donor_Pledges_Gaza_April_2015

The costs of the conflict are massive:

1. “Currently, Gaza has higher unemployment than any other economy in the world”.

2. “the reduction in Gaza’s GDP per capita in 2014, caused primarily by the July-August 2014 war, led to an increase in poverty from 28 percent in 2013 to 39 percent”.

3. In the two decades to 2014, “disposable real income per capita in Gaza … [fell by] … 20 per cent” on the back of stalled GDP growth and strong population growth.

4. “In real terms, between 1994 and 2012, Gaza’s manufacturing sector—which should have been the engine of sustainable economic growth–shrank by as much as 60 percent. In terms of its contribution to GDP, it dropped from 17 percent to 5 percent”.

5. “Unemployment rate has never been lower than 17 percent in Gaza since the Oslo Accords were signed” in 1994. There was early growth after the Accords were signed mostly because Gaza residents found work in Israel. But the “2006/7 blockade led to a sharp increase in unemployment from 29 to 41 percent”. This was further exacerbated by the “crackdown on the illegal tunnel trade”.

6. After the 2007 blockade “employment in Israel became virtually impossible for Gazans”.

7. “between 2005 and 2008, Gaza’s gross domestic output was reduced by a third” because the GoI blocked contact with the outside world and trade dried up.

8. “Since the 2007 blockade, Gaza’s economy became almost entirely dependent on large inflows of formal and informal aid, remittances, and later illegal tunnel trade with Egypt.”

The World Bank concludes that the:

… status quo in Gaza is unsustainable and could have further incalculable socioeconomic and ultimately human consequences … Unemployment and poverty have reached staggering rates and the quality of life for the large majority of Gaza’s citizens is hardly bearable

One wonders how the Israelis sleep at night given the horrendous situation that their blockade and militancy is causing.

Solutions

The blockade has to go to allow reconstruction to proceed. The World Bank concludes that “sustainable development of Gaza will be impossible without efforts to integrate Gaza into the regional and global economy through trade, while taking into account neighboring countries’ legitimate security concerns.”

The reconstruction aid has to increase and donor countries have to honour their pledges and stump up the cash.

World Bank research also:

… found a strong link between Gaza blockade since 2007 and cycles of violence on the loss of welfare of Gaza’s residents.

The medium-term question is what will the disenfranchised youth (which are in growing proportions and absolute numbers given the population growth) do?

There is very little to hope for in the Palestinian territories and Gaza in particular.

I know there is a lot of conservatively orientated research that allegedly ‘proves’ that terrorism (by which they mean Islamic militancy) is not caused by unemployment and poverty. They claim that notable suicide bombers are sometimes highly educated or come from well-to-do backgrounds.

But there is a massive surge in young people from all nations who are being attracted to the ideas that the western ideology is corrupt, terrorist itself in leaning and deserves to be obliterated. The well-educated might be involved but hundreds and thousands of poor, unemployed youth are also being recruited because they have no sense of hope otherwise.

If we started a War on Unemployment and Poverty and seriously funded job creation programs and public education, then we would be providing an alternative opportunity set for those that the capitalist system – whether it be in the US or in Syria or more obviously, given the topic today in Palestine – has rejected and denied any opportunity for prosperity.

The Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) solution would be to start by diverting the billions spent on making bombs and weapons and sending troops into fights they cannot win into job creation and poverty alleviation programs.

Billions of dollars should be spent on a national reconstruction plan for the Palestine and the Israelis should be kept out of the picture.

Given the overwhelming reliance on donor funds, the PA should be provided with sufficient funds to introduce a Job Guarantee as a basic part of the reconstruction effort and income support system designed to engage the residents in productive activity and provide the youth with opportunities for skill development and a future.

There is a massive amount of work to be done in reconstruction via the public service.

The extent of the funding should not be limited to the Job Guarantee but would be elastic enough given other projects to ensure the job creation program is demand (by requests by workers for a wage and a job) rather than supply-determined (by some fixed allocation of $s).

There are other ways to accomplish this – see The Mosler Palestinian Development Plan.

But they all aim to achieve the same thing:

1. Eliminate cyclical unemployment.

2. Provide stable income support.

3. Underwrite an adequate level of domestic demand to improve well-being.

4. Provide alternative activity and hope to reduce the call to terrorism.

Conclusion

The World should not tolerate the situation in the Gaza Strip. The treatment of the residents there has been brutal and breached human rights standards. The Israeli military is clearly committed crimes against humanity and should be called to justice for that.

But on the ground, a massive reconstruction effort is needed and nations such as the US, which traditionally sides with Israel should call time on that bias and lead that effort.

I have my ‘flame suit’ on the standby!

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2015 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

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    This Post Has 22 Comments
    1. It’s a shame that you think that you need a flame suit.

      The evidence of history is very clear. The way to integrate a people is to make them very wealthy and fully part of the economy.

      What we see across the world, from Palestine via Greece to the ghettos of the West is a desire to punish those the elites consider to be morally impure with economic austerity.

      Yet we would all be much better off taking the opposite view – as we did 70 years ago with Germany, helping them to recover after the horrors of the 2nd World War. But that only happened because the moral punishments handed out to the Germans after the 1st World War effectively caused the second!

      It’s interesting that the US hasn’t organised a Berlin style airlift to help out the Gazans.

      The Human Race. Doomed to repeat history because they never learn from it.

    2. Dear Bill

      What makes Gaza so saddening is that, unlike the West Bank, there are no longer any Jews living there. Why can’t Israel promise full sovereignty to the place in return for non-aggression? The problem of Gaza should be dealt with separately from the problem of the West Bank. If an independent Gaza received reconstruction aid for a while, then denial of such aid could be used as punishment for aggression. As to world opinion, it is irrelevant. The only foreign opinion that matters in this case is American opinion, and as long as the Zionists effectively determine American Middle Eastern policy, the blockade will continue as long as Israel decides that it is in its interests.

      Regards. James

    3. This is what happens when one group of humans adopt the belief that they’re different to another group of humans in some essentially arbitrary way, where that belief creates an indifference to the suffering of those outside the group. There is a continuum of pain in human experience that is connected by this thread, where neo-liberalism and libertarianism are at the ‘soft’ end.
      I could make some historical references about what’s at the ‘hard’ end of that continuum, but out of respect to Bills flame-protection efforts I’ll leave it there.

    4. Very well said. Careful though Bill, you will end up on this list:

      http://www.canarymission.org

      Among other services, it is ‘exposing pro-Palestinian students’ and storing them on a database in order to ‘affect their future careers’ – this according to Daniel Pipes in Haaretz.

      I once wrote a comment critical of Israel (but in no way anti-semitic) on a blog and a while later a friend alerted me to the appearance of my name in an annual review of anti-semites by the Australia-Israel Board or whatever they call themselves.

      Oy!

    5. I suggest researching the goals of Hamas and methods of implementing these goals. The blockade was imposed when they seized power in Gaza. Military incursions into Gaza were ordered after missile attacks targeting Israeli civilians and kidnapping an Israeli soldier. It is disappointing that a lot of progressives implicitly accept the agenda of violent Islamist organisations such as Hamas and Hezbollah by siding with them in their conflict with Israel.

      I might not be worthy to be called a “progressive”. To me the Islamists (also these from Hamas) are barbarians. I feel sorry for the civilians inhabiting Gaza and might not agree with all the methods employed by Netanyahu but the militants are the enemies of not only Israel but also of the “generalised” West. These people would most likely make an honest attempt to kill me because of my personal views about Islam if I was not separated with them by distance of 10000 or more kilometres.

      From the so-called “Hamas Covenant” (made available on the website of Organization of American Scientists):

      ‘Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.’
      ‘The land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf [Holy Possession] consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgment Day. No one can renounce it or any part, or abandon it or any part of it.’
      ‘The day the enemies usurp part of Moslem land, Jihad becomes the individual duty of every Moslem. In the face of the Jews’ usurpation, it is compulsory that the banner of Jihad be raised.’
      ‘[Peace] initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement… Those conferences are no more than a means to appoint the infidels as arbitrators in the lands of Islam… There is no solution for the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility.’

      Knowing what happened to Jews in Central Europe it is hardly surprising to me that Israel uses force to defend citizens against the existential threat posed by the Islamists and Arab nationalists. One may dispute whether Israel could use different methods or whether they should adjust their policies. I would not dispute that they have to do something about the threat.

      All I want to say is that not mentioning the wider context of the conflict / war in the Middle East does not serve the goal of presenting the truth well.

    6. “I suggest researching the goals of Hamas and methods of implementing these goals. The blockade was imposed when they seized power in Gaza.”
      The blockade will likely make support increase. I am unsure what to do in this situation.

    7. More loony left one eyed garbage, about Gaza this time. Nobody compels Hamas and now,lately, an ISIS affiliate to fire thousands of rockets into Israel. Nobody compels Hamas to spend vast resources on digging tunnels in order to infiltrate Israel to kill or capture Israelis. These are resources which could be devoted to bettering the lives of Gazan civilians.But Hamas cares not a damn about civilians,only their lunatic religious ideology.

      Mr Mitchell, if you had a neighbour who consistently fired shots into your house and who sent goons into your house to assault you would you not defend yourself?

      Mr Mitchell,why do you so frequently use your otherwise admirable blog to promote some half witted political agenda? Now it is Israel bashing. Are you just anti Zionist or anti Israel or all round anti semitic? Or are you just fashionably and dangerously stupid?

      Note – To my knowledge I have nil Jewish ancestry.

    8. “Mr Mitchell, if you had a neighbour who consistently fired shots into your house and who sent goons into your house to assault you would you not defend yourself?”
      This analogy fails as nations are not the same as households.
      The problem is an unequal distribution of land. What if your neighbour stole your house and you went on the lawn?

    9. P, “Since the 2007 blockade, Gaza’s economy became almost entirely dependent on large inflows of formal and informal aid, remittances, and later illegal tunnel trade with Egypt.”

    10. @Podargus
      You are resorting to sophistry (willful paralogisms) to attack not only Mitchell’s article/views but him personally; and then you try to ‘minimize’ yourself by claiming that you have no jewish ancestry. LoL. Awesome trolling that is. Like Bob said, countries are not NOT households. Competing interests of governments & interests groups are not the same as the interests of two “neighbours”.
      Secondly, you’re in fact apologizing for the killing of civilians (children, women etc) and for the destruction of civilian infrastructure – and you think it is right because the GoI is only trying to “defend” itself. That’s bollocks, mate. The israeli hawks have NEED of Hamas in order to justify their own agenda to their electorate. Let’s not forget that it was Israel who supported Hamas against the secular PLO.
      If you want to impair Hamas’ recruitment efforts, do it via subterfuge and black ops, not via carpet bombing; do it through increase the general welfare of the Palestinian people. People who have families, jobs, incomes, social security, who enjoy fair laws, and prospects are less likely to turn toward ideologies of hate and violence. You keep blowing up their houses, schools, hospitals, and family members – and those orphans are bound to end up doing vengeance killing of their own when they grow up. If you truly care about the safety of the Israeli citizens, you should be against hawkish policies, period.

    11. Dear Adam (at 2015/06/02 at 23:55)

      I always appreciate your input.

      But I think you are off the mark here. The UN report I cited also noted that Hamas were engaged in violence against Israel. But their condemnation of the GoI (which is a political institution not a person) was for what they called indiscriminate “collective punishment”. Innocent children and adults were deliberately targetted and killed as payback.

      Schools, hospitals and other essential public infrastructure were deliberately destroyed in the knowledge that innocent civilians would be massively harmed as a result.

      I wasn’t attempting to present “the truth” as you put – who knows what the truth is in this eons long struggle. I was indicating there was a human rights tragedy in our midst that needed to be dealt with irrespective of the blame that one might like to apportion.

      best wishes
      bill

    12. Dear Podargus (at 2015/06/03 at 5:18)

      My legal title is Dr Mitchell and my professional title is Prof Mitchell. Please read my reply to Adam K. And in relation to your specific question – if I had a neighbour who did those things I would ring the police. I certainly wouldn’t use my obvious attack advantage to kill their children or all the other neighbours in the area who had nothing to do with the initial attack.

      best wishes
      bill

    13. “if you had a neighbour who consistently fired shots into your house and who sent goons into your house to assault you would you not defend yourself?
      This analogy fails as nations are not the same as households.
      The problem is an unequal distribution of land. What if your neighbour stole your house and you went on the lawn?”

      I would say that these sentences are one of the best examples of what’s wrong with I dare to say leftist propaganda which is (to me, personally) not less revolting than right-wing propaganda.

      So the analogy from the first sentence fails because “nations are not the same as households” Yet the same analogy is used in the last sentence “What if your neighbour stole your house and you went on the lawn?”.

      This statement hides the meaning that Israelis (or Israeli Jews, Zionists, whoever) stole the “house” owned by the Palestinian Arabs and therefore have no right to live there. Exactly what the Arab nationalists and Islamists want to achieve.

      Good framing – bad framing. Progressive narrative – regressive/neoliberal narrative. Couldn’t we just rise above this childish level of brainwashing? A lot of people are turned away from criticising the current status quo because one para-religious cult is to be replaced by another pare-religious cult. The problem with MMT advocacy often turns out to be not the difficulty of understanding that loans create deposits but using by some MMT advocates the totally discredited (in 1989 and 1991 by the total failure of Real Socialism) communist / Marxist way of thinking. “There is no objective truth but just narratives and framing, depending on the class consciousness and vested interests of groups of people” OK not everyone is a post-modernist but I can smell the communist stench for miles. I had to live under this kind of stuff for 22 years and I actually spent / wasted some time reading about the stuff.

      I am sorry but I don’t care about the narratives and framing and I am above this level in the game. I do care about individual cases and make generalisations after learning about facts. This is the way I seek the truth.

      If one repeats all the anti-Zionist arguments without even mentioning arguments used by the other side isn’t that person an implicit supporter of Hamas? What is this rhetoric trying to achieve? Find 10 supporters of MMT among Palestinians and turn away 100 people who just happen to have their cousins living in Israel? It is not anybody’s fault to have cousins living in Brooklyn or in Jerusalem.

      The question which I have to implicit supporters of Hamas is very simple: Do you support the right of Israel to exist in peace not being constantly threatened with annihilation by the neighbours? I do support. The association with the “lefties” and then the blind hatred of the “lefties” to America and Israel is what turns people away from supporting very sensible ideas like Job Guarantee and the Post-Keynesian / Kaleckian (who was also branded a Zionist), components of MMT. I was branded a communist many times because I dared to question the status quo (and T.I.N.A.). But in fact I have been a staunch anti-communist for my whole life and my family was persecuted by the communists a lot. Yes, these communists. People who believed in the implementation of the crazy ideas invented by Lenin, Stalin and inspired by Marx and Engels.

      My grandparents were also dispossessed (by the Soviet Union). Do I brainwash my kids that they need to go and destroy Russia and reclaim their ancestral land in current Belarus and current Republic of Moldova? No, I don’t give this kind of thinking a (…). But this kind of victimisation and blind hatred is exactly what is peddled to younger generation of Arabs in Gaza and in refugee camps. Also in some places in and around Lakemba.The not-so-hidden message is “go and breed like rabbits, go and outbreed Zionists or these filthy Westerners and take over what God gave to us” But before kids are born in squalid camps or to refugee parents elsewhere nobody asks a question whether they are going to be free human beings or just cannon fodder, a demographic weapon. Where is the personal responsibility of their parents? Of course in traditional Islam there is no such a thing, the God’s will has been expressed via her Prophet and whoever questions this needs to be killed. I am with Ayaan Hirsi Ali in this. Traditional Islam is fundamentally incompatible with the Western culture and naive thinking expressed by many “progressives” that “since they hate the US and Israel they are our friends” only alienates these “lefties”.

      If I am forced to choose between George W Bush / Netanyahu or supposedly progressive Hamas or the Iranians I would vote for the neocons, no doubt about this. It is exactly the strategy of the neocons to present to Western voters this as the only choice they van make. And this particular blog entry is doing a great job for the neocons because of one-sided presentation of the complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

      I admit that the blockade of Gaza makes things worse. Human rights have been most likely violated. (What are the Islamic State or even Hamas / Hezbollah/ Syrian government / the Saudis doing then? What is the word to describe their attitude towards human rights?)

      But what the Israeli Jews are supposed to do? Go back to where they lived for a few hundred years and settle in Ukraine, only to be persecuted again? I personally think that they have every right to live in Land of Israel free from harassment. It is THEIR ancestral land and the existence of State of Israel since 1947 is a historic fact. The question of peaceful coexistence with the Arab states should be settled in a civilised and peaceful manner. I do not blindly support everything the Israeli government or some segments of Israeli society are doing. But as a matter of principle Israel has every right to exist and defend itself.

      Not all the ideologies are class ideologies. There are also religious or political ideologies on their own. We cannot ignore this simple fact.

      The “lefties” have lost the great debate in 1989 with the collapse of communism in Poland/Hungary/etc and the collapse of the Soviet Union proper in 1991. The experiment has been completed and the issue has been settled. Either we acknowledge this and move on, thinking how we can improve existing Western capitalist societies (Israel being one of them) or we are stuck in the Soviet propaganda from the 1970s. I am sorry I am not one of the believers in this kind of stuff.

      And yes, 23andme shows that I have some distant Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry but mostly my ancestry was Slavonic / Romanian. Does this matter? Probably very little. The persecution of my family from the hands of NKVD and their local branches matters much more.

    14. Dear Bill,
      I haven’t seen your response. I respect your views about human right violations committed in Gaza by the neighbours. I still think that it is better to speak about the wider context of the one of the most convoluted conflicts of the modern era or there is a risk that someone will be free to misinterpret the statements for his/her own goals.

    15. Dear Bill,

      I suggest there are commentators here who should really be banned as they engage in personal and highly emotive attacks on you and by extension, probably anyone else who disagrees with them.

      I fully recognise that there are some fraught issues here and none more so than the Israel Palestinian issue.

      But please, people need to take a deep breath and engage in a respectful manner and be humble enough to acknowledge none has a definitive answer to it, so tangled is the conflict in history and tit for tat retaliation.

    16. Dear Adam K (at 2015/06/03 at 8:44)

      The blog was not about the “wider context”. A primary academic interest of mine is unemployment. The World Bank released a report last week after extensive field research (not ‘Palestinian propaganda’) that said the Gaza had the highest unemployment rate in the world. That surely fits the ambit of my blog. The wider issues are beyond my expertise.

      The other report I cited was the UN investigation. Even the Americans consider the blockade to be an illegal act by a recognised state. Hamas is not a recognised state. The GoI is and has responsibilities accordingly in the context of human rights agreements and international law. The GoI is not Israel, nor is it the Israeli people, nor is it an organised religion, nor is it an ethnic group. I criticised the state only.

      I note that people do not get inflamed when I criticise the governments of Australia, the UK, Germany, the US or anywhere else.

      But all this doesn’t mean your point is without merit.

      best wishes
      bill

    17. Dear Podargus

      I deleted your last two comments because:

      1. They added nothing to the original, which missed the point of the blog.

      2. They intensified your personal attacks. Apparently, in your view, any one who has the temerity to criticise the GoI for illegally slaughtering thousands of innocent children and others is either Anti-Semitic or stupid or both.

      Further, I have changed your status to being moderated every time you post irrespective of whether your comment contains a link or not. You join a select group – most notably right-wing zealots, rabid monetarists and various gold bugs.

      If you want to comment in the future keep to the topic and remain civil and there will be no problems.

      best wishes
      bill

    18. The Realpolitik is that the Middle East is strategically important mostly because oil is important. How long will oil remain important to the world economy? How long will Middle East oil (and gas) remain important to the world economy?

      Currently oil provides about 31.4% of all power for the world economy. Gas provides about 21.3% of the power for the world economy. The Middle East including Iran supplies about 1/3 of the world’s oil. Thus we can say it supplies about 10% of the world’s energy via oil. If it also supplies 1/3 of the world’s gas (I have not checked the figures) then it supplies about 7% of the world’s energy use via gas.

      The total result is that the M.E. supplies about 17% of the world’s total energy use in the form of oil and gas. (Albeit, we have to recognize that a lot of this goes to transport.) We can expect this figure to decline. Oil is a finite resource and gas (despite current expansion in use) is also a finite resource. In addition, the push to de-carbonise the global economy to save us from damaging global warming will also push down oil and gas use.

      It is not unreasonable to project that by 2050 the M.E. will supply only one half to one tenth of the proportion of energy that it currently supplies to the world economy. Thus by 2050 the M.E. will supply maybe 8.5% of the world’s total energy or maybe as little as 1.7%. I would hazard the guess that the M.E. will be of little geostrategic importance by 2050, at least for energy reasons. What does this portend for Israel? The US will no longer have any interest in dominating the M.E. for energy reasons. It might still have other reasons for attempting to dominate the M.E. but these other reasons lose a good part of their compelling power after energy ceases to be part of the equation.

      Israel can “look forward” to much less influence in the world of 2050 and it might be unwise for it to place too much reliance on US support that far into the future. What does this say about Israel’s long term survival hopes?

    19. Hi Bill

      I love your blog, which I have followed for quite some time now, although as I approach the last couple of papers for an economics major (as a mature student) I’m still a little wary of some of the finer points of MMT. But on the whole, my sympathies are with you, for sure. Your economic philosophy is empathic, standing in stark contrast to the arid tone of many (mainly, if not solely, North American) economists.

      The post above is on the mark in every sense, and I have no disagreement with a single sentence.

      However, in comments (in reply to Adam @ 7:54 June 3) you gave what I’m sure is, to you, a throwaway line in order to keep the discussion focused on the economics of the Gazans plight. I refer to your reference to an “eons long struggle”.

      Now the truth is that while it suits Israel’s propagandists to promote this concept, as it helps to obscure the original crime of the European invasion and partial conquest of historic Palestine, it is simply myth. And while I think I understand your reasons for making that statement – essentially keeping the peace – I do think it’s unhelpful to the very people your are advocating for, the Palestinians, to help keep this myth alive.

      Rather than engage in a debate here with some of your commenters that would detract from your important economics contributions on this blog, I urge you to look at some of the more recent scholarship on the history of the “struggle”. I especially recommend Tom Segev’s fascinating and exhaustive work, “One Palestine, Complete” (examining the irony embedded in theshort note, which formed the title, is alone well worth the read) and Shlomo Sand’s “The invention of the Jewish People”. Neither is without flaw, but both are important works of scholarship by Jewish historians.

      And talking about “eons’, also well worth a look is Part One of “The Bible Unearthed” by Israel Finkelstein, a leading Israeli archaeologist, which completely debunks the concept of the Bible as history, and, along with it, the parts of Israeli/Jewish historiography based on that ancient text. In Part Two, by the way, Finkelstein sets out to ‘prove’ said Israeli/Jewish historiography by interpreting ancient artefacts and texts in a radically new, and somewhat strained, version.

      There are many more I could quote, and probably Ilan Pape should be at the top of any list, but you are a big boy and well able to ferret out more information, if you were so inclined, so I’ll leave that to you.

      Like you, I have no beef with Jewish folks – in fact I retain considerable sympathy for their plight at the hands of, I emphasise, Europeans over recent centuries – but the actions of successive recent governments of Israel, in my opinion, does them major disservice.

      Thank you for your time.

    20. “This statement hides the meaning that Israelis (or Israeli Jews, Zionists, whoever) stole the “house” owned by the Palestinian Arabs and therefore have no right to live there. Exactly what the Arab nationalists and Islamists want to achieve.”
      Adam K, all land ownership is theft and most land titles are drenched in blood. The point is nobody owns the “house.” Neither the Palestinian or Israeli or Islamists or anyone can ‘own’ land. Until we realise this there will be conflict. Nobody has a ‘right’ to land.

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