Friday, June 24, 2011

Dunam by Dunam

Israel stole Palestinian land. According to Daniel Pipes that's what almost every Arab child is taught, certainly every Palestinian Arab child, but, says Pipes, the charge is simply not true. In a column at NRO he proffers a cursory history of the region and what actually happened to the Palestinians and Jews who inhabited it.

He has a lot of interesting things to say in his piece, including this:
In Jerusalem Besieged: From Ancient Canaan to Modern Israel, Eric H. Cline writes of Jerusalem: “No other city has been more bitterly fought over throughout its history.” He backs up that claim, counting “at least 118 separate conflicts in and for Jerusalem during the past four millennia.”

He calculates Jerusalem to have been destroyed completely at least twice, besieged 23 times, captured 44 times, and attacked 52 times. The Palestinian Authority fantasizes that today’s Palestinians are descended from a tribe of ancient Canaan, the Jebusites; in fact, they are overwhelmingly the offspring of invaders and immigrants seeking economic opportunities.
He goes on to argue that unlike almost every other instance in history where a new nation was formed, Israel did not arise out of conquest but through purchase.
[The Jews] could not possibly achieve statehood through conquest. Instead, they purchased land. Acquiring property dunam by dunam, farm by farm, house by house, lay at the heart of the Zionist enterprise until 1948. The Jewish National Fund, founded in 1901 to buy land in Palestine “to assist in the foundation of a new community of free Jews engaged in active and peaceable industry,” was the key institution — and not the Haganah, the clandestine defense organization founded in 1920.

Zionists also focused on the rehabilitation of what was barren and considered unusable. They not only made the desert bloom, but drained swamps, cleared water channels, reclaimed wasteland, forested bare hills, cleared rocks, and removed salt from the soil. Jewish reclamation and sanitation work precipitously reduced the number of disease-related deaths.
Pipes concludes his column with this observation:
The building of [Israel] was based on the least violent and most civilized movement of any people in history. Gangs did not steal Palestine. Merchants purchased Israel.
To what extent Pipes is correct about what he says in his article, I can't say, but the view of the history of the region he presents is certainly one that most Americans are unaware of.

Reckless Endangerment

Mona Charen reviews a book written by a New York Times reporter, Gretchen Morgenson, and a financial analyst, Joshua Rosner titled Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon. The authors explain how the financial collapse of 2008 came about, and though there's lots of blame to go around, the lion's share falls squarely on the shoulders of, well, let's let Charen tell it:
In Reckless Endangerment, Morgenson and Rosner offer considerable censure for reckless bankers, lax rating agencies, captured regulators and unscrupulous businessmen. But the greatest responsibility for the collapse of the housing market and the near "Armageddon" of the American economy belongs to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and to the politicians who created and protected them.

With a couple of prominent exceptions, the politicians were Democrats claiming to do good for the poor. Along the way, they enriched themselves and their friends, stuffed their campaign coffers, and resisted all attempts to enforce market discipline. When the inevitable collapse arrived, the entire economy suffered, but no one more than the poor.

Jim Johnson, adviser to Walter Mondale and John Kerry, amassed a personal fortune estimated at $100 million during his nine years as CEO of Fannie Mae. "Under Johnson," Morgenson and Rosner write, "Fannie Mae led the way in encouraging loose lending practices among the banks whose loans the company bought. A Pied Piper of the financial sector, Johnson led both the private and public sectors down a path that led directly to the credit crisis of 2008."

Fannie Mae lied about its profits, intimidated adversaries, bought off members of Congress with lavish contributions, hired (and thereby co-opted) academics, purchased political ads (through its foundation) and stacked congressional hearings with friendly bankers, community activists and advocacy groups (including ACORN). Fannie Mae also hired the friends and relations of key members of Congress (including Rep. Barney Frank's partner).
There's more in Charen's column. Reckless Endangerment sounds like a book that every voter interested in knowing why the economy is suffering its current woes should read. I certainly plan to.