Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney while visiting London on his international trip. (Photo credit: mittromney.com)
Some pundits are excusing Mitt Romney's comment about why Palestinians are so much poorer than Israelis as a slip of the tongue caused by a shortage of staff on his overseas trip, but the Republican presidential candidate makes the same point in his book, No Apology, which he claims to have written himself.
While discussing his thoughts about world travel, he wrote...
"I wondered how such vast differences could exist between countries that were literally next door to each other. How could Americans be so rich and Mexicans so poor? How could Israelis have created a highly developed, technology-based economy while their Palestinian neighbors had not yet even begun to move to an industrial economy?"
In his book, Romney praised the writings of Harvard professor David Landes, who in Wealth and Poverty of Nations said "culture makes all the difference."
Romney added that...
"What people believe, value, strive for, and sacrifice for profoundly shape the nature of their society and affect its prosperity and security. So while America's abundant natural resources certainly facilitated its ascent, it is America's culture that enabled the nation to become and remain the most powerful and beneficent country in the history of humankind."
Then, Romney cited some cultural aspects possessed by countries that prosper -- contrasted with those that don't -- including a strong work ethic, creativity, entrepreneurial spirit, cooperation, commitment to education, faith in God, devotion to family, patriotism, honor, trust in the law, and respect for life.
"There are cultures where life is cheap, but thankfully, ours is not one of them," Romney wrote.
Wealth from Culture
Overall, Romney makes clear that he views American culture -- and those of U.S. allies like Israel -- as superior to those of other nations. That superiority is then reflected in the greater wealth of the citizenry, Romney maintains.
While Romney touts this superiority to praise the United States and Israel -- as he sought to do in his remarks on Monday to a group of Jewish-American backers in Jerusalem -- the comments have a disparaging side when applied to those who are judged as being poorer due to a lack of these positive characteristics.
To say that one nation thrives because of its magnificent culture means that another one fails because of its deficient culture. For the Palestinians, that assessment is particularly hard to swallow since much of their poverty relates directly to the harsh conditions from decades of Israeli occupation, including barriers to outside trade.
Saeb Erekat, a top aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told The Associated Press that Romney's comment was "a racist statement" and ignorant of the facts.
"This man doesn't realize that the Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential because there is an Israeli occupation," Erekat said. "It seems to me this man lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its people."
In his speech in Jerusalem, Romney also misstated how great a discrepancy there was between what the average Israeli makes versus the average Palestinian. He claimed the difference was about 2 to 1, when it is more like 20 to 1.
In citing Landes's book, Romney asserted that "culture makes all the difference. And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things," an apparent reference to divine intervention on Israel's behalf.
"As you come here and you see the G.D.P. per capita, for instance, in Israel, which is about $21,000 and compare that with the G.D.P. per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality."
According to the World Bank, Israel's per capita G.D.P. actually is $31,282, compared to a Palestinian per capita G.D.P. of around $1,600.