Thursday, June 14, 2007

Rage is geometric

Today's Financial Times contains an op-ed by Gunnar Heinsohn of the University of Bremen. It would probably be attracting more attention if it wasn't behind subscription. Its provocative albeit sometimes implicit thesis is that the UN refugee arrangement for Palestinians has turned Gaza into a neo-Malthusian nightmare, where open-ended welfare support payments cause a high fertility rate, which eventually dissipates itself not in a famine but in a demographic bulge of idle young men who turn on each other.

The FT link has a teaser section before the pay window kicks in, so here's another bit from later down --

Had the people of the US multiplied at the same rate as the people of Gaza, the US would have gone from a population of 152m in 1950 to 945m in 2007 ... it would be home not to 31m males between the traditional fighting ages of 15 and 29, but to 120m. Faced with such a population explosion, would America's politicians and cultural organisations be able "to control their men in the streets?" ...

A western promise to support all children already born but to cut off from international welfare Palestinian children born after 1992 and simultaneously to stop new Israeli settlements should have been the first step of the Oslo process.


A complicated view, with something for everyone to complain about. One thing: if the Israel-Palestine crisis had been settled sooner, Gaza might have more sustained economic growth and thus could have managed a demographic transition -- the crisis has fed on itself. Gaza also lacks the cocktail of extractable resources and idle young men that fuels African conflicts for example.

Somewhere in the fury there has to be a role assigned to the trans-generational sense of being wronged that most Palestinians would feel. Which is not to claim that there's much justifiable about the current implosion in the territories.