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August 09, 2003

Israel, to learn from
Yaser Kerachian  [info|posts]

israel.jpg Last week, I attended a conference in South Hadley, MA. The conference was rather small since it was about a very specialized branch of physics. So, I was quite impressed by the high number of Israeli scientists. There were also several American Jews currently holding faculty positions at universities in Israel. Having seen this many scientists, I got the answer to a question I had been dealing with for a long time.

There are relatively many unbiased news agencies that keep telling people of the world about the brutality of Israel against the Palestinians. They do talk quite often about the plight of Palestinians especially the refugees. Considering that public opinion is not really unaware of how much Palestinians suffer why are they still in support of Israel and why Palestinians have never been able to use the public pressure to get a bit more of their rights?

One side of the answer to this question has to do with Palestinians themselves. Both the corrupt Palestinian Authority and Terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad are equally responsible. However, there is another side of the story which is usually forgotten, that is Israel.

Israel is the most (and maybe the only!) secular democracy in the middle east. Whenever there is a peace talk going on, it is between the prime minister of Israel and a king or a lifetime president of another country in the region. It was not until few months ago that Arafat finally accepted to hand in some of his powers to a new face. The type of the government aside, Israel's $100 billion economy is larger than all of its immediate neighbors combined. In proportion to its population, Israel has the largest number of startup companies in the world. In absolute terms, Israel has the largest number of startup companies than any other country in the world, except the US. Scientifically, Israel has the highest per capita ratio of scientific publications in the world by a large margin, as well as one of the highest per capita rates of patents filed.

There are some international values that all countries, including the US, respect. First how much democratic a country is and then how powerful its economy is. If Arab countries want Israel to admit the Palestinians' rights first they have to take care of these issues. There is also a lot for our country, Iran, to learn from Israel. Iranian diaspora should also take lessons from the Jewish lobby.

* The image on the right used to be a portion of the Israeli flag, that we had to remove in case it meant disrespect. -Editor

Comments
Saeed at August 9, 2003 04:27 PM [permalink]:

I think in this case “American” public opinion matters. Believe it or not, America is THE superpower and can ignore other countries public opinion and veto UN resolutions and even give money to "support" this injustice. As I have seen the coverage of US mainstream media about this conflict is absolutely biased and it has shaped American public opinion.

Vahid Shahrezaei at August 9, 2003 05:36 PM [permalink]:

I am right now at Les houches summer school on neurophysics, in French alpes. The summer school is devoted to theoretical aspects of neuroscience (How the brain works!). Israeilis has dominated this young field of science. There are 40 participants which out of them there are about 10 israilies, three and half iranians (+ wife of a Austrain student). There is just 3 french students in the course, and 6-7 Germans and the same number Americans and Russians. Out of the instructors there are about 30% israelis and another 30% has a israili connection (worked or studied in israel) and half of the remaining non israelies are jew!
They are very good scientists and they practice an aggresive kind of science (they fight over their ideas and models). It is very imperesive how they manage to produce such a great science in small country that is almost in a war! There is certainly a lot to learn from them!

Kaveh at August 9, 2003 05:46 PM [permalink]:

As I was reminded by Joe Katzmann today, they apparently imported many jewsih scientists after the collapse of the soviet union. Of course they had the infrastructure (through army research, etc) to accomodate all of them and get it going.

MommaBear at August 10, 2003 05:25 PM [permalink]:

Then the ME countries need to perhaps concentrate on developing better scientific infrastructures as well to develop their own economies.....perhaps ????

Del Simmons at August 11, 2003 06:57 AM [permalink]:

I think you guys are underestmating the nefative impact of the atrocious "martyr operations" perpetrated by the Palestinian terror groups on the perceptions of the "American Street". We are saddened when we see the IDF moving into PA held terrotories, but that doesn't begin to describe the disgust and revulsion we feel when we see a suicide bomber blow up somewhere like Mike's Place or the Dolphinarium. From my perspective, the Israeli's are much more just.

When an IDF soldier is convicted of needlessly killing a Palestinian, the Israeli courts sentence them. Or it seems so from here.

Whan a Palestinian blows himself up, slaughtering dozens, there is hero worship of this person in the PA territories.

The contrast is striking with Israel looking like a sane country with a sense of justice with the Palestinian's look like savages with no respect for life whatsoever. Especially in this post 9-11 world. The analogy between Hamas and Al Qaeda ring true in American eyes now, regardless of whether some call them freedom fighters or not. This is only a losing strategy for the PA and it must stop before people like Sharon use it as an excuse for a wholesale slaughter.

I'm not saying this is the full reality, but the two acts (IDF violence vs suicide bombings) do stand in dark contrast.

Until the Palestinians not only condemn the practice of bombing civilians, but also go after Al Aqsa Brigade, IJ and Hammas, the US street will never see them as deserving of self rule. Right now Abbas and Sahlan look like Arafat's puppets.

I honestly think it's going to take a full civil war in Palestine before this ever occurs.

Thoughts?

Saoshyant at August 11, 2003 08:19 AM [permalink]:

It has been long commented in progressive circles in the West, as well as in Israel, that the Peace Process has been the hostage of the fundamentalist activity on both sides. Reform in Palestine cannot truly materialize unless Palestinians develop a proper judicial system and attain some economic clout. All the above, of course, is also dependent upon a very important factor, more cohesion. All settlements, all of them, also should be removed to attain this goal. Fundamentalism still remains a catastrophic issue, may I remind us all the assassination of PM Robbin? What will happen to Abbas, if he goes the extra mile?

Saoshyant at August 11, 2003 08:28 AM [permalink]:

Israel will remain a contentious model in so far as democratic processes are concerned. If it were not because of the Supreme Court of Israel's most progressive rulings, the fanatics in the Knesset would have had banned Arab-Israelis from elections, running as candidates, and continued with other fanatic projects. With the exception of the Egyptian Constitutional and Supreme Courts, that recently issued landmark rulings that led to the release of Human Rights activists from security prisons, it appears the Arab states have a long list to deal with, chief amongst them are: neo-patrimonialism and militant fundamentalism.

Mat at August 13, 2003 08:53 PM [permalink]:

What was this change for? I mean removing the flat of Israel and replacing it with this map?

Joe Katzman at August 18, 2003 12:57 AM [permalink]:

The most useful lesson Iranian democrats could take from Israel is how it has dealt with the phenomenon of ultra-religious parties who wish to impose a rigid religious on a state of mostly secular Israelis.

Here's the good news: The ultra-orthodox don't run the country, or even anything close to it. Nor will they.

Here's the bad news: The proportional representation system in Israel does give them power beyond their numbers (and that power is resented by many). Try that in Iran, and I suspect the consequences would be much more serious.

This is a phenomenon that goes beyond just proportional representation vs. other democratic models. It has social and cultural dimensions that the Israelis themselves have analyzed in depth. That work could serve as an invaluable guide to Iranian democrats trying to build a better Iran, and a system that can accomodate the religious without letting them take over.

Old Fox at August 18, 2003 12:41 PM [permalink]:

Joe Katzman's comment was indeed very interesting. I wonder how much research is being done - for example in Iranian universities - comparing different models of governments in the world. Is it a taboo to bring up Israel as a model or subject? A clever student may ask to be supervised by an academic cleric (they are usually more open-minded comparing to non-academic ones) and do research on this matter under his support. A well-done research may affect and give strong hints to many in the system.