Romney accused of racism by Palestinian official

Mitt Romney at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on 29 July 2012

Mitt Romney has offended again. And again, it may be a blunt and undiplomatic reflection of what he really thinks.

He was talking to donors at a breakfast at Jerusalem's plush and historic King David hotel. Each of them had paid at least $25,000 (£16,000) to attend.

Mr Romney was talking about what he called "the dramatically stark difference in economic vitality" between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. He said that in Israel, the gross domestic product was $21,000 per capita compared to $10,000 in the Palestinian territories.

His figures actually understate the gap.

This was no rant, but a discursive chat. Mr Romney noted that one book he had read recently, Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel (utterly brilliant, by the way) put economic differences down to geography.

Another, he said, says if you can learn anything it is that "culture makes all the difference".

And when he looked at the accomplishments of the people of Israel he recognised the power of culture and a few other things.

It does seem at least odd that Mr Romney did not also reflect on the "few other things" that might have an impact on economic dynamism.

This is not to suggest that he should shy away from the argument in general, which is an interesting one.

But many would argue the recent history of the Palestinians has had a bigger impact on their economic prospects than anything else.

Certainly one senior aide to the Palestinian Authority's president has condemned the remark, calling it a racist statement that did not recognise that the Palestinian economy could not reach its potential because of an Israeli occupation.

During his visit, Mr Romney did meet the Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, but did not go to the West Bank.

More importantly his speech, which lavished praise on Israel, never mentioned the Palestinians once, in any context.

So this breakfast remark is perhaps not a gaffe in any sense. It is of a piece with his attitude generally, and what he thinks.

Supporters back home will not be bothered by this latest row. Opponents will be aghast.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

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  • rate this

    Comment number 820.

    typical republican.

  • rate this

    Comment number 819.

    Candidates in the US are marketed like soap powder and opinion is bought (YES, I have lived there).

    Both Republicans and Democrats are under intense pressure from powerful Israeli lobby groups:

    Likewise Cameron, Hague and Burt can all be seen swearing allegiance to Israel - surprised?

  • rate this

    Comment number 818.

    Mark Mardell, before you blame Israel for the poor economic performance of the PA Arabs, explain why Jordan, Syria and Egypt are even worse. Also Israel's fault? Check the poverty figures for the UK by ethnic group and see if there's a pattern.

  • rate this

    Comment number 817.

    Hopefully, Al-Asad will meet his bitter end soon. Then, the Syrians will start a new democratic era by electing a new president, who would be someone that represents the Syrians and the sunni majority.

    It was meaningless for dictators to hope they can stay in power by repressing and massacring their own people. The reigns of ignorance and fear in the Middle East must end.

  • rate this

    Comment number 816.

    The situation in Syria is tragic by all measures. It's painful to just watch everyday without being able to do anything to help the Syrian people.

    Muslims have no issues with Christians in the Middle East (except for very rare individual cases). As long as no one is "crusading" or killing Muslims, we can be friends. The moment you point a gun, expect us to do the same.

  • rate this

    Comment number 815.

    @813 Wildeboy

    True, Jews were persecuted for the last 1400 years, but you are forgetting that they were persecuted by Christians in Europe. Jews were never persecuted in the Muslim world. They lived and prospered peacefully alongside the Muslims, and Jews were treated far better by the Muslims than they ever were by Christians. So why were Muslims the ones to pay for others' antisemitism?

  • rate this

    Comment number 814.

    807 Amr, 812. Hadilenorton

    May I suggest you turn on the 10 o'clock BBC news showing the plight of Christians in Syria being forced out by the armed malitia and yep again you ignore the fact the Muslim brotherhood, backed by the Saudis will percectute any one Sunni. The Palestinians have got it good in comparison.

  • rate this

    Comment number 813.

    812 hadilenordon

    What you fail to see is the persecution of the Jewish people for the last 1400 years but Muslims arabs like to play the victim and the bully. In 1948 all the Arab countrys Planned to invade Israel, because they can't have a Jewish state in the middle east,

    Maybe if they weren't threatened by all sides they wouldnt need to defend themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 812.

    And again Wideboy, what is hypocritical is while talking about Christians you don't seem to talk about Kurds, Zerdusts, Shia, you seem to contempt everyone hence you dont seem to believe in the basics of Christianity. What you dont understand that people who have been terrorised by Israel and US politics for decades, probably found rejoice on equal of suffering. And voters are responsible you say.

  • rate this

    Comment number 811.

    Wideboy the world stopped caring about Americans when they supported Pinochet and Batista and today Saudi Arabian Kings. America was doing all the wrong things to fight communism now they are doing all the wrong to fight Islam. So they are as usual blaming a whole system to cover their immoral political practices to gain economical and military (unnecessary) upper hand. Ignorance prevails. in US.

  • rate this

    Comment number 810.

    So the real question to me is what to do going forward? The Palestinians were removed from their homes and land and stuck in ghettos. The current situation is unsustainable and abhorrent. Palestinians no doubt hate Jews at this point to the point where repatriating them inside any 1948 boundaries would be a bad idea. Where to go from here?

  • rate this

    Comment number 809.

    Powermarkeet, Arab terrorism?! started with Jewish terrorism?! when they occupied, how did you think they cleared an area from Palestinians when they first settled? Israelis blockaded because of rockets you may say but apparently there are no civilians in Israel everyone is pretty armed to the teeth as we saw settlers were shooting at Palestinian civilians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 808.

    The intractable problems of the Middle East will be solved when Armageddon arrives unless of course a plague wipes out the likely protagonists beforehand. You can be fairly certain it is on an Agenda somewhere in this crazy world .

  • rate this

    Comment number 807.

    Being an Egyptian, and since I've been living in Egypt all my life, I'd say your comments about Egypt show a great deal of ignorance. Please try to let go of the preconceptions you have. Remember that not everything you hear in media is true. Try to seek the truth instead of having ideas based on misinformation and false exaggerations. Sorry that this is not related to the topic

  • rate this

    Comment number 806.

    The "certain dress code" nowadays apparently is that everything is allowed except wearing clothes that would actually cover you. What if a woman insists she doesn't want any part of her to be seen by strangers in the street or by thousands in a stidum, and yet she wants to participate in public life and even Olympic games? Isn't it a discrimination to deprive her from her rights?

  • rate this

    Comment number 805.

    The distressing issue is that the generalizations some people conceive about the whole Muslim population are based on misinformation and very little knowledge of history. Neither my limited knowledge nor my poor English allow me to reply properly in most cases. That's why I'm glad that usually some unbiased people with the right knowledge correct what's wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 804.

    I quite frankly stopped caring about the Palestinians when I saw them applauding in the streets when the twin towers were destroyed

    My contempt for the hypocritical middle east was further entrenched when I discovered the mistreatment, killing, raping of the Coptic Christians in Egypt and rest of the middle east and Africa. If you are a christian please research this and stand up for your brother

  • rate this

    Comment number 803.

    Wideboy you seem to move away from the topic with Islamic wear statements. That subject is even bigger than you can ever imagine in your entire life, it surpassed many lives. Oppression towards women are in every country but social rules and social power too, so you really need to understand these. How do you know they do not want to wear and go against the social set up? Are you a rebel too?

  • rate this

    Comment number 802.

    "452. Metallicar

    Why does it equate that if someone has sympathy for the situation of the Palestinians, they're anti-semitic or anti-Israel? Isn't it possible to see both sides? [etc]"

    Proof that if you listen to old Metallica lyrics, you get some socio-political wisdom? I'd lay money on it, for one!

  • rate this

    Comment number 801.

    You obviously didnt read my comment,

    So what happens if a women don't want to wear a burka in Saudi Arabia, surly it her right NOT to wear one is she wants to. She don't not have that right in Islamic country's!


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