The Economics of Settlement

June 20, 2011

In the mid-19th century, before the arrival of the first groups of Jewish settlers fleeing pogroms in Russia, Arabs living in what became the mandate territory of Palestine — now Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza — numbered between 200,000 and 300,000. Their population density and longevity resembled today’s conditions in parched and depopulated Saharan Chad. Although Worldwatch might prefer to see the Middle East returned to these more earth-friendly, organic, and sustainable demographics, the fact that some 5.5 million Arabs now live in the former British Mandate, with a life expectancy of more than 70 years, is mainly attributable, for better or worse, to the work of those Jewish settlers.

…Jordan. A country almost four times larger than Palestine (including Sinai), Jordan partakes of the same mountain fold of mesozoic limestone, the same rich river plains, the same Rift Valley and highlands, the same mineral resources, the same climate, and a several times larger population in ancient times. But at the time of Lowdermilk’s visit, its agricultural output and per capita consumption of imports was one-fifth that of Palestine and its population density was one-tenth Palestine’s.

…Lowdermilk summed it up: “Rural Palestine is becoming less and less like Trans Jordan, Syria and Iraq and more like Denmark, Holland, and parts of the United States [Southern California].”
…Raja Khalidi’s entire argument itself suffers from a huge gap — namely, the absence of evidence that Arabs anywhere in the world outside of the United States have performed as well economically as have Arabs in Israel. The average Arab annual per capita income in Israel is $600 per month (i.e., an annual household income of $14,400 for a family of four). This compares with an average annual income of $9,400 for a family of four in sparsely populated Jordan, which roughly matches the average across the Arab world. Moreover, while Palestinians in the disputed territories have undergone a catastrophic 40 percent drop in income since the PLO’s resurgence, the income gap between Israel’s Palestinian Arab population and Jewish population has, in fact, been declining.
Any income gap between the Jewish and Arab populations of Israel is clearly attributable to the prowess of Jewish entrepreneurs and other professionals, whose excellence produces similar gaps in every free country on earth with significant numbers of Jews. Jews, for example, outearn other Caucasians in the United States by an even larger margin than they outearn Arabs in Israel. This probably reflects the fact that the United States, until recently, had a freer economy, by most standards, than Israel.

….As George Will acerbically noted in a particularly brilliant column, “Turkey was claiming to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza, a land with higher incomes and longevity than Turkey itself.” via