Working Things Out

Last week, an article in Safa, a Palestinian Press agency publication, revealed the following statistic: A cluster of Arab villages in western Samaria have 0 percent unemployment. Among the Arab populace this is remarkable. The villages, Mas-ha, Qarawat Bani Hassan and Biddya, are like a cluster of islands surrounded by Jewish settlements. Before the second intifada these villages had active business relations with — benefiting from — their Jewish neighbors. This changed with the terror that the intifada brought. Jews stopped coming, forcing the villages to refocus their economic orientation on manufacturing. The new factories reportedly attract Arabs from throughout Judea and Samaria (YESHA), with workers’ wages averaging NIS 4,000–7,000 a month, comparable to those of Arab workers in Jewish communities, which are considered excellent for the Arab sector.

Surprisingly, this was reported in a Palestinian Authority publication normally dedicated to spouting party-line propaganda portraying Jewish settlements as “strangling” Arab towns. This article received scant attention because the international “mainstream media” which should be promoting stories of coexistence and mutual benefit chooses to repeat calumnies against Israel, specifically the settlements, painting a picture of apartheid and/or “colonialist exploitation.” To those of us who live in YESHA it came as no surprise whatsoever; we know these slanders could not be further from the truth.

Regardless of what the U.N., E.U., or Jews from the loony-left would tell you, wherever Jews live in Israel, specifically in YESHA, benefit devolves upon their neighbors. In Joan Peters’ seminal work on the subject,  she posited that at the time of the formation of Israel in 1948, a significant percentage of the Arabs of Palestine were not descendants of an indigenous people, but rather arrived in waves of immigration starting in the 19th century, coinciding with the large influx of Jews returning to the Promised Land. The Arabs came to avail themselves of financial opportunities that abounded with Jewish return to Zion.

And the Arabs under Israeli political sovereignty have prospered by most metrics. Arab health care, notably relating to child-mortality rates and life-expectancy, is significantly superior here in Israel. Financially, Arabs in Israel have a significantly higher average annual income and lower unemployment than in the surrounding Arab countries. The difference is greater still when Arabs are employed by or engaged in work with local Jews. For example, an Arab in the construction industry averages approximately 90 shekels per day when working in the Arab sector but more than double that when doing construction in Jewish settlements.

Most Arab shops between Jerusalem and Chevron along Derekh Avot have signs in Hebrew lettering equal in size to the Arabic. Just the way it is. Business is business and the currency, shekels, is the same whether you buy in Alon Shvut or Al Arub, a mile away. The businesses with access to Jewish patrons thrive while those removed from areas accessible to Jews suffer. This may support the old adage, “Location, location, location,” but these words are meaningless without the blessed presence of Jews.

Moments from our home is a small Arab village named Wadi Nis.Community members are employed in construction of Jewish homes, the local stone industry which provides stone for the building industry, or in the spectrum of local factories. As mentioned above, these construction workers make 125 percent more than their counterparts working on Arab construction. I learned that factory workers make slightly above 7,000 shekels monthly — a terrific salary for the area. The village and other local villages have minimal levels of unemployment.

Our contractor and my friend, Sayeed, a prominent figure in Wadi Nis, has addressed visiting Jewish student groups, sharing with them the truth — that Jewish settlement has been a blessing to the region — and instructing the students, many of whom are left-leaning, not to believe the papers and political propaganda. The facts are to be found on the ground and in the ground, when new foundations are set for buildings. Sayeed describes the baksheesh, Arabic for bribes and graft, Palestinian Authority figures demand for allowing businessmen to “play ball.” He freely tells groups it’s better for business to deal with the local Jews than the “kleptocracy” of the Palestinian Authority.

Beneficial coexistence is a facet of the admittedly complicated Israeli-Palestinian relationship which you won’t find in the mainstream media. Their agenda is to promote the discord between the two groups, not to publish news items which cannot be filed under their worldview of “all the news that’s fit to print,” where Israel is the villain. Surveys of Arabs consistently confirm what most of us already know, that if the “Two-State Solution” were implemented, most Arabs under Israeli governance would prefer to remain under Israeli rule and not become citizens of a new Arab state. The reasons are many: financial, health, quality of life, freedom and the rule of law. Many Arabs, perhaps most, are like Sayeed, and know that the Jewish return to the Land is a blessing for all.


 

Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst, and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel, with his amazing wife and two wonderful children. He can be contacted at msolomon@hamodia.com.