Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The real stupid 50 per cent 

Do you remember the UK "Daily Mirror" headline just after the US election "How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?"


Hot on the heels of the news that 45% of Britons have
no idea what Auschwitz was comes this poll from Germany, whose results Avner Shalev of Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Authority has - in the major understatement of the year - described as "very worrisome":
"51 percent of respondents said that there is not much of a difference between what Israel is doing to the Palestinians today and what the Nazis did to the Jews during the Holocaust, compared to 49% who disagreed with such a comparison, according to the poll carried out by Germany's University of Bielefeld.

"The survey also found that 68 percent of Germans believe that Israel is waging a 'war of extermination' against the Palestinians, while some 32% disagreed with such a statement."
Where does one even begin to tackle this sort of absurdity? That if there is "not much of a difference" between the Second World War and the Second Intifada, where are today's concentration camps, where is Auschwitz, where are the gas chambers and the crematoria, where are the mass graves, where are the Einsatzgruppen and the SS? Or maybe it's not that Germans don't know what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians - maybe they don't know what their own grandfathers have done to the Jews? Maybe Germans think that the Holocaust consisted of Wehrmacht shooting a few Jewish kids throwing stones at the Panther tanks, or Luftwaffe taking out a Jewish Fighting Organisation leader in retaliation for a suicide attack on a Munich beerhall?

If Israel is waging a war of extermination against the Palestinians, then it's doing a pretty hopeless job. Within Israel itself (excluding West Bank and Gaza) the Palestinian population has increased from 156,000 in 1948 to 992,500 in 1993. As a proportion of the total Israeli population, Palestinians constituted 18.6% in 1993, an increase of 0.7% from 1948. By the year 2000, the number of Palestinians has increased by another 300,000, while the number of Jews by only 200,000. These, by the way, are the official figures quoted by the
Palestinian National Authority. And what about the West Bank and Gaza? Again, according to the Palestinian National Information Centre, "The comprehensive census conducted by the Palestinian central Bureau of statistics indicated the following: The population growth in 1997 reached 3,97%,while in 1998 it was increased to 4,08% which is going to reach 4,95% between 1999-2010." Or putting it in concrete terms:
"The UN provides a separate estimate of the total Palestinian population of the Gaza, East Jerusalem, and West Bank. It indicates that this population was 1,006,000 million in 1950, and rose to 1,100,000 in 1960, 1,094,000 in 1970, and then leapt to 1,477,000 in 1980 and 2,152,000 in 1990. This increase was the result of improvements in income and health services during the initial period of Israeli occupation before the Intifada. The Palestinian population rose to 2,629,000 in 1995 and 3,183,000 in 2000 – a more than 20% increase during the five years before the Israeli-Palestinian War [the second uprising] began."
In 1933, the Jewish population of Europe was 9.5 million. By 1950 it was only 3.5 million. The total Palestinian population in 1933 was somewhere around 950,000 (mostly Muslim, some Christian) - it is now around 4.5 million. Based on the same rate of growth, the Jewish population of Europe could be 45 million today. I'm sure the European Jews of the yesteryear would have wished that the Germans had waged the same sort of "war of extermination" on them that the Israelis are apparently waging on the Palestinians today.

But I get the feeling that quoting numbers in this context is like throwing pebbles at a wall; the sentiments expressed in the German survey are not based on logic or cold hard facts, they are not something that can be argued with, at least not with expectations of quick success. Who's to blame? The educators? The media? The political leaders? All of the above? I fear for Europe which has so lost its moral compass, sense of proportion and common sense, for it will have difficulties facing any serious problems and challenges - both foreign and domestic - that are clearly on the horizon.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?