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|Life Expectancy by Country in Years
|West Bank and Gaza
Source: United Nations
Literacy in the Palestinian Authority domain is 92.4%, equal to that of Singapore. That is far better than the 71.4% in Egypt, or 80.8% in Syria.
Without disputing Obama's claim that life for the Palestinians is intolerable, it is fair to ask: where is life not intolerable in the Arab world? When the first UN Arab Development Report appeared in 2002, it elicited comments such as this one from the London Economist: "With barely an exception, its autocratic rulers, whether presidents or kings, give up their authority only when they die; its elections are a sick joke; half its people are treated as lesser legal and economic beings, and more than half its young, burdened by joblessness and stifled by conservative religious tradition, are said to want to get out of the place as soon as they can." Life sounds intolerable for the Arabs generally; their best poet, the Syrian "Adonis" - Ali Ahmad Said Asbar - calls them an "extinct people".
Palestinian Arabs are highly literate, richer and healthier than people in most other Arab countries, thanks to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and the blackmail payments of Western as well as Arab governments. As refugees, they live longer and better than their counterparts in adjacent Arab countries. It is not surprising that they do not want to be absorbed into other Arab countries and cease to be refugees.
If the Palestinians ceased to be refugees, moreover, it is not clear how they would maintain their relatively advantaged position. They cannot return to farming; for all the tears about bulldozed olive groves, no one in the West Bank will ever make a living selling olive oil, except perhaps by selling "Holy Land" products to Christian . Apart from tourism, the only non-subsidy source of income the Palestinians had was day labor in Israel, but security concerns close that off. Light manufacturing never will compete with Asia, and surely not during a prolonged period of global overcapacity.
An alternative is for the Palestinians to continue to live off subsidies. But why should they? Why should Western taxpayers subsidize an Arab in Ramallah, when Arabs in Egypt are needier? The answer is that they represent a security concern for Western countries, who believe that they are paying to limit violence. That only makes sense if the threat of violence remains present in the background and flares up frequently enough to be credible. One cannot simply stage-manage such things. A sociology of violence in which a significant proportion of the population remains armed.
To contain the potential violence of an armed population, donors to the Palestinian authority hire a very large proportion of young men as policemen or paramilitaries. According to a February 10, 2008, report by Steven Stotsky : :
Overhauling the Palestinian security forces will cost $4.2 to $7 billion over the next five years. What's more, the recent aid package agreed on in Paris committing to $7.4 billion for the Palestinians doesn't contain any provision for the security services.Add to this bloated police force the numerous other state security organizations as well as private militias, and it is clear that security is the biggest business in the Palestinian territories and the largest employer of young men. The number of armed Palestinian fighters is estimated at around 80,000 or more than six times the soldiers per capita in the United States. About one out of four Palestinian men between the ages of 20 and 40 makes a living carrying a gun.
The Reuters report follows a piece in the Jordan Times announcing plans to train a 50,000-person police force for the West Bank. This translates to one police officer for every 42-70 citizens (depending on which population figures for the West Bank are accepted), an unprecedented concentration of police presence. Currently, there are only 7,000 Palestinian police officers in the West Bank (Reuters, January13, 2008), so the new plan calls for a seven-fold increase. The planned expansion would result in a density of police at least three to four times that of major American cities that have to contend with much higher crime rates than the West Bank.
Original piece is http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/KH18Ak01.html