Mitt Romney told Fox News that he was not criticizing Palestinian culture when he suggested that Israel’s economic success was due to its "culture" at a fundraiser in Israel on Monday.
"I’m not speaking about, did not speak about, the Palestinian culture," Romney told Fox’s Carl Cameron.
Romney came under fire from Palestinian leaders when he compared the GDP per capita in Israel to that in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, saying at one point, "Culture makes all the difference." Although he never specifically implicated Palestinian culture, he seemed to imply judgment, CBS News notes.
In a statement to the Associated Press on Monday, the Palestinian labor minister responded, "The statement reflects a clear racist spirit."
Romney's praise of Israeli culture backfired when he tried to contrast the standard of livings of Israelis and Palestinians living in areas controlled by the PA. CNN reports that Romney attempted to blame the liberal media for twisting his words, saying, "They’ll instead try and find anything else to divert from the fact that these last four years have been tough years for our country."
The truth is that Palestinians in Gaza suffer from both Israeli and Palestinian restrictions, but Romney wasn't likely to say this at a fundraiser in Jerusalem.
A hornet's nest
An organization called Jewish Voice for Peace has condemned Romney and is asking people to sign an open letter requesting that he apologize to the Palestinian people.
Here is the letter:
To Governor Mitt Romney,
Your statements in Jerusalem regarding the growth of the Palestinian and Israeli economies were inaccurate and misleading. Israel's Occupation of Palestinian land makes it impossible for the Palestinian economy to succeed, not "cultural differences." Your comments were not a reflection of the values Jews, Americans, and our allies hold dear. We call on you to apologize to the Palestinian people for your willful lack of understanding of the facts on the ground and the racist assumptions behind them.
The organization admits that the Israeli GDP is ten times that of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. See their website here.
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