David Pryce-Jones, author of The Closed Circle, one of the better books on Arab Honor-Shame culture, has a piece at NRO on the 4.5 billion promised to the Palestinians of Gaza, rewarded for electing an vicious government that has brought disaster on them. Nothing like making sure history will repeat itself. Dan Pipes has asked if the donor nations — especially the Western ones, but even the Arab ones, can be so stupid, and concludes they have to be dishonest. Pryce-Jones elucidates on this madness.
The Rentier Population
David Pryce Jones
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
$4.5 billion: That’s what a conference of donors has just decided to give to Gaza, and that’s in addition to the hundreds of millions already paid out by United Nations agencies. True, about half the new money is due to come from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates, and they rarely deliver what they promise. According to Mrs. Clinton, the United States is in for almost a billion, and she seems to think this is fine. A rentier is someone who lives off the labour of others by simply cashing dividends, and this cascade of dollars makes the Gazans a unique example of an entire rentier population. No other people in the history of the world have ever lived at the expense of others on this scale.
Of course, rentiers are generally well-off aristocrats. Here we have an impoverished, dramatically unproductive society as rentiers. Another way of putting this is that the Gazans have become the first rentier welfare nation in history. What’s worth asking is, why, if anyone can claim the title of rentire welfare state, why the Gazans, whose addiction to self-destructive violence will, in any future, honest historiography, become legendary in the annals of nationhood?
And what did they do to deserve their rentier dividends? Easy. They elected Hamas to govern them, in the certain knowledge that Hamas as good Islamists are bound to declare jihad with the purpose of wiping out Israel. Sure enough. Hamas duly fired daily barrages of rockets and mortars into Israel. Polls show that large percentages of the Gazans approved. A day came earlier this year when Israel had had enough, and went to war.
The number of pundits who have explained to their Western audiences that the Gazans chose Hamas because Fatah was corrupt is legion. But if that were the case, they could have voted for more liberal parties, dedicated to “transparency.” Instead, they chose the people who promised them, as Muslim Arabs, the return of their honor, the destruction of Israel.
By and large, the Gazans are not in a position to weigh whether or not Hamas’s policies are realistic and beneficial. Of course it is right and proper to feel pity that they are poorly equipped to make sound judgements about the balance of forces in the region, the certain consequences of resorting to force, and the morality of doing so. Nevertheless they freely elected Hamas and it has been acting in their name, attacking Israel on their behalf.
This “minor” detail — that the Palestinians don’t really have reliable information (on the contrary, virtually all their information is from vicious propagandists) — escapes most Westerners who project their own cultural norms on the “other” and assume that when they “vote,” they operate from an informed position. Of course, they do have all those “NGO” volunteers in their midst who might inform them of the bigger world and encourage their adopting genuinely progressive positions. But for that to happen, you’d have to have real — and courageous — progressives at work there.
To reward Gazans now with $4.5 billion shows that Hamas needs make no amends for the disaster its jihad brought down on everyone. On the contrary, the decision to attack Israel has proved a wonderfully paying proposition. Stick to Hamas, the Gazans can tell each other, and your status as a rentier is assured. Hamas has already resumed firing rockets in the certainty that it is cost-free and richly rewarding to do so. The donors have laid the foundation for the next round of warfare. This is hallucinating; this is madness.
It also does the same thing the MSM tried to do during Operation Cast Lead, namely cheer on the extremists so they could claim that Israel’s action was self-defeating. Given how the people of Gaza felt in the aftermath towards their cowardly and vicious leadership, this is worse than madness, its betrayal.