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George Gilder


Why the World’s Most Beseiged State Is a Beacon of Freedom and Hope for the World Economy

Second Edition

For Anne Hebald Mandelbaum,

who reshaped this book

and Bruce Chapman,

who made it possible.


The State of Israel finds itself today in a situation that may best be described by paraphrasing Charles Dickens: It is the best of times and the worst of times.

On the one hand, Israel’s economy is flourishing. As George Gilder writes in the pages of this valuable book, Israel represents one of the most extraordinary transformation stories in the history of economics. Just over sixty years old, with a population slightly over seven million, and located in a hostile region, Israel is home to more high-tech start-ups per capita than any other nation on earth and has surpassed the combined venture capital investment of France and Germany. In a decade, Israel went from being a nondescript industrial economy to one of the world’s leaders in research and technological creativity on a per capita basis. Several of Israel’s most prominent entrepreneurs responsible for this extraordinary success are profiled in these pages. Indeed, one cannot visit Israel without being struck by the economic, religious, and cultural vitality of its society.

Israel’s internal security has never been better. Just a few years ago, Israelis were living in daily dread of suicide bombings and rocket attacks — part of a sustained terrorist campaign that was intended to break the country’s will. But Israel’s will did not break. Israelis not only weathered the terrorist storm but, with strength, determination, and resourcefulness, turned back their enemies’ murderous tide.

On the other hand, Israel’s future is not secure. The shadow of a nuclear-armed Iran is creeping across the Middle East, while Teheran’s fanatical Islamist proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah, plot Israel’s destruction.

Israel also faces a global chorus of condemnation that challenges both its right to defend itself against its enemies, and, by extension, the very legitimacy of its existence. Unfortunately, it is not necessary to go to Teheran to encounter these arguments. They can be heard in Europe and other parts of the so-called “civilized world,” including from detractors right here in the United States Too often, these views go unchallenged when they are expressed.

In The Israel Test, George Gilder fights back, refuting the hateful lies and slanders that are all too frequently hurled at Israel. Gilder argues convincingly that Israel’s future is ultimately inseparable from the future of freedom and democracy everywhere. Israel embodies the ideals and principles that define the United States and our closest allies worldwide: the values of personal liberty and economic freedom, human rights and women’s rights, tolerance and pluralism.

The Israel Test also rightly recognizes the special interest that the United States has in the survival and success of Israel. As Gilder reminds us, Israel’s future depends upon U.S. support and strength. We should stand with Israel, he argues, because it is both morally right and strategically smart. Israel is on the frontline of freedom against Islamist terrorism and the threat of rogue states with weapons of mass destruction. It is a beachhead of liberty in a region still sadly dominated by dictatorship. In this regard, “the Israel test” is also “the America test.”

The case Gilder makes for Israel is not based on political, religious, or ethnic affiliation; it transcends partisan politics and personal identity. It recognizes that Israel’s enemies demonstrate their own weakness by holding a narrow and begrudging “zero-sum” view of the world where the creation of wealth always means something has been taken away from someone else. Gilder shows how, to the contrary, Israel’s growing prosperity will benefit the entire region in which it is located.

It is in the very best American tradition to recognize that creativity enriches not only the creator, but his neighbors as well. Americans have long welcomed and encouraged the advancement of other people as an opportunity for our greater self-advancement. This is a generous, positive, affirmative worldview that is not only deeply American, and Israeli too, but a crucial ingredient in any culture that aspires to be free and prosperous.

As Gilder understands, what is at stake when we speak of Israel’s future is more than just the survival of a small nation-state on the edge of the eastern Mediterranean. The threat against Israel is ultimately a threat against civilization itself.

The Israel Test, therefore, represents more than just a defense of Israel. It is a defense of the ideas, interests and values that define who we are, and express everything we hope to be.



The Central Issue

The central issue in international politics, dividing the world into two fractious armies, is the tiny state of Israel.

This central issue is not a global war of civilizations between the West and Islam or a split between Arabs and Jews. These conflicts are real and salient, but they obscure the deeper moral and ideological war. The real issue is between the rule of law and the rule of the leveler, between creative excellence and “fairness,” between admiration of achievement versus envy and resentment of it.

Israel defines a line of demarcation. 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.

The test distills into a few questions: What is your attitude toward people who surpass you in the creation of wealth or in other accomplishments? Do you aspire to equal their excellence, or does it make you seethe? Do you admire and celebrate exceptional achievement, or do you impugn it and seek to tear it down? Caroline Glick, the dauntless deputy managing editor of the Jerusalem Post, sums it up: “Some people admire success; some people envy it. The enviers hate Israel.”

The Israel test is a moral challenge. The world has learned to see moral challenges as issues of charity and compassion toward victims, especially the poor, whose poverty is seen as proof of their victimization. But the moral challenge of this century is not charity toward the poor but treatment of the productive elites who create the wealth that supports us all. A victim only of resentment, Israel epitomizes the plight of the productive elites under siege around the globe.

In countries where Jews are free to invent and create, they pile up conspicuous wealth and arouse envy and suspicion. 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 lifted the culture and economy of the world.

Israel today concentrates the genius of the Jews. Obscured by the prevalent media narrative of the “war-torn” Middle East, Israel’s rarely-celebrated feats of commercial, scientific, and technological creativity climax the Jews’ twentieth-century saga of triumph over tragedy. Today tiny Israel, with its population of 7.23 million, five and one-half million Jewish, is second only the United States in technological contributions. In per capita innovation, Israel dwarfs all nations. The forces of civilization in the world continue to feed upon the intellectual wealth epitomized by Israel.