Ideology, Gracelessness and a Determination to Denigrate

On June 25 2019, Seth Frantzman of the Jerusalem Post wrote a troubling editorial on Trump’s Peace to Prosperity plan.  Troubling because one would expect a senior writer at the Post to present considered and balanced views no matter the topic.

It is additionally troubling because Frantzman nowhere mentions that the Plan closely models the astoundingly successful Marshall Plan which rescued large swathes of war-torn Europe and contributed greatly to the economic power house that is Germany today.

For example, Frantzman intimated that Peace to Prosperity was pointless in wanting to raise the Palestinian (sic) GDP because that GDP had “already doubled in the preceding 10 years. Specifically, Frantzman wrote:

“The plan appears to have two main goals in 10 years: double the GDP of the Palestinians, and create one million jobs. The World Bank says the GDP of the West Bank and Gaza is $14.5 billion. It actually doubled since 2009, when it was estimated at $7.2 billion, according to the World Bank. So, in fact, it has already doubled in the last 10 years. The Palestinian GDP is larger than that of Somalia and South Sudan …”

For Frantzman, it would appear that Somalia and South Sudan having smaller GDPs is reason enough to dismiss the American initiative. Not for him the Plan’s item 3 which targets Gazan unemployment with a goal to reduce unemployment there to single digit figures.

This was also a core approach of the Marshall Plan which formulated an economic package to “provide a cure rather than a mere palliative” for a Europe destroyed by war.

In fact, if one transposes the three stated objectives of the Marshall Plan to the “Palestinian” problem and if one substitutes the word “Palestinian” {sic) for “Europe/ean”, then the considered dismissiveness of Frantzman’s article becomes all the more troubling. Here are those 3 (1947) objectives with the stated changes inserted:

  • the expansion of Palestinian agricultural and industrial production;
  • the restoration of sound currencies, budgets, and finances in individual Palestine; and
  • the stimulation of international trade (in) Palestine and between Palestine and the rest of the world.

Despite periodic calls for new Marshall Plans in response to critical situations faced by some regions of the world or some problem to be solved in others, for Frantzman it is enough to pronounce that Peace to Prosperity “…sounds like replacing existing models of funding for the Palestinians, such as UNRWA, with a new fund whose leadership will come from the “beneficiary countries,” which will implement projects and give grants.

This is not the place to get into a discussion of the virtues, biases and crass politicisation or otherwise of UNRWA these past 71 years, but Frantzman’s mentioning of an arguably failed UN organisation in the same breath as a new economic initiative along the demonstrably successful lines of the Marshall Plan for “Palestinians” is breathtaking in its arrogance and in its ideological pursuit of failed prior political practice.

The arrogance of the article is taken a step further when Frantzman dismisses Peace to Prosperity as a stunt where the plan addresses “Palestinian” economic problems “…by just throwing additional financing at them.” To shore up this argument, Frantzman states that in some ways Peace to Prosperity “…seeks to draw parallels to Singapore, the Baltic states or Dubai as models and claiming that “These countries had a political horizon and then an economic success story, not the other way around.

It may be just me, but I always understood that the political horizon for the Gazan and Judean Arabs was always a “Palestinian” state. Thus, in order to circumvent yet another failed Islamic state in the region, Peace to Prosperity attempts to provide a successful economic paradigm, in the style of the Marshall Plan, which will provide ANY future “Palestinian” state with the economic wherewithal to maintain political, social and “national” viability for the foreseeable future.

The Marshall Plan called for assistance in becoming a joint effort, “initiated” and agreed by European nations. The formulation of the Marshall Plan, therefore, was, from the beginning, a work of collaboration between the Truman Administration and Congress.

In just so many words, Peace to Prosperity Plan echoes the Marshall Plan in its sentiments regarding collaboration and joint effort:

“These programs (Peace to Prosperity) are designed to use market principles and actors to underpin a 10- year plan for all key segments of the Palestinian economy… Peace to Prosperity is a realistic and achievable plan that can be implemented by the Palestinians, with the support of the international community (emphases mine), to build a better future for the Palestinians and their children.”

So, just as the success of the Marshall Plan was predicated on collaboration and joint effort, so too is the Peace to Prosperity plan; and in those many words.

However, it would appear that despite Frantzman’s agreement that “…the Palestinian economic situation is bleak and declining..”,  he is satisfied that, currently, “International aid to Palestinians already provides the economy with some help”, and, besides (he continues), “The US in this respect is reinventing the wheel with some of the proposed grants. It is unclear, for instance, why a new system needs to be put in place to re-discover that the “Palestinian healthcare system requires better medical facilities to enhance treatment capabilities.

Back in 1947, the Marshall Plan provided a backgrounder as rationale for its economic rescue package. I have copied that passage verbatim below but have substituted the word “Palestinian” (sic) for “European”:

“Capital was increasingly unavailable for investment. Agricultural supplies remained below 1938 levels, and food imports were consuming a growing share of the limited foreign exchange. Palestinians were building up a growing dollar deficit. As a result, prospects for any future growth were low. Trade between Palestine (and other states…) was stagnant…Having already endured years of food shortages, unemployment, and other hardships associated with the war… the Palestinian public was now faced with further suffering. To many observers, the declining economic conditions were generating a pessimism regarding Palestine’s future that fed class divisions and political instability.”

However, for Frantzman, Peace to Prosperity “…appears to be presented in a vacuum…partly due to the constraints Palestinians live under.” And those “constraints” Frantzman says are due solely to the “elephant in the room”: Israel. Pleased with this statement, Frantzman’s next comment is even more stellar (pun intended): “It’s as if the plan was designed for a Palestinian economy that exists in an imaginary universe or on the Moon, without a realistic discussion of how many aspects of the Palestinian economy are linked to Israel…

Nowhere in his commentary does he mention 71 years of Arab refusal to accept an Israeli peace initiative in any shape or form nor thr (so far) 13 Israeli peace offers NOR the THREE of statehood (1948, 2000, 2008). Not even once.

Nor does Frantzman deign to comment on the 2001 Taba talks and the “Palestinian” refusal to accept its in-principle suggestion of having Palestinian sovereignty over Arab neighbourhoods and an Israeli sovereignty over Jewish neighbourhoods, nor even on that 2001 Israeli offer of withdrawal from the West Bank over a 36-month period with an additional 36 months for the Jordan Valley in conjunction with an international force…

Just as assuredly, Frantzman does not mention the Israeli right-wing government of Ariel Sharon’s 2005 attempt at providing a semblance of national “Palestinian” autonomy in its decision to unilaterally disengage from Gaza with the resultant booms, balloons and barbecues (of wild-life) that that initiative visited on Israel.

Instead, Frantzman complains “But if you don’t consult them (Palestinians) and ask what they want, then how can you help them?” Clearly, the refusal of the “Palestinians” to even attend the conference is not worthy of comment despite their stated desire to be consulted.

I have taken the trouble to write this second article on the Frantzman piece because, for many other readers of the Jerusalem Post and me, this sort of biased commentary signifies an upfront (marked and commented on) change in the Post’s political affiliations in addition to permitting rank propaganda hatchet pieces like Frantzman’s, grace its pages.

I particularly take issue with the hit piece because Frantzman was writing an editorial and not an opinion article (for which he may be forgiven for an arguably errant opinion and perhaps reminded of his omissions and bias).

The successful Marshall Plan and the fledgling Trump Peace to Prosperity plan share near-identical objectives (see above).

But, for the Jerusalem Post and for Seth Frantzman, the choice of words used to comment on the initiative is symptomatic both of dismissive ideology based editorials and a demonstrated inability to learn from the few documented successes of history, “The Trump administration appears to approach the Palestinian issue the way Trump approached real estate investment.

In the very congested Israeli media marketplace, it might be that the Jerusalem Post (and the Post’s repeated online exhortations to subscribe…),  might have decided to pander to its American Jewish English readership which has little direct or studied knowledge of the antecedents of the Arab-Israeli conflict and to broaden its influence/subscription take-up in the liberal political morass of that cohort.

But, or long-time readers, and for those who are personally cognizant of the tortuous paths of the conflict both militarily and politically, Seth Frantzman’s article is a shameless pandering to the lowest common denominator of American anti-conservative sentiment. It is, perhaps too, left-labour ideological angst of the success only Israeli right-wing parties have had in hammering out the only two lasting peace treaties the State of Israel has with the Islamic states of Jordan and Egypt in the country’s seventy-one year old history.

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