The Data on Happiness Give the Lie to Stories of Palestinian Misery

Aug. 16 2019

While it is little surprise that Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan came in at the bottom of the UN’s annual ranking of the world’s happiest countries, more surprising to anyone getting information from the Western press or the United Nations itself is the fact that “the Palestinian territories”—i.e., the Gaza Strip and the Arab residents of the West Bank—ranked 110th out of 156. And this from a report that omits nearly 30 UN member states, among them North Korea, that would most likely fall toward the bottom of the list. Hillel Frisch comments:

[T]here appears to be more relative happiness among the [Palestinian] population than in an assortment of Middle Eastern states, some of which are among the most vociferous in their condemnation of Israel’s “occupation” of the Palestinians. Energy-rich Iran, for example, ranks seven slots lower on the happiness index than the Palestinian Territories. Even less happiness prevails in Egypt, whose regime frequently initiates UN condemnations of Israel’s “occupation.” Egypt is close to the bottom of the list at 138, significantly lower than the Palestinians. . . .

It is the comparison with Jordan, [however], that occasions the greatest surprise. If Israel’s “occupation” is so onerous, how come the happiness rate in Jordan is only slightly higher than that of the Palestinians? . . . Jordan, with a ranking of 101, is only nine slots higher than the Palestinian Territories. [Note] that the ranking aggregates Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza [and that] the former has higher income levels than are found in the latter. Were the ranking to differentiate between the two, Palestinians living in the West Bank could plausibly generate a score at least equal to that of Jordan, where there is no “Israeli occupation.”

The real tragedy the index exposes is that of Tunisia, not the Palestinians. Tunisia is the only country from the so-called “Arab Spring” to have in any way met the expectations of those that gave the uprisings that name. Since the ouster of the old regime in December 2010, Tunisia has successfully changed its constitution, held three free elections, and . . . is the only country in the Arab world to be designated as “free” by Freedom House, a think tank that ranks democratic and human rights. Nevertheless, despite these achievements, Tunisia ranks lower in happiness than the Palestinians, with a ranking of 125.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Happiness, Palestinians, West Bank

Is There a Way Out of Israel’s Political Deadlock?

On Tuesday, leaders of the Jewish state’s largest political parties, Blue and White and Likud, met to negotiate the terms of a coalition agreement—and failed to come to an agreement. If none of the parties in the Knesset succeeds in forming a governing coalition, there will be a third election, with no guarantee that it will be more conclusive than those that preceded it. Identifying six moves by key politicians that have created the deadlock, Shmuel Rosner speculates as to whether they can be circumvented or undone:

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Election 2019, Israeli politics