As a Syrian and a Muslim, I have always had this affinity for the State of Israel. As a businessman and an advocate of the free economic system of governance, Israel to me represents an astounding economic success in the midst of so many Arab failures. I measure achievement not in terms of trade or dollars going in or out (Saudi Arabia is best at that) but in terms of scientific prowess that ultimately churns the economic engine of success.
While many Arabs view Israel as a sore implant, I view it as a blessing. I should provide an example of what I mean.
In the aftermath of the Virginia Tech tragedy, we learned that friends of ours lost a daughter. Some ten days later, we visited them at their house with some other friends. Conversation surrounding the tragedy ensued and one of my dearest friends whom I have a lot of respect for objected to the story he heard about how the Israeli Ambassador to Washington, through connections, was able to have the body of Liviu Librescu delivered to his family, for religious reasons, before anyone else could have any access to their loved ones. He was fuming against the Ambassador more than against the authorities' unwillingness to deliver simultaneously the bodies of Muslims who also perished, in particular the Egyptian student Waleed Shaalan. I asked him "Did the Egyptian Ambassador call to have Shaalan's body delivered early to his family in accordance with our religious traditions?" He did not know the answer to the question but nonetheless kept fuming against the Israeli Ambassador. It was as if the Israeli Embassy did it to spite him or any other Arab. For me, it confirmed the admiration I have for a country that respects their own.
After some heated argument, almost all agreed that Arabs do not have any measure of respect for their own people (due mostly to lack of accountability) and that Arabs must embrace self-empowerment by learning how rather than why Israel begets results.
Israel's democracy and its economic prosperity are all needed in our midst in the hope that we can learn self-empowerment. It is not hard to imagine our young people learning about empowerment when they watch Israeli democracy on their television sets, but it is hard to imagine they will be able to apply it living under an authoritarian system of government. That is the reason why Arabs send their own young people as suicide bombers instead of nurturing them to grow and become citizens of the world so that one day they can use their connections to help their people like the Israeli Ambassador to Washington helped the Librescu family. How could they nurture them in an environment void of hope for their future?
Israel has, in less than 60 years, built an economy ten times that of Syria with one-fifth the population.
Israel has, in less than 60 years, built an economy ten times that of Syria with one-fifth the population. How does one explain this fact? It is very simple: Israel is a vibrant democracy. For no fault of our own, Syria has suffered from one occupation after occupation, the latest being organically grown represented by the Assad family. One would think that a Syrian family occupying Syria is less harmful than the French occupying Syria. The truth is, it is much worse. The not-so-civilized Assad family uses much worse despotic techniques. The result is that not only Syrians suffer from lack of opportunities and stifling liberties but they also suffer from lack of hope, dignity, and pride as well; a good formula to create suicide bombers.
When the renowned Berkshire Hathaway of Omaha fancied to invest in the Middle East, it bought shares in Israeli industrial companies on the basis of merit. I do not know of any western investment company who has bought shares in Arab public companies except for the lucrative cellular business, which are unmanageable without western know-how and equipment. That does not mean it won't happen one day, but it will certainly not happen to any of the countries surrounding Israel any time soon (with maybe the exception of Jordan) as long as self-empowerment is absent.
It is said that approximately one third of all scientific Nobel Prize winners are Jewish. The ratio is mind boggling. One third comes from a universe of 15 millions Jews and the remainder two-thirds from the much larger pool of 6 billion-plus people. Arabs (mostly Egyptians) have two or three Nobel Peace and Literature Prizes (From a pool of 350 million people) but no Arab has ever won a Nobel in sciences be it chemistry, physics, or medicine. Any argument here as to why Israel is so important to the region?
The assertion made today by the likes of the ignorant Ahmadinajead, who aspires to wipe Israel off the map, and the violent Hamas, some members of which covet throwing the Jews to the sea, reminds me of the story of two factories built side-by-side. One is very successful and its employees take a good paycheck and the other is not so successful and its employees are economically deprived. The manager of the not-so-successful factory spends all his time striving to destroy the successful factory when he in fact should be spending his time learning and imitating the successful factory for his people to luxuriate in similar prosperity. If some of the Palestinians are not willing to learn (Many do want to imitate the success of the factory next door but are not given the chance to express their views or to be elevated to positions of power), we Syrians want to learn and imitate.
James A. Baldwin said: "Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced." To me, any dispute over shared lands is secondary to bringing prosperity to my people.
This article originally appeared on www.reformsyria.org/blog/