Thursday, August 02, 2012

My Palestinian Culture Allowed Me To Attend the Romney Institute

"For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted."

The Book Of Mormon (Mormon 8:37)

A few days I ago I was halfway through writing a post on the Romney family's generosity and the positive role they play at Brigham Young University, my alma mater. But then Presidential candidate Mitt Romney went to the Middle East, and in front of wealthy donors at a cozy fundraiser went on to bash my culture in his bid to impress few donors. His statements suggested Israeli culture helped explain the country's economic success. In an effort to butter up to wealthy Jewish donors, he felt compelled to tarnish my heritage. I wasn't aware that Mr. Romney was an anthropologist capable of making such bogus claims. From Yemen to Morocco the Arab press covered and criticized his racist remarks. Romney further attributed Israeli supremacy to its culture and of course the "divine hand of providence."  

For more than 60 years my family in Gaza, relatives in the West Bank and college buddies in East Jerusalem have being living under Israeli occupation. Violent airstrikes, murder, assassinations and land grabs do not allow for any economy to survive let alone thrive. Yes, Mitt Romney forgot about that little buzzkill known as the occupation. He wants the Palestinians to create an economy out of nothing while living within a militarized prions of walls, checkpoints fences and uniformed 19-year olds armed and ready to shoot.  

Palestinians cannot tend to their farms without first getting permission from the Israeli government to do so. Fishermen cannot get into the water without Israel allowing access to the sea. And if that's not enough, the occupation gets a say in what college students can chose to attend. They have vetoed thousands of students college choices and even banned them from seeking higher education in academic institutions that are not within their own towns.

Yet the Palestinian can do attitude, resilience and life loving nature continues to make the most of a God awful scenario. That's why people like me make their way to places like the United States for further education. Romney's remarks are racist as they have been rightfully dubbed by the mainstream. Those comments illustrate that the candidate has ill feeling toward poor people. If you are rich you have a superior culture. If you are poor, well, sucks to be you.

As a graduate student at Brigham Young University I was part of the 50 to 60 students admitted each year to the The Romney Institute of Public Management. An accredited program that grants a Master's degree in Public Administration. Certainly I wasn't the first Palestinian admitted to the program. The great majority of alumni of the program tend to gravitate toward public service and the not for profit sector. The program offered by the The Romney Institute of Public Management is unique in that they prepare generations of people who want to make the world a better place. For example, the institute has a social venture center where people learn to create new outlets to improve lives around the globe. I am now beginning to wonder if Romney believes or fully understands the consequences of his most recent remarks on the subject of poverty. Romney has brought shame on his good family's name.

While at my alma mater, I met countless Mormon students who studied abroad at the university's satellite campus in the old city of Jerusalem. After experiencing life under occupation, the great majority of those students came back with overwhelming support for the Palestinian cause. Something that disturbed some administrators. The students did not come back back philosophizing about God and culture, they saw fellow humans in distress and sympathized with them.

While I think some extremist elements in Israel might be pleased with Romney's racist remarks, I happen to think that the mainstream Israelis would not agree with him. As a Palestinian and alumni of Brigham Young University I find such remarks reprehensible . I'm deeply disappointed in his characterization of the poor and his insensitivity to the plight of people living under occupation.
Hat Tip: Joseph Abushawish


Jeremy Palmer on August 3, 2012 at 1:57 PM said...

Thank you for this thoughtful piece.



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