Land and Poverty in the Middle East

Land and Poverty in the Middle East

Land and Poverty in the Middle East

Land and Poverty in the Middle East

Excerpt

Near starvation, pestilence, high death rates, soil erosion, economic exploitation -- this is the pattern of life for the mass of the rural population in the Middle East. It is a poverty which has no parallel in Europe, since even clean water is a luxury. Money incomes are low -- £5 to £ per head per year -- but money comparisons alone do not convey the filth and disease, the mud-huts shared with animals, the dried dung fuel. There is no standard of living in the European sense -- mere existence is accepted as the standard.

This poverty has become a familiar background in recent years, and as a result of the war in the Middle East area the question of how to raise the standard of living has emerged. In the past students of the Arab world have treated this poverty reverently as a 'way of life', as part of an Arab mystique, and accepted it as fatalistically as its victims do. By these experts it is believed that to talk of raising living standards is to use criteria which do not apply, and which vitiate the real values of Arab society. This is a natural attitude for those who have found in the Arab world some social values which Western civilization fails to provide, and who are concerned to preserve them. But to emphasize the squalor of life in the Middle East is not necessarily to deny that it has other qualities as well; and if we urge the need of raising the material standard of living, that does not mean that we also urge the general application of the other standards of the West. It is simply to recognize the fact that poverty is an evil in this world as in ours, and that it must be overcome, in order to realize any way of life, as distinct from a sordid struggle for existence.

Poverty is therefore a problem to which the Arab world itself cannot remain indifferent. As a result of the Jew-Arab controversy, and the impact of power politics in this region, the peoples of the Middle East have become self-conscious; their minds are prepared to question their own social institutions, and to regard their own welfare as a matter for concern. The Middle East is in a state of turmoil; it is no longer bound by tradition, and it has never, in historic times, been primitive. The question of raising . . .

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