Saturday, May 28, 2011

Israel v. Palestine. Will we ever have clarity on this?

Melanie Phillips is always "in your face" confrontational

Here she takes the fight to the British PM, who has been tagged in the media as anti-Jewish. Maybe he is, maybe he isn't. And this piece is a little too hot for my taste - weakening the case, for example, by using phrases like Jewish "rightful inheritance". Ancestral homeland appeals mean nothing to the "left" and are already conceded by the "right" (at least in the U.S.). The essence of Phillips's argument, concerning the current situation, and concerning the historical background, is correct. And the latter is better supported by noting a few basic points.

1. In the period leading up to 1948 there was considerable support among the Arab residents of Palestine for Jewish immigration. Why? Because it led to profitable land sales (and increased the value of land owned) and because it led to increased employment and economic growth in the region. The Zionist appeal to the Arab population was precisely along these grounds touting peaceful and mutually advantageous coexistence. It is important to note that the sole basis of the steady Jewish immigration during the period of the Yishuv in the late 19th and early 20th century, was the voluntary and profitable sale of land to the Jewish immigrants, something practiced even by those Arab leaders who in public condemned the immigration, while, in private, profiting from it.

2. This general attitude became increasing undermined over time by extremist right wing Arab leaders, the most notorious of whom was Haj Amin, the grand Mufti of Jerusalem, one-time confidant of Hitler, who authored and broadcast a series of genocidal radio broadcasts in Arabic from Berlin. He became the most important Arab leader (of the AHC - the Arab Higher Committee), successfully and tragically drowning out (and violently suppressing) substantial Arab opposition to him. Under his leadership the Arab residents became increasing violent in their protests against the proposed partition of Palestine into two states - a Jewish and a Palestinian state (sound familiar?).

3. This violence was directed not only at the Jews, but also at the British occupiers of Palestine. The British response was to move more closely to the Arabs' position. Whether this was anti-Semitism, as it clearly was in some notable individual cases (for example Prime Minister Bevin), or whether it was expediency - not wishing to commit to resources and effort to confront the Arabs - is less important than that it meant the abandonment of the British commitment to the Jewish project of peaceful immigration and, in the more urgent situation, to the saving of countless Jewish lives. Either way the record is shameful, but perhaps understandably political.

4. Mr. Cameron is consciously or unconsciously echoing this performance.

Perhaps that is how Ms. Phillips might have argued.

PS. For source material on the above see Ephraim Karsh, Palestine Betrayed Yale University Press, 2011.


From: lawrence rosenbloom []

Sent: Saturday, May 28, 2011 4:10 PM

Subject: Open letter to David Cameron. Worth a read

About Melanie

Melanie Phillips is a British journalist and author. She is best known for her controversial column about political and social issues which currently appears in the Daily Mail. Awarded the Orwell Prize for journalism in 1996, she is the author of All Must Have Prizes, an acclaimed study of Britain's educational and moral crisis, which provoked the fury of educationists and the delight and relief of parents.

An open letter to the Rt. Hon. David Cameron MP

May 2011

Dear Prime Minister,

I was interested to read that, when you met Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week, you said:

‘Britain is a good friend of Israel and our support for Israel and Israel's security is something I have described in the past, and will do so again, as unshakeable.’ I wonder, therefore, if you make a habit of threatening your friends? For you also said that unless Israel ‘engages seriously in a meaningful peace process’ with the Palestinian Authority, the more likely it is that Britain will endorse the ‘State of Palestine’ for which the PA is expected to seek recognition at the UN in September. This is not the behaviour of a friend so much as the kind of intimidation that is more reminiscent of a Mafia protection racket.

First of all, you have incomprehensibly decided to pressurise the victim in this conflict to make peace with her aggressor, even though the victim is the one party that constantly tries to make peace while the aggressor does not. It is the PA which has refused to negotiate with Israel, not the other way round, on the spurious grounds that Israeli expansion of Jewish homes beyond the ‘Green Line’ is a bar to negotiations

I wonder whether you might explain to both Britain and the Jewish people why you do not insist that Mr Abbas ‘engages seriously in a meaningful peace process’ by unambiguously renouncing – in both English and Arabic – his repeated assertions that his people will never accept Israel as a Jewish state, the casus belli of the entire conflict?

I wonder also if you might explain to both Britain and the Jewish people why you implicitly endorse the racist ethnic cleansing inherent in the putative ‘State of Palestine’ which the PA says it will declare – a state in which Mr Abbas has repeatedly declared that not one Jew will be allowed to live -- but which you have now threatened to support? I’m sure the British people in particular would be interested to know when you decided that racism and ethnic cleansing were part of your modernising programme for the Conservative Party.

Next, I wonder if you might clarify for us exactly why the British government has welcomed the alliance entered into between Hamas and Mr Abbas’s Fatah, and why you believe that this will advance the cause of peace. As you know, your government still regards Hamas as a terrorist organisation. More than that, Hamas is explicitly committed to the destruction of Israel and the genocide of the Jews, a platform from which is has explicitly stated this week that it will not resile. And as you know, following the killing of Osama bin Laden the leader of Hamas in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, condemned the ‘assassination of a Muslim holy warrior’ -- while for their part the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the terrorist department of the Fatah organisation that you do not appear to think is an obstacle to peace, called bin Laden’s death ‘a catastrophe’ and vowed to step up the jihad to establish the dominance of Islam in the world.

I’m sure we are all agog to learn why you, a Conservative Prime Minister and the supposed ally of America in the defence of the free world, have chosen not only to applaud and promote a coalition which includes genocide fanatics who are in bed with both al Qaeda and Iran, but why you are also threatening their victim, Israel, that Britain will endorse a state run by this genocidal coalition unless Israel itself enters into negotiations with it. To carry on with the Mafia analogy, this is akin to threatening someone that if they do not put a gun in their mouth and pull the trigger you will set the Mob on them to achieve the same result.

I’d be grateful if you could explain to us why you support the killing of the leader of al Qaeda, as well as sanctions against Iran on the grounds that both represent an unconscionable threat to the free world, and yet at the same time demand of Israel that it makes concessions to a coalition made up of the allies of Iran and al Qaeda. I’m sure we’d all like to know, if this is how you treat your ‘friends’, how you would treat your enemies.

I realise, Prime Minister, that before you achieved high office your knowledge of and interest in foreign affairs was hovering around the zero mark. As a result, it is likely that your only knowledge of the Middle East comes from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which has a history of virulent antagonism towards the Jewish people. I would also expect, however, that you have an eye to your own place in history, and that you would probably like to be viewed by future generations as the British Prime Minister who stood shoulder to shoulder with the victims of genocidal aggression against their destroyers, rather than the other way round.

If you are to get this the right way round and thus avoid such posthumous infamy, it is vital that you come to realise the key point about the Middle East impasse. To arrive at a solution, it is imperative first of all correctly to identify the problem. The problem in the Middle East is not the absence of a state of Palestine. Were that the case, the problem would have been resolved when such a state was first mooted long before World War Two. The problem is instead that the Arabs wish to destroy the State of Israel. The solution, therefore, is to stop them from continuing to try to do so. And to achieve that, it is essential that the west stop rewarding them for their attempts.

For the single most important reason for the never-ending nature of the Middle East impasse is that, uniquely, for more than nine decades the west has rewarded the Arab aggressors and punished their Jewish victims. And from the start, the western leader of this infernal process, I’m afraid to say, was Britain.

It was the British who, out of sheer breathtaking malice against the Jewish people, first incited the (hitherto mainly benignly disposed) Arabs against the Jews returning to their ancestral homeland in Palestine in the early years of the 20th century. It was the British who set out to undermine and reverse their own government’s policy to re-establish the Jewish national home in the land of Israel. It was the British who reneged on their internationally binding treaty obligation to settle the Jews throughout Palestine – including the areas currently known as the ‘West Bank’ and Gaza – with the result that they kept out desperate Jews trying to flee Nazi Europe, causing thousands to be murdered in the Holocaust. At the same time, they encouraged Arab immigration from neighbouring countries and turned a blind eye to the pogroms carried out by these Arab newcomers against the Jews whose land it was supposed to be –thus laying the groundwork for the false claim that the Arabs were the rightful inheritors of the land. And all the time, the British cloaked this vicious treachery in the honeyed fiction that they were the true friends of the Jewish people and had their interests at heart.

The history of the British in this terrible conflict between Jew and Arab is not merely a chronicle of the utmost perfidy and malevolent Judeophobic bigotry. It is also directly responsible for the continuation of the conflict to this day. For Arab aggression against the Jews has been rewarded and encouraged from the start, by robbing the Jews of their rightful inheritance and giving great chunks of it to their aggressors. But if aggressors are rewarded, the inevitable result is more aggression until they achieve their final terrible aim.

And that very same process is in evidence today, with Britain’s grotesque endorsement this week of the coalition for genocide and your government's unconscionable pressure upon Israel to negotiate its own destruction with its mortal enemies. Prime Minister, the virus of Judeophobia is now rampant once again throughout Europe – let alone in the Arab and Muslim world. And the fuel for this fire is the set of genocidal falsehoods about the Arab and Muslim war of extermination against Israel, a Big lie which has turned victim into aggressor and vice versa. Appallingly, the British government is helping stoke this vile inferno by endorsing many of these falsehoods -- and now, worse still, by actually promoting the coalition of genocide and turning the screw on its victim. The similarities with the 1930s and 1940s are uncanny and horrifying – similarities not just with what was allowed to develop in Europe, but also what happened in Palestine itself, the source of today’s terrible impasse.

Prime Minister, if you are not very careful indeed history will judge that you re-established a direct line back to the malevolence of the British in Palestine; back to that terrible time when Britain so foully betrayed the Jewish people and became a party to genocide; back to the approach which gave genocidal fanatics hope that victory was within their grasp. To stand up against all this -- the defining madness of our times -- would demand of you, I know full well, the utmost statesmanship and moral courage. But the alternative is to earn the contempt of decent people everywhere and the scorn of posterity. The choice, Prime Minister, is yours.


Melanie Phillips

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Immigration at a price?

Gary Becker has just published a short monograph for the IEA entitled The Challenge of Immigration: A Radical Solution (see also here). Like most of Becker’s proposals it has a penetrating simplicity and compelling logic to it. I want to consider it briefly (for my earlier assessment of the immigration issue see here).

Here is the Executive Summary:

  • Despite substantial economic growth in underdeveloped countries, there are still huge differences in wage levels between poorer and richer countries.
  • Low fertility, especially in Europe, is also likely to lead to pressures that will encourage migration in future decades.
  • Net migration has grown dramatically in recent years. In 1980, net migration to the UK was approximately zero and by 2005 the figure was 190,000 per annum. In the same period net migration to the USA more or less doubled to 1.1 million per annum.
  • There were very substantial migration flows in the late nineteenth century but the USA imposed restrictions from the 1920s onwards. Those restrictions are onerous and involve bureaucratic controls.
  • Given the extent of welfare states in countries with higher incomes, it would be difficult to go back to a policy of free migration.
  • There would be many advantages to a policy of charging immigrants a fee. If a fee of (say) $50,000 were charged, it would ensure that economically active migrants who had a real commitment to the country were most attracted. This fee could be used to lower other taxes.
  • Charging a fee would be a much more efficient way of controlling economic migration than the use of quotas and other bureaucratic systems of control.
  • Even a fee of $50,000 would allow people on relatively low earnings to enter the USA if there were skill shortages. Given the level of wage differentials, such a fee could be paid back in a few years or in a decade or so.
  • Certain categories of migrant might be allowed to benefit from a loans system to enable them to pay the fee over a period of years. This could operate rather like a student loans system in higher education.
  • One advantage of using a fee rather than administrative controls would be that illegal immigrants would have a strong incentive to regularize their status – and would be allowed to do so legally. Such people would have to pay the required fee but would then be free to choose much more remunerative occupations. As such, the use of the price mechanism in migration policy could alleviate the scourge of illegal immigration.

My general reaction to this proposal was quite negative for a few reasons.

  1. It appears to solidify the role of government in “centrally planning” the immigration market. Any kind of central planning smells bad – incentive and knowledge problems – abuse, corruption, unavoidable errors of judgment, etc. It also means that government officials get to decide how many immigrants is the “right” number, rather than leaving this to the market.
  2. The immigration fee would be paid to the government and would become a source of revenue for it. Becker suggests that this revenue (which could be substantial) could be put toward the budget deficit and obviate the need for some taxes going forward. This argument is surprisingly naïve. It is almost certain that the government will simply expand its commitments to include the revenue. In other words it will simply fuel the expansion of government. This is a proposal for expanding government revenue, not one for simply redistributing the way that revenue is used, as is the case with vouchers.
  3. The proposal is basically a mechanism for allocating immigrants between the legal and illegal categories. The higher the fee, the more likely it is to deter legal migration, leaving the potential migration two, not one, options; not to migrate or to migrate illegally.
  4. Becker suggests a government funded, or supported, loan program for lower income immigrants to be able to pay the fee. (At $50,000, even low income earners would be able to pay this loan in a few years.) Who needs another government loan program? Most certainly this would turn into a dei facto subsidy.

Further thought, however, has inclined me more in favor of the proposal for the following reasons (referring to the list above).

  1. The role of government will be diminished. So while it is clearly not ideal it does reduce the necessary bureaucracy and its scope of decision making. Responses to the level of the immigration fee set could be made public and as a way to use “market data” to adjust the number of immigrants admitted. I still don’t like this at all; but I have to concede it is a lot better than what we have.
  2. Expanding government revenue by this proposal remains a big problem for me. This could be made much more palatable with a more detailed circumscribing of the use of this money; keeping it out of general revenue. Maybe it could be used for a comprehensive education voucher program. [In the high welfare states, like California, they would want use this money to pay for health-care and education of immigrants. I would resist this, since immigrants are likely to pay for them themselves in their taxes.]
  3. The proposal definitely creates a mechanism by which illegal immigrants could regularize their status. It seems it would also avoid the thorny question of amnesty and the moral qualms surrounding it. At $50,000 it is likely to all but remove the illegal immigration problem.
  4. One need not have government involved in any loan program. If immigration were economically profitable private companies would fund loans for the fee.

So, all in all, it seems to me this proposal would be a vast improvement over what we have. It is clearly much more politically palatable and likely than more the more radical changes that many of us would like to see along classical liberal lines. Would it foreclose such changes completely? Is it worth taking that risk? Though my heart is not in it, I would have to say yes. What do you think?