"When Mitt Romney Came to Town": attack video released

Film accuses Republican frontrunner of contributing to the "biggest American job loss since World Wa

The film that the US political world has been waiting for is finally here. When Mitt Romney Came to Town is an attack video focusing on the Republican frontrunner's corporate past -- but will it have the desired effect of turning GOP voters away from Romney?

The 28-minute film, was released yesterday on the website of the pro-Gingrich super-PAC, Winning Our Future. The Republican candidates are currently touring South Carolina, ahead of the next primary election on 21 January.

The film first caused a stir last week when a three minute trailer was released on the King of Bain website, following a weekend of debates amongst the six Republican candidates.

Although it was released by his supporters, Gingrich has sought to distance himself from the video. Despite his initial criticism of Romney's actions as CEO of the corporate firm Bain Capital, Gingrich has been reminded that his attacks on the former governor of Massachusetts' economic past could easily play into the hands of the Democrats and lose him much-needed votes amongst his own party.

In an interview with Fox News's Greta Van Susteren on On the Record last night, Gingrich said:

Well first of all I'm not attacking Bain Capital, I'm questioning Mitt Romney's judgment, I'm questioning Mitt Romney's decisions. He's the person who has gone around now saying that his business career is one of his two credentials... I've raised the question, which I think is a totally legitimate question -- what about some companies that Bain took over that went bankrupt? And all I've said is, you know, this isn't about free enterprise.

The film, made by Jason Killian Meath -- who worked on Romney's 2008 campaign -- Stuart Stevens, and Russ Schriefer, focuses on Bain's actions after acquiring four companies: the washing-machine company UniMac Corp., K.B. Toys, tech company DDi Corp., and paper company Ampad. The message at the heart of the documentary is that profit-led decisions were made regardless of the effects on the companies -- all of which eventually declared bankruptcy -- or the lives of their employees.

Former employees are interviewed during the 28 minutes, detailing the hardships they encountered after Bain Capital acquired the companies they worked for. "That hurt so bad" one woman says, "to leave my home, because of a man who has fifteen homes." (He does not have fifteen homes, but we do know he just bulldozed his California mansion.)

"Sometimes we'd have to send a machine out without a part on it," says another employee, who blames Bain of ruining the quality of their manufacturing by pressing them to produce more in less time.

The narrator accuses Romney of slashing "jobs in almost every state" before cutting to a video of Romney stating that "creative destruction does enhance productivity. For an economy to thrive, as ours does, there are a lot of people who will suffer because of that."

The film ends with the narrator warning: "Now Romney says he wants to bring what he learned on Wall Street to the White House. What would his Cabinet look like? Who would he put in positions of power around him?"

It seems likely that the film will be an own goal. South Carolina is a conservative state that will not appreciate the fact that the documentary gives ammunition to the Obama campaign, or the blame it places on private businesses for job losses.

Republican voters were struggling to find a candidate to rally behind collectively. This video may just have inadvertenly promoted Romney to the task: it certainly will not enamour voters to his rivals.

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Unlikely sisters in the Gaza Strip

A former Jewish settler in Gaza recalls her childhood friendship with a young Palestinian.

It was well after midnight, one summer night in 1995, when Inbar Rozy, a 13-year-old living in the former Israeli settlement of Alei Sinai in the northern Gaza Strip, heard her parents answer the phone. Sitting up in bed, surrounded by potted plants, candles and fairy dolls lit by shafts of light from a nearby security outpost, Inbar listened closely.

“I could hear everyone talking around me, making calls,” Inbar said when we met recently in Nitzan, southern Israel. When she got up to find out what was happening, her parents told her to make up a second mattress. As dawn broke, they led into the room a young woman carrying a small bag and wearing a black shirt and jeans. “She had shoulder-length dark hair dyed with red henna and beautiful eyes – big, black with thick eyelashes,” Inbar told me, smiling. “[She was] quiet. She looked scared.”

The woman was Rina (her surname cannot be given for security reasons), a talented artist in her early twenties studying at a local art college, where she had fallen in love with a Christian boy. For Rina, coming from a traditional family, marrying a non-Muslim would be strictly forbidden.

When her parents found out, they were furious and forbade her from seeing her boyfriend. But her male cousins felt this wasn’t enough. Earlier on the day the girls first met, Rina’s cousins had attempted to kill her in retribution for her perceived “honour crime”. Seeing that another attempt on her life was likely, Rina’s father called a relative, who in turn called Inbar’s father, Yossef, a friend of many years. There was no doubt she had to leave. Ironically, a Jewish settlement protected by the Israel Defence Forces was the safest place in Gaza for her to be.

In 1967, Israel seized the Gaza Strip from Egypt during the Six Day War. In time, it settled 21 communities on a third of the land, with a population of 8,000 by 2005. Soldiers guarded the settlements from 1.5 million displaced Palestinians, tens of thousands of whom were displaced in 1967 and moved to live in nearby refugee camps. In Gaza, before Israel’s ultimate withdrawal from the Strip in 2005, relationships between Israeli settlers and Palestinians were fraught. True, many Palestinians worked in Israeli settlements, earning wages higher than elsewhere in the Strip, but the two communities lived largely separate lives.

In the mid-1990s, even after the Oslo Accords, violence was simmering. Israeli military incursions increased with the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000. Thousands of home-made Qassam rockets were launched by Palestinian militants at settlers and those living in southern Israel. Security measures hardened. The veteran Israeli journalist Amira Hass, who spent several years living in Gaza, describes neighbourhoods that were “turned into jails behind barbed-wire fences, closed gates, IDF surveillance, tanks and entry-permit red tape”.

And yet, in spite of the forced segregation, Inbar’s family enjoyed close links with their Palestinian neighbours. Inbar’s father worked as an ambulance driver, and on several occasions he helped transport those who lived nearby for emergency medical treatment in Israel. “Every Tuesday, my father’s Jewish and Arab friends would come to our house and we’d eat lunch together,” Inbar remembered.

Given the gravity of Rina’s situation, she couldn’t leave the house. Secrecy was paramount. The girls spent weeks together indoors, Inbar said, chatting, watching TV and drawing. “I’m not sure that as a child I actually understood it for real,” she said. “She taught me how to paint and sketch a face from sight.”

Almost as soon as Rina arrived, Inbar’s family began receiving anonymous phone calls asking about her. “My dad told me, ‘Don’t mention anything about Rina. Say you don’t know what they’re talking about – because otherwise they’ll come and kill us,’” Inbar said.

While the girls got to know each other, Inbar’s mother, Brigitte, found a women’s shelter in East Jerusalem for Rina. Whereas today Gaza is closed off by a military border under heavy surveillance, at that time it was porous. Brigitte drove Rina in to the capital, where she was given a new name and identity that would enable her to begin a new life, on condition that she contact no one in Gaza.

Today Inbar, who is 33, works at the Gush Katif centre in Nitzan – a museum dedicated to the memory of the Israeli settlements in Gaza. Despite her parents’ objections, the family was evacuated in 2005. Unlike most settlers in Gaza, some residents of Alei Sinai were determined to stay on, even if that meant forfeiting their Israeli citizenship. “I have no problem with living as a minority in a Palestinian state,” one of Alei Sinai’s inhabitants, Avi Farhan, told the Israeli daily Haaretz at the time.

Inbar now lives in Ashkelon, a city of 140,000 in southern Israel, and finds the big city alienating, especially when she recalls the warm relationships that once existed in Gaza. “I’ve never felt less secure,” she told me.

Years later, she learned that Rina had developed cancer and died. “The day before Rina left . . . she drew a portrait of me,” she said, describing how her friend had outlined, in charcoal strokes, the features of the teenager. Her parents packed the portrait with all their belongings in a shipping container the day they left Gaza. Soon after, the container was destroyed in a fire.

“I think if people had given it a chance . . . they would have had these kinds of friendships,” Inbar said, looking back. “We’d get along fairly well if we didn’t look at others as the monsters over the wall.” 

This article first appeared in the 27 August 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Isis and the new barbarism