In late June, the Globe and Mail published a front-page feature article by former Mideast bureau chief Mark MacKinnon concerning the depressed situation of Palestinians and Gazans under Israeli rule. The article does point to the damage done by Hamas to its own people, but any balance is undermined by the accompanying art — seven photos illuminating Palestinians’ poor health conditions, lack of city infrastructure and buildings destroyed by Israeli bombs.
The use of scare quotes around “terrorists” to describe Hamas, officially designated a terrorist organization by our own and many other governments, including the EU, does not help either.
These observations and many more are included in a trenchant response to MacKinnon’s article by ever-vigilant Honest Reporting Canada.
A Palestinian rides a donkey-pulled cart carrying sacks of food aid provided by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the town of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip on June 25, 2019. Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images
Another, radically different, view on the lives of Gazan and West Bank Palestinians is available in Israeli writer-scholar Ben-Dror Yemini’s new book, Industry of Lies: Media, Academia, and the Israeli-Arab conflict.
Chapter 12 of Yemini’s book, for example, debunks “the Auschwitz Myth” (Google “Gaza Auschwitz”: over two million citations). One graph shows that in 1967, when Israeli control over the West Bank and Gaza began, life expectancy stood at 48. By 2000, it had leapt to 72, higher not only than in most Arab countries, but higher than in South America and some EU countries. In 1967, infant mortality amongst Palestinians was about 157 per thousand births. In 2006 it was 21 per thousand births, significantly lower than in neighbouring Arab and North African countries. Indeed, Palestinian infant mortality rates are now better than in Turkey and Bulgaria, and Gaza ranks third in the world for natural population increase due to high birth rates and low death rates. (Some “Auschwitz”!)
Palestinian infant mortality rates are now better than in Turkey and Bulgaria
How about education? According to a World Bank Report that Yemini cites, “Palestinians are the most educated population in the Middle East and North Africa,” and “Palestinians’ educational achievements extend not only to literacy, but also to a relatively high rate of participation at all levels of education, including higher education.” By contrast, statistics show that “Palestinians in Lebanon lag far behind those in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.” Before June 5, 1967, no universities existed in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.” Now? According to an official publication of the Palestinian Authority, the West Bank and Gaza have “10 universities and 20 community colleges … and boast one of the highest per capita rates of university graduates in the Arab world.”
A Palestinian sits outside a home surrounded by children in Gaza City on June 24, 2019. Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images
Israel-bashers often point to difficulties Gazans have in accessing clean water, definitely a quality-of-life metric. Yet, pre-1967, under Jordanian rule, only four of 708 Palestinian villages in the West Bank had running water. After five years of Israeli rule, 50 per cent of homes were connected to a freshwater network. By 2004, 641 of 708 Arab communities, representing 96 per cent of the population, had 24/7 running water.
Compare Palestinians under Israeli rule to Palestinians in Jordan, who experience continual problems, sometimes getting running water only one day a week. In Gaza, Yemini says, the “ground water has already been compromised by mismanagement and over-drilling by Hamas.” He notes as well that the Palestinians have repeatedly spurned outside offers to build them a desalinization plant.
Gaza gets plenty of money
As for poverty, a little context is in order. Gaza gets plenty of money. In fact, according to the Washington-based Institute for Near East Policy, “the Palestinians have received — all told — four times the aid per capita allocated in Europe under the post-WWII Marshall Plan.” But it doesn’t go toward infrastructure. It goes to expanding the public sector, rewarding terrorists and paying religious clerics to broadcast hysterical Judeophobia more or less full time. In spite of all this, Gaza’s gross national income per capita (GNI) is $1,760, which seems nugatory to us, but isn’t for the region, where the average GNI is $1,593.
If you’re tired of slanted news about Israel — and the Globe’s article is a fine illustration — I recommend Yemini’s fine book. He says, “The beginning of Israeli rule over West Bank and Gaza was a turning point when neglect and repression decreased and the circumstances of daily life improved.” Nobody wants to be ruled by another country, and nobody wants to stop ruling the Palestinians more than Israel does. But if the subject of a reportage is life under Israeli rule, it is not so much to ask that the reportage reflect more than superficial knowledge, and provide objectivity and balance. Or is it?