Monday, December 20, 2010

The Canary in the Gold Mine

by David Solway

It has become a cliché by this time that Israel is the canary in the coal mine, signaling to those still on the surface, that is, those who believe they are above the fray, the dangers that await in the future if precautions are not taken. And like all clichés, it articulates a general truth. As Eric Hoffer famously said in a 1968 article [1] for the Los Angeles Times, “I have a premonition that will not leave me; as it goes with Israel, so it will go with all of us. Should Israel perish, the holocaust will be upon us.”

Echoing Hoffer, Dutch Party for Freedom (PPV) leader Geert Wilders affirmed [2] in a speech delivered in Tel Aviv on December 5, 2010 in praise and support of the Jewish state, “It is here that our civilization is under attack…It is here that Israel has lit the light of freedom and that Europeans and Americans must help the Israelis to keep that light shining in the darkness.” For Israel is the West’s frontline army in the war against militant Islam, its “forlorn hope” (from the Dutch verleren hoop, soldiers placed in the most dangerous position or leading the charge).

As I wrote in Hear, O Israel! [3], “not until we can arrive at some understanding of the upsurge of Jew-hatred in the West and the red herring of anti-Zionism, whether in the form of public odium and acts of anti-Semitic vandalism or in the flagrant anti-Israeli drift of the media, the Academy, the Churches and the European polity, will we be in a position to confront our weakness and complicity.” Only when we realize that, in adopting the Islamic attitude vis à vis Jews and the Jewish state, we are seeking to conciliate instead of confronting the forces arrayed against us, which only renders us more vulnerable in the long run.

But although Israel remains a fixture in the press and elicits a disproportionate amount of public and official denunciation, few of us invest much time thinking about the canary as such and what it portends. On the contrary, it is often viewed as wholly expendable and, indeed, many of us are hoping that it will expire quickly, a climactic mistake to be redeemed by its disappearance. Clearly, the Jewish state may be the West’s sacrificial canary but that does not inspire gratitude. Israel can be happily relinquished to the noxious fumes of the Muslim Middle East, after which the West can either follow suit or, now forewarned, take appropriate measures.

But the imminent priority is the erasure of the Jewish state as we know it from the map, whether by Ahmadinejadian means, or through diplomacy and coercion, or by the application of economic pressure and international ostracism. Popular options such as the so-called “one state” (aka bi-national) solution, advocated by anti-Zionist intellectuals like the late Tony Judt, or demographic inundation via the Palestinian insistence on the “right of return” of five million instant “refugees” would do the job most effectively. (For this latter prospect, we have the U.N. to thank for violating its own rule granting refugee status to the first generation only.) As former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler has written [4], “In the past, the most dangerous anti-Semites were those who wanted to make the world Judenrein, ‘free of Jews.’ Today, the most dangerous anti-Semites might be those who want to make the world Judenstaatrein, ‘free of a Jewish state.’”

Naturally, attacking Israel as a racist or fascist or colonial or apartheid state is how one gets one’s anti-Semitism for free. It is in this way that one indulges one’s Jew-hatred without having to pay a single conscience-minted penny for one’s moral opprobrium and toxic irrationality. One can be both contemptible and ignorant while passing off these vices as deeply strenuous virtues, namely, as compassion and the love of justice. (Translation: backing the Palestinian cause and accepting its largely spurious narrative.) But such attitudes are deadly “virtues” when divorced from reality—in this particular case, from the dispensations of international law, from genuine historical knowledge and from the incontestable facts on the ground, which serve to establish the Jewish state as both a legitimate and meritorious member of the international community. Far less can be said for the Ba’athist entity in Syria, the Hashemite entity in Jordan, the Hezbollah entity in Lebanon, the Mullocratic entity in Iran or the Palestinian entities in Gaza and the West Bank.

What anti-Semites and anti-Zionists—who are for the most part one and the same and proliferate almost everywhere we look these days—obstinately and dishonorably refuse to understand is that Israel is a world benefactor without which life as we live it and take for granted would be far poorer. I am not referring to Jaffa oranges or sweet red peppers from Moshav Beit Gamliel, which are nice enough, but to the many innovations in the fields of cybernetics, desalination, hydrology, energy technology, security, productive agricultural methods and life-saving medical technology [5], in all of which it is among the world’s undeniable leaders.

For example, Windows XP, Vista and Microsoft Office were developed in Israel. So were the first firewalls, the first wireless LAN, voice mail, cell phones (including the multi-jacketed Modu cell phone, which has entered the Guinness Book of Records, and has brought user functionality to a new level unmatched anywhere in the world), TV Remote Control, Google’s new super-search algorithm Orion (in fact, Google runs on Israeli search algorithms), the Mobile Internet, Intel microchips and Pentium microprocessors, an advanced electric car network, a model to the world, using “green electricity” to be operational by next year, superior anti-terrorist screening techniques, drip irrigation, state-of-the-art solar power plants, water technology programs and reverse osmosis desalination plants to which half of Europe is indebted, the miracle drug Copaxone which treats multiple sclerosis, the world’s tiniest medical video camera to be used for disposable endoscopes, coronary stents, surgical lasers, transcutaneous pain relievers, new autoclave designs to fight AIDS, the ExAblate 2000 system for combating fibroid tumors, a rasagiline inhibitor of Parkinson’s marketed as Azilect, the chemotherapy agent Doxil that treats leukemia and Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a medication known as Exelon that reduces symptoms of Alzheimer’s, the new biomarker placental protein 13 (PP13), a pre-diagnostic for severe fetal diseases—I have barely skimmed the surface.

Anti-Semites and Israel-haters may boycott Israeli strawberries, but they will not put away their cell phones or mothball their computers. They can lobby to divest from companies doing business with Israeli firms, but they will not divest from Israeli biotech industries from which everybody benefits. They may do their utmost to sanction Israeli academics and their home institutions, but they are more than happy to reap the rewards that flow from the country’s universities and laboratories. Anti-Semites are not only vicious defamers and articled thimblewits; they are also prize bigots.

The psychological matrix from which anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism emerge is infernally complex. But resentment against Israeli smarts and entrepreneurial dynamism is surely a significant factor in the Pharisaic rejection of a vigorous, cutting-edge society that continues to flourish under the most adverse circumstances. And as we have seen, such baseless animosity is enabled by a condition which Stanford professor Robert Proctor has labeled “agnotology,” defined as the cultural production of ignorance and the consequent refusal to come to terms with reality. Thus Israel may be vilified at will and with complete impunity in flagrant defiance of an actual state of affairs.

The plain truth is that the Israeli “brand” is one that creates value for humankind. It confers wealth, high-tech capacity, discoveries and inventions for the cure of many critical diseases, and various forms of needed productivity upon the world. Were honesty and common sense ever to prevail over cultural ignorance, hypocrisy, resentment and hatred, Israel would be lauded rather than slandered, appreciated rather than condemned. It would be regarded as a veritable gold mine from which we daily profit.

There is only one conclusion we can draw: if any harm should come to Israel, it would be the world’s loss. One way or another, we must understand what is at stake if we are to fully grasp the importance and necessity of the Jewish state. Obviously, the coal mine is the Middle East in which the Israeli canary signals danger, and must therefore be heeded. As the American poet Jorn Ake writes in Boys Whistling like Canaries [6], we should “consider whether each note/might not be a body/buried someplace.”

But what is rarely, if ever, noted in the international media, the United Nations, the labor unions, the World Council of Churches, the corridors of state and the echo chamber of public opinion is that there is a high-yield gold mine in the region too. And that gold mine is Israel proper in which the canary, the spirit of Israel, sings to a deafened world’s felicity and advantage.

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David Solway

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