Tuesday, May 06, 2014

We have a lot to be proud of

Op-ed: While Israel tops global surveys on negative contribution to the world, it is in fact a leader in contribution to humanity.

Sixty-six years ago, when 36 gentlemen and two ladies signed the Proclamation of Independence, they knew it wasn't going to be easy. They knew that the call for peace with the surrounding nations would be met with declarations of war and destructions. They were not sure that this newborn baby would last.  

But there is one thing they definitely didn't know: That the State of Israel would lead the contribution to humanity and would also become the most hated country by that same humanity.

The State of Israel is characterized by paradoxes. For more
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than three years now, young scientists from Israel have been submitting applications to the European Research Council (ERC), and for more than three years now Israel has been in the first place, for its size, in receiving grants. This is the most important foundation of its kind in the world. How does that match Israeli schoolchildren's poor achievements in international exams? It doesn't. We are the state of paradoxes.

For almost a decade now, Israel has been leading, or has been among the leaders, in global surveys about negative contribution to the world. When we are not at the top, we are in the same boat with Iran, Pakistan and North Korea. Not exactly something to be proud of.

When we move from perception surveys to facts, the picture is reversed. Israel is one of the leading countries in the world in developing medications and irrigation and water purification systems (the first place in the world in sewage treatment), in patent applications (first place in the registration of patents of medical developments) and in scientific publications (second place in the world in the three most important journals).

These achievements are not only a cause for national pride. They are mainly a contribution to humanity.

And the list goes on. The most expensive exports from Israel, according to weight, are more valuable than pure gold. We are talking about Summer Sun tomato seeds - $350,000 per kilogram.

Look back with pride, look forward with hope

There is no index of "contribution to humanity per capita." But if there were such an index, Israel would likely take the first place. Millions of people owe their lives to the irrigation systems and agricultural products from Israel. Not just the Third World. Even California Governor Jerry Brown recently asked Israel for research and technological aid in order to deal with the severe drought. How does this contribution match the oh-so-negative image? It doesn't. We are the state of paradoxes.

Some say it's not really a paradox, because "Israel and the Jews are the biggest players in the culture of violence, and that culture of violence is eventually going to destroy humanity." This is exactly what Arun Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi's grandson, said. The Nazis said the same thing.

But you see, these slanderous remarks were made by a person who headed an anti-violence institute in a prestigious university in the United States. They were made, in almost the same style, by a former British minister, Clare Short, and also by a well-known journalist from Israel. The message gets through. Thousands of academics around the world are spreading similar messages.

The fact is that 35 Palestinians were killed in 2013, and most of them were involved in terrorism. This number is less than the daily bloodshed in Syria, in Pakistan, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Nigeria, in Somalia. The fact is that 99.9999% of the violent conflicts in the world have nothing to do with Israel.

But the hell with the facts. There is always someone who makes sure, even among us, to spread blood libels. How can the dispute between the real figures and the libels be settled? It can't. We are the state of paradoxes.

For 364 days a year we engage in self-flagellation. We have sinned, we have betrayed, we have committed a crime. With all this self-flagellation, which is sometimes legitimate criticism and sometimes self-hatred, we have lost touch with reality.

There are problems. Israel is far from perfect. The gaps and the housing prices are alarming. But in spite of all the problems, Israel is a miracle. A state founded from 70 Diaspora communities, most of which did not know anything about democracy. A state of poor refugees which became a world power in agriculture and irrigation and water purification and high-tech developments. A state which does not live by the sword, but by research, development and entrepreneurship. A state in which the talks about boycott and suspending investments conceal the fact that it is the most invested country in the world, and in some fields not even just for its size.

We must continue warning. We must criticize and bite and expose the problems. But once a year we must also present the broader picture. So yes, we can look back with pride. We can look forward with hope. Happy Independence Day.

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