Make no mistake about it. George Gilder’s latest book The Israel Test is powerful. Persuasive and demands the attention of anyone seriously concerned with the future of our civilization as we know it.
Gilder lays out in his opening paragraph exactly what he is going to be concerned with: “The central issue in international politics, dividing the world into two fractious armies, is the tiny state of Israel.”
He states his thesis very quickly and directly, saying the issue is not that of a global war of civilization between the West and Islam nor any division between Arabs and Jews. He does not deny the validity of these conflicts, but rather sees the issue as being “between creative excellence and covetous ‘fairness,’ between admiration of achievement versus envy and resentment of it.”
As for his title, he notes it can be summed up by asking yourself a few questions, such as: What’s your attitude toward people who excel you in creation of wealth or in other accomplishment? Do you yearn for their excellence or do you rage at it? Driving home his point he cites a succinct statement from Caroline Glick, deputy managing editor of the Jerusalem Post, “Some people admire success; some people envy it. The enviers hate Israel.”
Gilder sees his eponymous test as a moral challenge, observing that the world has come to see moral challenge as matters of charity and compassion toward victims. Victims are usually poor and underprivileged, the very proof of their state of victimhood. But Israel is not poor. On the contrary, it is a victim of its very own success and superiority.
Heed to what Gilder has to say about the very essence of the state of Israel. “In this age of information, when the achievements of mind have widely outpaced the power of masses and material force, Jews have forged much of the science and wealth of the era. Their pioneering contributions to quantum theory enabled the digital age. Their breakthroughs in nuclear science and computer science propelled the West to victory in World War II and the cold war. Their bioengineering inventions have enhanced the health and their microchip designs are fueling the growth of nations everywhere. Their genius has leavened the culture and economy of the world.”
Pay attention. Gilder’s statements rather take your breath away. “Today tiny Israel, with its population of 7.23 million, five and one-half million Jewish, stands behind only the United States in technological contributions. In per-
-capita innovation, Israel dwarfs all nations.”
Gilder goes into the very nature of capitalism briefly in his opening chapter noting that what makes capitalism succeed is not chiefly its structure of incentives but its use of knowledge and experience. Under capitalism, knowledge grows apace with wealth. He makes a devastating critique of the Marxist way of thought by stating were governments superior investors, the Soviet bloc would have been an economic triumph rather than an economic and environmental catastrophe. China would have thrived under Mao rather than under the current regime that claims,” To get rich is glorious.”
The way he sees it and expresses his thought most eloquently, the Palestinians could be rich and happy today by merely forswearing violence and taking advantage of their unique position of being contiguous with the world’s most creative peopl
Basically Gilder sums the essence of this powerful work fairly simply. “With wealth seen as stolen from the exploited poor, the poor in turn with a license to dispossess and kill their oppressors and to disrupt capitalist economies. This is the foul message of Franz Fanon, Hamas, al-Qaida, Hezbollah, and the academic coteries of Chomsky, Zinn, and a thousand Marxist myrmidons across the campuses of the world. But no capitalist system can sustain prosperity amid constant violence. The idea that suicide bombing is a tolerable policy that can be extenuated by alleged grievances is preposterous. It is the violence that makes necessary the police measures that render economic progress impossible, particularly for the groups associated with the attacks. By justifying violent attacks on a civilized democracy — and then condemning the necessary retaliatory defense — leftists would allow no solution but tyranny.” Gilder says those suicide bombers of the brain know which side they are on. He asks you the reader: “Which side are you on?”
The Israel Test makes for fascinating, nay, absolutely compelling reading. It could not be more topical. And what you’ll learn about Israeli accomplishments is positively mind-blinding. For what it’s worth, Gilder in an afterword relates how coming from the most WASP of New England families he went from being an incipient anti-Semite at Phillips Exeter Academy to becoming totally transformed his thinking. It makes for a fitting and rather touching sidebar to a serious and important book for our times.