Monday, August 17, 2009

West Bank Success Story

The Palestinians are flourishing economically. Unless they live in Gaza

Imagine an annual economic growth rate of 7%, declining unemployment, a thriving tourism industry, and a 24% hike in the average daily wage. Where in today's gloomy global market could one find such gleaming forecasts? Singapore? Brazil? Guess again. The West Bank.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the West Bank economy is flourishing. Devastated by the violence and corruption fomented by its former leadership, the West Bank has rebounded and today represents a most promising success story. Among the improvements of the last year cited by the IMF and other financial observers are an 18% increase in the local stock exchange, a 94% growth of tourism to Bethlehem—generating 6,000 new jobs—and an 82% rise in trade with Israel.

Since 2008, more than 2,000 new companies have been registered with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Where heavy fighting once raged, there are now state-of-the-art shopping malls.

Much of this revival is due to Palestinian initiative and to the responsible fiscal policies of West Bank leaders—such as Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad—many of whom are American-educated. But few of these improvements could have happened without a vastly improved security environment.

More than 2,100 members of the Palestinian security forces, graduates of an innovative program led by U.S. Gen. Keith Dayton, are patrolling seven major West Bank cities. Another 500-man battalion will soon be deployed. Encouraged by the restoration of law and order, the local population is streaming to the new malls and movie theaters. Shipments of designer furniture are arriving from China and Indonesia, and car imports are up more than 40% since 2008.

Israel, too, has contributed to the West Bank's financial boom. Tony Blair recently stated that Israel had not been given sufficient credit for efforts such as removing dozens of checkpoints and road blocks, withdrawing Israeli troops from population centers, and facilitating transportation into both Israel and Jordan. Long prohibited by terrorist threats from entering the West Bank, Israeli Arabs are now allowed to shop in most Palestinian cities.

Further, several Israeli-Palestinian committees have achieved fruitful cooperation in the areas of construction and agriculture. Such measures have stimulated the Palestinian economy since 2008 resulting, for example, in a 200% increase in agricultural exports and a nearly 1,000% increase in the number of trucks importing produce into the West Bank from Israel.

The West Bank's economic improvements contrast with the lack of diplomatic progress on the creation of a Palestinian state. Negotiators focus on the "top down" issues, grappling with legal and territorial problems. But the West Bank's population is building sovereignty from the bottom-up, forging the law-enforcement, civil, and financial institutions that form the underpinnings of any modern polity. The seeds of what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called "economic peace" are, in fact, already blossoming in the commercial skyline of Ramallah.

The vitality of the West Bank also accentuates the backwardness and despair prevailing in Gaza. In place of economic initiatives that might relieve the nearly 40% unemployment in the Gaza Strip, the radical Hamas government has imposed draconian controls subject to Shariah law. Instead of investing in new shopping centers and restaurants, Hamas has spent millions of dollars restocking its supply of rockets and mortar shells. Rather than forge a framework for peace, Hamas has wrought war and brought economic hardship to civilians on both sides of the borders.

The people of Gaza will have to take notice of their West Bank counterparts and wonder why they, too, cannot enjoy the same economic benefits and opportunities. At the same time, Arab states that have pledged to assist the Palestinian economy in the past, but which have yet to fulfill those promises, may be persuaded of the prudence of investing in the West Bank. Israel, for its part, will continue to remove obstacles to Palestinian development. If the West Bank can serve as a model of prosperity, it may also become a prototype of peace.


Color-Coding the Suburbs

The social engineers come to Scarsdale but why? Whom does it benefit to have poor people living among rich people? I cannot see it as anything other than an effort at destruction

The bad news is that Westchester County, the sprawling suburb just north of New York City, has been pressured to settle a federal lawsuit brought by liberal activists over "affordable" housing. The worse news is that the Obama Administration wants the settlement to be a template for the rest of the nation.

The three-year-old lawsuit alleged that Westchester had accepted federal housing funds but failed to provide enough affordable housing and reduce segregation in some of its wealthier communities, such as Scarsdale and Chappaqua, home to Bill and Hillary Clinton. In February a U.S. District Court judge in Manhattan ruled that Westchester's integration efforts were insufficient, and rather than risk losing out on more federal money, county officials struck a deal with the Department of Housing and Urban Development this week. Within seven years, the county will construct or acquire 750 homes or apartments, 630 of which must be located in communities that are less than 3% black and 7% Hispanic.

"We're clearly messaging other jurisdictions across the country that there has been a significant change in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and we're going to ask them to pursue similar goals as well," said HUD Deputy Secretary Ron Sims. Westchester County, he added, "can serve as a model for building strong, inclusive sustainable communities in suburban areas across the entire United States."

Westchester officials admit no wrongdoing, which isn't surprising given that prior to the lawsuit HUD not only had never denied the county funds but had praised its housing practices. The bigger concern, however, is the Obama Administration's intention to promote housing polices that have a history of dividing communities and creating racial tension. Integrated neighborhoods are an admirable goal, but how you get there matters.

In the 1960s, Chicago's Gautreaux Program moved several thousand inner-city residents to the suburbs over the objections of whites and black community leaders alike, which stoked racial unrest and resulted in unprecedented "white flight." In the 1970s, the Philadelphia suburb of Mount Laurel, New Jersey, was ordered to build subsidized housing. Local opposition was so strong that municipalities ultimately were permitted to pay into a fund and have much of the housing built in places like Newark and Camden instead.

Blacks have long populated Westchester towns such as White Plains, New Rochelle and Mount Vernon, and the Administration is assuming that low percentages of racial and ethnic minorities in places like Scarsdale are a result of discrimination. Yet there's no pattern of fair housing complaints or other evidence showing that black families with incomes similar to whites in more upscale neighborhoods were barred from those jurisdictions. History also demonstrates that racial and ethnic minorities have incurred far less resistance when they move into neighborhoods where they can afford to live.

The black and Latino suburban population is increasing steadily as the household incomes of those groups rise. But social engineers who want to force the issue risk creating more problems than they solve. Most people believe in integrated neighborhoods provided they're a consequence of genuine choice, not the government deciding where it wants people to live.


Working class backlash against Muslim extremism in Britain

They see themselves as the vanguard in a battle for the soul of Britain against extremist Islamist forces — the “enemy within” bent on imposing Sharia. Casuals United announced their arrival on Saturday when a small army of shirt-sleeved, middle-aged men with beer bellies clashed in a flurry of punches and kicks with young Asians in Birmingham city centre.

The group, which is closely affiliated with the far-right English Defence League, insists that it is a peaceful movement representing ordinary working people angered by the sight of Muslims hurling insults at British soldiers on homecoming parades. But if the chants of “England, England” and the aggressive posturing appear familiar, it is because they are.

The members of Casuals United are largely former football hooligans drawn from the terraces and, according to their critics, are essentially the BNP and National Front repackaged. The groupings have attracted the support of BNP activists including Chris Renton, who created the English Defence League website.

Jeff Marsh, the leader of Casuals United, told The Times that the organisation was a “mixed-race group of English people, from businessmen and women, to football hooligans”.

He said: “I came up with the idea to unite football fans to forget their petty rivalries and come together in a national movement. There are a lot of people in their forties and fifties who used to be hooligans but went on to settle down. A lot of young football fans want to get involved.”

Mr Marsh, who holds a degree in criminal justice, claims to have support among serving soldiers and points to the activities of army wives on the website Armchair Warriors. “Their men can’t be seen to be supporting us directly,” he said.

The new beast on the far Right came to prominence when its members clashed with anti-fascist protesters in Birmingham on Saturday. Police made 30 arrests and are still studying closed-circuit television footage.

According to the anti-fascist group Searchlight, Casuals United was created after the trouble in March when Islamists demonstrated against troops returning from Afghanistan to Luton. Two months later, members of Casuals United marched through the town and last month they picketed an Islamic roadshow in North London.

Mr Marsh, 44, whose book The Trouble with Taffies is an account of football violence in South Wales, confirmed that the Luton parade had been the catalyst. He said that a generation of former football hooligans were stirred to action by the sight of Muslim extremists abusing the men of the Royal Anglian Regiment.

After the group was outnumbered by United Against Fascism in Birmingham on Saturday, Mr Marsh pledged that it would return to the city on August 30. The group is also planning a protest in Manchester in October.

The Casuals make full use of modern communications, using social networking websites, notably Facebook, where there are about 40 branches, many of which declare allegiance to various football clubs. The Arsenal branch sums up the group’s manifesto, saying that it was formed to “protest peacefully against the Government allowing Islamic Hatemongers to live in our country while raising money for terror abroad, cursing our soldiers and trying to force Sharia law on us”.

Gerry Gable, of Searchlight, said: “We predicted real trouble in Birmingham. They are not a non-violent group. They have been involved in trouble in Luton. There are connections between people who run far-right websites and we know the BNP were actively offering to find them people for both Birmingham and for [a demonstration] in Luton on August Bank Holiday”.

Weyman Bennett, joint secretary of the United Against Fascism group, said: “Nobody should be taken in by the pretence that these marches and rallies are not aimed at whipping up race hatred against Muslims and Asians. They are racist demos and we should not allow them to take place.”


Australia: ‘Progressive’ patriotism is a big ask

Australians should all rejoice that the Left isn’t interested in patriotism, writes Jeremy Sammut

By all accounts, the message of Tim Soutphommasane’s forthcoming book (Seizing the Sauce Bottle, ‘Australian Literary Review’, 5 August 2009) is commendably clear. The book lays out the reasons why so-called ‘progressives’ should take patriotism seriously, as a political concept at least.

It is surprising that anyone with an interest in politics needs to be convinced about the importance of patriotism, given that the nation (as in the national welfare or national good) lies at the centre of our political democracy. Because appeals to patriotic sentiment can unite otherwise diverse individuals into cohesive constituencies, patriotism remains one of the more vibrant colours in the political spectrum.

The problem is that much of what Soutphommasane says about the Left needing to reclaim patriotism for itself has been said before. Miriam Dixson’s 1999 book, The Imaginary Australian, also told the Left that if its political projects were to win mainstream support the core culture of the nation and ‘ordinary Australians’ genuine pride in and commitment to the nation’s traditions must be respected.

Here lies the rub. The more interesting question is why the Left is ideologically deaf to Dixson and now Soutphommasane’s message? This is a question only culture warriors can answer.

The short version is that the political project of the modern-day progressives is radically regenerative. The Left’s go isn’t patriotism – it’s the scorched-earth politics of moral embarrassment.

So irredeemable is the nation’s history, so the progressive’s political narrative goes, that the past must be junked entirely and the nation’s future reconstructed in the politically-correct image of the Left. This is the reason why comrades across a spectrum of disciplines have spent the last forty years telling their fellow Australians how racist, sexist, and unjust their country is.

Yet despite the attempt to deconstruct the nation’s history, Australia’s national traditions are one of few areas where the ‘long march of the Left’ through our cultural institutions has not succeeded. Anzac Day has re-emerged as our quasi national day, and our national heroes stubbornly remain (as John Hirst has put it) a cricketer, a bushranger, and a horse. [Don Bradman, Ned Kelly and Phar Lap]

The point is that those who call for the Left to annex patriotism to promote their ‘positive cultural vision’ are making a category error. Most of the Left would hear this as a call to continue to try to hollow out the nation’s traditions of their traditional meanings.

Thankfully, the Left is unlikely to want to have a bar of patriotism. Those who say it should aren’t seizing the sauce bottle - they're barking up the wrong tree.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated August 14th. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590. Telephone ph: +61 2 9438 4377 or fax: +61 2 9439 7310


Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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