On his recent visit to Israel, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney spoke often of the Jewish state’s virtues, going as far as crediting the country’s culture with its economic success. He even praised Israel’s national health-care system, where the government provides for every citizen’s health insurance (although this is, admittedly, somewhat at odds with his current position on the Affordable Care Act).
Now, however, Romney seems to have switched his stance on Israel’s culture by attacking one of the Jewish state’s most cherished foundational movements. At a Chicago fundraiser, Romney attempted to praise American culture by demeaning the kibbutz movement, which has been engrained in Israel’s culture for decades. Josh Nathan-Kazis of The Forward reported:
‘America is not a collective where we all work in a kibbutz or we’re all in some little entity, instead it’s individuals pursuing their dreams and building successful enterprises which employ others and they become inspired as they see what has happened in the place they work and go off and start their own enterprises,’ Romney said at a Chicago fundraiser today.
In the quote, Romney contrasts the pursuit of dreams and the building of successful business with the kibbutz, the collective farming model that was central to the early economic and political life of Israel.
It’s hard to separate Israel’s economic culture from the country’s kibbutznik roots, so today’s comment seems to make the culture statement look even more like a gaffe.
Given the confusion his remarks have caused, Romney would be well advised to clarify his statements and say once and for all how he really feels about Israel’s culture.