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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

Carlos Alberto Montaner: Why Israelis Succeed and Arabs Fail
"What’s the reason for the remarkable difference between the failure of the Arabs and the social and political success of Israel?" Latin American genius Carlos Alberto Montaner asks.

By Carlos Alberto Montaner

It must be celebrated.

It all started in 1948, after the United Nations’ acceptance. There was no veto. Washington and Moscow gave their approval, something unusual in that tense moment of the Cold War. Under the legitimate pressure of the domestic Jewish lobby, the Truman Administration voted for a two-state solution. Stalin’s government approved because the USSR saw with some empathy the socialist experience, although democratic, that was forged with the legends of the kibutz back then.

After a heart-pounding conclusion, the mandate of the UN, following a very difficult vote, since it required the approval of two thirds of the international body (in that time more than 31 votes), ordered the creation of two independent states: one Jewish and one Arab. The good will of the Latin American countries – which in those years represented the largest block of nations on the planet – was crucial.

We must remember Guatemala and its ambassador Jorge García Granados, who fought within the Committee created by the United Nations to achieve the approval of the motion. On the other hand, we must not forget either that the Cuban government, led by President Ramón Grau San Martín, incomprehensibly aligned itself with those who opposed the resolution. It was the only vote against the creation of Israel in the Latin American bloc, the largest in that recently formed UN.

I will repeat partially in writing what I have said in my radio commentaries. In that brief period of 70 years, Israel has become the greatest contemporary social and political success, while the Arabs, determined to destroy it, have not even managed to create their State. What exists today are two enemy factions whose members kill each other frequently: the Gaza Strip, dominated by Hamas, and the Palestinian National Authority, whose capital is Ramallah, controlled by Al Fatah.

What’s the reason of the remarkable difference between the failure of the Palestinians and the social and political success of Israel? The question is very important. It’s so important that Muslim writers have extended it to the Arab world and today they are publicly debating in their newspapers why Israel has been hugely successful while Muslims have stayed behind, not only in Palestine, but in almost all Arab nations.

Dori Lustron, a noted Jewish journalist who keeps a popular page on the Internet called For Israel, has translated and published what the Arabs say about their own relative failure.

The work is very interesting, because, at least in Lustron’s compilation, the old and false Arab arguments that attributed the success of the Israelis to the subsidies of the United States or to Zionism have disappeared. Egypt has received as much or more from the Arabs, and even from Washington.

Now they recognize that the strength of the State of Israel is the consequence of its institutions of law and the open fight against corruption that has sent a former Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, to jail for receiving a bribe of a few thousand dollars when he was mayor of Jerusalem.

Today the Arabs admit that the differences between Israel and themselves are the result of democracy organizing the transmission of authority, respect for minorities, and the citizens’ freedom to examine their rulers’ work. The most audacious dare to accept that Arab-Israeli women are the only ones really free in the whole Islamic world.

On the other hand, say the Arabs themselves, the Israelis invest in education and technology, that is, an investment in the future, which has allowed them to become a small industrial and scientific giant, while the Arabs keep looking obsessively at the past.

This is a new analysis of the Arab intellectuals, and its prevalence is crucial. As long as the Arabs remain under the moral authority of some religious holy men bent on reviving the medieval fantasies that led them – and still lead them – to bloody confrontations, it is very difficult for their countries to prosper and compete.

As long as Arabs are not able to create legal institutions that protect citizens and fight corruption, they are doomed to fail. But it is great that the Arabs, seventy years after the creation of Israel, understand the reason for the differences between their respective results. It’s not because of the people; after all, Jews and Arabs are first cousins. It’s because the institutions of freedom.

Carlos Alberto Montaner is a journalist and writer. Born in 1943 in Cuba and exiled, Montaner is known for his more than 25 books and thousands of articles. PODER magazine estimates that more than six million readers have access to his weekly columns throughout Latin America. He is also a political analyst for CNN en Espanol. In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine named Montaner as one of the fifty most influential intellectuals in the Ibero-American world. His latest novel is A Time for Scoundrels. His latest essay is "The President: A Handbook for Voters and the Elected." His latest book is a review of Las raíces torcidas de América Latina (The Twisted Roots of Latin America), published by Planeta and available in Amazon, in printed or digital version.


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