Sunday, August 08, 2010

Oxford University chancellor lies about Gaza

Even people with academic robes can lie.
In an article at European Voice, entitled "The Gaza Prison,"current Oxford chancellor( also the last British governor of Hong Kong and a former European commissioner for external affairs) Chris Patten parrots lies about Israel and Gaza. Here's just one paragraph:

When I was in Gaza before the Second Intifada, there were many examples of entrepreneurial activity – factories and farms. Most of that has been stamped out. As the assault on Gaza ended in 2009, Israeli military bulldozers flattened factories. The imposition of a border zone has gobbled up 29% of the strip's agricultural land.

This single paragraph illustrates everything wrong about how Gaza is portrayed by purportedly well-meaning, educated people. It contains not only Palestinian Arab lies that Patten swallows whole, but also a lie that he himself wants to push.

Patten waxes eloquent about Gaza's economy before the second intifada (that he helpfully capitalizes, indicating perhaps a bit of approval for that spree of terror.) Then he states how bad it is now - implying that it is because of Israeli actions in 2009.

This is a lie.

The Gazan economy went south as a direct result of the intifada, not because of Israeli actions. There are two major reasons that 34% of Gazans are unemployed today. One is because Israeli companies pulled out of Gaza in the wake of the wave of terror that came out of Gaza starting in 2001 - including many attacks on the factories themselves. The Erez Industrial Zone limped along for a couple of years but finally had to shut down.

The other is that Hamas violently took over Gaza in 2007.

A chart of unemployment in Gaza from 1999-2006 shows clearly the effects of the first:

Unemployment in Gaza

I don't have the detailed breakdown of unemployment since then, but between 2006 and today the rate had increased to over 40% - around the time of Hamas' takeover of Gaza - and is now back down to 34%, the same level it was at the start of the intifada.

In other words, the blame for Gaza's economic woes should go to the terrorist organiations that operate out of, and now run, Gaza. And the implication that Israel purposefully "stamped out" Gaza's industries is not only a lie, but a calumny.

Where did Patten get the information that Israel viciously and wantonly "flattened factories" at the end of Operation Cast Lead? While Goldstone claimed that there was no military purpose for Israel's damaging the Al Badr flour mill and the Sawfeary chicken farms, the IDF disputes both those accounts - and even Goldstone didn't claim that Israel worked to flatten factories after the fighting was largely over. The idea that Israel maliciously flattened factories in Gaza is a lie. This is a product of a fevered imagination, not what one would expect from a leader of an institution of higher learning who should know the difference between facts and propaganda he was fed during his visit to Gaza.

Finally, the supposed "fact" that Israel's buffer zone in Gaza - one whose purpose Patten is mysteriously silent about - takes up 29% of Gaza's agricultural land is also an easily proven lie

What could cause a respected British academic and former diplomat believe - and propagate - lies about Israel? How much is his own willingness to believe those who lie to him, and how much is his desire to spread his own versions of these easily debunked lies? Perhaps most importantly, why is Patten silent on any possible reason that Israel might have to treat the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip as a less-than-friendly territory?

Putting these questions together indicates that Patten is not just clueless, but malicious. It is more than sickening that a person in such a position of prestige has no qualms about writing such a shoddy and transparent piece of anti-Israel propaganda.

(h/t Paula from Philosémitisme Blog)

UPDATE: R-MEW has some background on Patten:

 The ICG is led by former EU Commissioner for External Relations and current Oxford University Chancellor, Chris Patten, along with former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour.  Patten you may recall, rejected an inquiry in 2003 into the diversion of European taxpayer funds to finance Palestinian suicide bombers because he "needed an investigation like a hole in the head".  In recent years, Patten's Oxford has been the recipient of over $300 million in donations from the Saudis.  Arbour is famous for having originally endorsed the wildly antisemitic and oxymoronic Arab Charter of Human Rights while with the UN.