This note is directed at Americans who accuse Israel of oppressing Palestinians.

 
They should look south. It's just as unpleasant, and maybe more so, over the border with Mexico.
 
This is not about the histories of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Current American appetites for drugs have done as much damage to Mexico and countries further south as anything that can be laid at the feet of Israelis with respect to Palestinians.
 
Mexico boasts a murder rate of 16.35 per 100,000, compared to that of 4.88 for the US, and 1.36 for Israel. One source reports a rate for Palestine as 0.6, but another source shows the Palestine rate at 3.02. 
 
Further south from Mexico, the data are even more dismal. They show murder rates of 108.64 in El Salvador, 63.75 in Honduras, 31.21 in Guatemala, and 11.49 in Nicaragua, 


How much of those rates come from wars among drug lords and their gangs, and how much from plain old ordinary murders, is anybody's guess.


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Rates of infant mortality (within a year of birth) per 1,000 live births provide a summary measure of health and social services, with no surprises.


The numbers are 22 for Guatamala, 19 for Nicaragua, 17.7 for Honduras, 17.3 for El Salvador, and 11.9 for Mexico.


The numbers are 17.1 for Gaza, 14.6 for the West Bank, 5.8 for the US, and 3.5 for Israel. 


Africa provides an indication of how bad things can get. For all of Africa, the average of infant mortality is 49.


Central America and Mexico are on the drug route from further south into the US. They all have problems of government corruption, instability, lack of control, and violence.  And they all contribute to the flow of migrants that worry Americans, and prompt Trump to conceive of a wall as solving his country's problems.


What to do?


It's appropriate to recognize the attractions and problems of living in a First World country alongside the Third World. 


Attitudes about migrants and a wall compete for Americans with wanting someone to wash their cars, cut their grass, and clean dishes in their restaurants. 


Israel's walls and check points have lessened the threat of mass violence from Palestinians blowing themselves up in buses and coffee houses, with multiple deaths and injuries.


Israelis are divided in similar ways as Americans with respect the threats from outsiders. However, a significant portion of Israeli policymakers see access to Israeli jobs as keeping a lid on Palestinian frustration and violence.


It's appropriate to realize that the past is behind us. Palestine is no more likely to obtain a state with anything close to the borders of 1967 than Mexico is to regain Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. 


There are benefits for Third World countries alongside the First. In both the US and Israeli cases, there are industrial and other other economic activities situated by First World investors, within Mexico or in Israeli settlements, to take advantage of Third World wage levels. Unjust exploitation? or Opportunities that attract individuals to better paying jobs than they can find elsewhere? 


Third World residents living alongside the First may also be able to obtain more sophisticated medical care than available at home. Israel specialists have treated Palestinians from both the West Bank and Gaza, including members of the Palestinian political elite. 


Should Palestinians have a state? Would it make any difference in how they might compare to Mexicans or Central Americans?


Mexico and its southern neighbors are states and full members of the United Nations. Mexico is a also member of OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), and made it into that distinguished group 16 years before Israel. However, its GDP/c is only 54 percent of Israel's. And if we can take murder rate and infant mortality as useful indicators, Mexico is well within the range of the Third World, while Israel is part of the First World, with decent security and social services.


Which of the Palestinian or the Mexican and Central American regimes are more or less corrupt? In which do the residents have more or less capacity to influence their leaders?


There is no obvious metric to deal with these issues precisely, but there doesn't seem to be a great deal of difference between Palestine and any of the places south of the the US..


Mexico and the countries of Central America, along with African countries and several others score significantly worse than the US (and Israel) on important social indicators. And parts of the United States are closer in their traits to the Third World than the First. 


They lack the pazzazz of Palestine. But that's no reason for the humanitarians of the world (Jews and others) to ignore them, and to remain focused on the fashionable target of Israel.


Comments welcome


-- 
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem


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