The Great Di­vide

Is it envy that makes Mus­lims hate Jews so much?

Finweek English Edition - - Nothing Sacred - STEPHEN MUL­HOL­LAND stephenm@fin­week.co.za

IT IS ONE OF HIS­TORY’S en­dur­ing mys­ter­ies that so many peo­ple have over so many cen­turies hated the Jewish peo­ple. As far back as 250BCE an Egyp­tian scribe – Manetho – al­leged that Moses was not a Jew but an Egyp­tian rene­gade priest, while por­tray­ing the Ex­o­dus as the ex­pul­sion of a leper colony. Be­tween 175BCE and 165BCE An­ti­ochus Epiphanes sacked Jerusalem, de­scrib­ing Ju­daism as “in­im­i­cal to hu­man­ity”.

I’d guess he’d think that af­ter be­ing thrashed in bat­tle by the Mac­cabees and ex­pelled from the Holy City. Per­haps at the root of it all is a sim­ple hu­man emo­tion: envy. Then, of course, there’s de­i­cide, al­legedly com­mit­ted by the Jews in the killing of Je­sus.

It’s un­der­stand­able that 1,2bn Mus­lims (not all of whom, by any means, hate Jews but cer­tainly a ma­jor­ity do) might be en­vi­ous that on a tiny split of the earth with scant nat­u­ral re­sources, lit­tle wa­ter and no oil – and oc­cu­py­ing less than 1% of the land mass of Saudi Ara­bia – just over 6m Jewish peo­ple and more than 1m Arab fel­low cit­i­zens have built one of mod­ern his­tory’s most dy­namic economies.

Per­haps jeal­ousy is a nat­u­ral re­ac­tion to the fact, for ex­am­ple, that there have been 129 Jewish win­ners of No­bel Prizes while less than 10 Mus­lims have been so hon­oured. But Chris­tians, such as those in Nazi Ger­many, in Vichy France and many other coun­tries, also hated Jews. Some schol­ars trace that an­tipa­thy to the role of Jews as tax col­lec­tors for the no­bil­ity plus what ap­pears to be an in­nate char­ac­ter­is­tic of the Jewish in­tel­lect to be able to ac­cu­mu­late wealth – of­ten, in an­cient times, en­hanc­ing it through money lend­ing.

On a re­gional ba­sis it can’t but be galling for Is­rael’s neigh­bours, who vastly out­num­ber her, to be re­peat­edly thwarted in their at­tempts to de­stroy her and even more galling to wit­ness, from the eco­nomic back­wa­ters that they oc­cupy, a flour­ish­ing econ­omy just across the border.

What came to mind on a re­cent trip to Is­rael (af­ter an ab­sence of 35 years), visit­ing the borders at Gaza, the West Bank and, in the far north that, with Le­banon, was the phe­nom­e­non of how neigh­bour­ing so­ci­eties can be at such dif­fer­ent lev­els of de­vel­op­ment.

As a teenager at univer­sity in Dal­las, your age­ing correspondent vis­ited the south Texas town of Brownsville on the Rio Grande River, the nat­u­ral border be­tween Mex­ico and the United States. On the Amer­i­can side, even then, there were vast high­way net­works, neat sub­urbs, shop­ping malls, tall, gleam­ing of­fice build­ings, schools and all the other ac­cou­trements of mod­ern liv­ing. But as I gazed across at Mex­ico I was greeted with the sad spec­ta­cle of open sew­ers, don­keys pulling carts, beg­gars on cor­ners, street urchins play­ing on muddy roads, sag­ging rooftops and the odd, shabby lit­tle shop.

Again, in West Ber­lin, a thriv­ing, cos­mopoli­tan sys­tem, I looked across the Wall to the bleak Com­mu­nist east to wit­ness again the sad and un­nec­es­sary con­trast be­tween the re­sults of dif­fer­ent sys­tems. Sim­i­larly, in the old Hong Kong you could go to its border with Com­mu­nist China and not fail to be struck by the stark con­trast be­tween back­ward, rural collectivism and the bustling pros­per­ity of the free mar­ket hub of Hong Kong.

There’s also the ex­am­ple of South Korea, a thriv­ing free mar­ket democ­racy, and North Korea, a Com­mu­nist pit de­void of free­dom. Of course, in our own re­gion we have sim­i­lar ex­am­ples.

A ques­tion I was of­ten asked in Is­rael was: “Why don’t they (the Arabs) want to live like we do? Why do they choose squalor and poverty over progress and pros­per­ity?”

Yair Lapid, an Is­raeli jour­nal­ist, wrote this: “Why do chil­dren in Iran, who can­not even lo­cate Is­rael on the map (es­pe­cially be­cause it’s so small), burn its flag in the city cen­tre and of­fer to com­mit sui­cide for its elim­i­na­tion? Why do Egyp­tian and Jor­da­nian in­tel- lec­tu­als ag­i­tate the in­no­cent and help­less against the peace agree­ments, even though they know that their fail­ure will push their coun­tries 20 years back?

“Why are the Syr­i­ans will­ing to stay in a pa­thetic and de­pressed Third World coun­try for the du­bi­ous right to fi­nance ter­ror or­gan­i­sa­tions that will even­tu­ally threaten their own coun­try’s ex­is­tence? Why do they hate us so much in Saudi Ara­bia? In Iraq? In Su­dan? What have we done to them? How are we even rel­e­vant to their lives? What do they know about us? Why do they hate us so much in Afghanistan? They don’t have any­thing to eat there; where do they get the en­ergy to hate?”

That sort of frus­tra­tion, com­bined with a cer­tain sad­ness, is com­mon among Is­raelis. But they get on with their lives.

Af­ter the US and Canada, and well ahead of Bri­tain, Ger­many and China, Is­rael has the third largest num­ber of com­pa­nies – 75 – whose shares are traded on the Nas­daq. More Is­raeli patents are reg­is­tered in the US than from Rus­sia, In­dia and China com­bined.

Re­gard­less of what the en­e­mies of Is­rael do – short of a nu­clear at­tack, in which case all bets are off for all of us – this na­tion is here to stay and there can be no doubt what­so­ever that part­ner­ship with it would be a his­toric and mighty boost for its neigh­bours.

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