The central moral issue of our time

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George Gilder persuasively argues in his latest book The Israel Test that the central issue of our time is not any clash of civilizations or dispute over environmentalism, but a more fundamental moral divide. He explains: “On one side, marshaled at the United Nations and in universities around the globe, are those who see capitalism as a zero-sum game in which success comes at the expense of the poor and the environment: Every gain for one party comes at the cost of another. On the other side are those who see the genius and the good fortune of some as a source of wealth and opportunity for all.”

A primary focus of these clashing viewpoints is the state of Israel. Quoting Caroline Glick, an astute columnist for the Jerusalem Post,Gilder sums up: “Some people admire success; some people envy it. The enviers hate Israel”

The enviers also hate the Jews, and for much the same reason: Collectively, the Jews have been far more successful down through the centuries than any other people.

Gilder points out that Jews currently comprise fewer than one-third of one per cent of the world’s population, yet over the past 60 years, they have won more than 30 per cent of the Nobel Prizes for literature, chemistry, physics and medicine.

Jews have also been outstandingly successful as entrepreneurs and financiers. Ludwig von Mises, the distinguished Austrian economist, estimated that at least two thirds of the top 1,000 entrepreneurs in Austria during the 1930s were Jews.

Hitler, alas, was not alone in his pathological envy and hatred of the Jews.  A great many Austrians applauded his campaign to rid the country of Jews, despite the devastating economic consequences for Austria. Out of about 250,000 Jews who resided in Austria in 1938, only 216 survived the Second World War without fleeing abroad.

Von Mises was one of the lucky Jewish survivors. He escaped to the United States, where he concluded his brilliant career at New York University. In this case, as in so many others, the United States gained from Europe’s loss of outstanding Jewish talent.

Gilder describes General Leslie Groves, the officer in charge of the ultra-secret Manhattan Project during the Second World War, as a “stiff and conventional military man and a Christian of the sort most disdained by intellectuals.” Like Hitler, Groves might have failed what Gilder calls “the Israel test:” That is to say, he could have envied the Jews and refused to employ them on the Manhattan Project.

Instead, Groves chose two Jews to head the organization, Robert Oppenheimer as director and John von Neumann as senior adviser. With the collaboration of Enrico Fermi, Ernest Lawrence and other brilliant gentiles, the talented Jews recruited by Groves enabled the United States to obtain nuclear weapons before Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

Here, then, is a singular triumph of success over envy. The Jews and gentiles who worked together on the Manhattan Project literally saved Western civilization.

For 20 years following the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, the Palestinians likewise tried peaceful cooperation with Israel. The result was an outburst of mutually beneficial economic growth. Gilder notes that despite a tripling of the Palestinian population, per capita income in the West Bank and Gaza rose to $1,706 in 1987, up from $80 in 1967.

Since 1987, Palestinian militants have periodically sent homicide bombers and Katyusha rockets into Israel. For the Palestinian people, the inevitable consequence has been ruin, especially in Gaza, which remains desperately impoverished despite having received more foreign aid per capita than any other territory on earth.

Of late, Israel and the Palestine Authority on the West Bank have reverted to peaceful cooperation for the mutual economic benefit of Jews and Arabs on both sides of the border. The same opportunity is open to the people of Gaza. But first they must get rid of a terrorist government consumed with a pathological hatred and envy of the Jews.

(PS: In case any reader is wondering, Gilder is a Christian of British ancestry.)

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