Start-Up Nation - The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle. By Dan Senor and Saul Singer. Council of Foreign Relations Book, McClelland & Stewart. 2009.
"There are no Palestinians"
Israel is an amazing place as one puts together the implications from Start-Up Nation. It is a fount of free enterprise can-do entrepreneurial spirit. There are no resistances, although something called an Intifada concerned the authors somewhat, without specifying what it is or was. There are no freedom fighters nor insurgents, no guerrillas nor rebellions. For that matter there are no Palestinians. The word has been expunged from the authors' vocabulary completely -- unless it was in a boring anecdotal section that I skim-read and missed, which is not likely. Israel, except for a few wandering Arabs, was "largely a barren wasteland."
The only people - other than Jews, Zionists, and various other national entrepreneurs - in this book are the terrorists, obviously dealt with very effectively by somebody within the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). The authors use the media presumption that all those against the state of Israel must be a terrorists who are there for seemingly no reason at all, other than "they are against us and hate us for what we are," an attitude one could expect from writers with Council on Foreign Relations background. Without these contextual placements, this work fails completely. Even accepting these contextual failures, the "miracle" that is Israel is not very miraculous at all, but is based on what are normal means of establishing national wealth.
I knew before I read the book that I expected certain elements to be addressed in order for it to be a complete contextual presentation on this supposed miracle. The questions I asked, and that I wrote on the front fly-leaf of the book before reading even the cover flap were:
*Does the book discuss the U.S. foreign aid of about $3 billion dollars annually and an estimated $114 billion dollars since inception?
*Does it mention the historical period before the war, before the UN Resolution, and immediately following the declaration of the state of Israel, when financial support from the U.K. and the U.S. had already become common place?
*Is there a discussion of the occupation and settlements of prime agricultural land and the control of natural resources -- the most important being water?
*Is there any effect of the hostage population of Palestinians in creating cheap labor markets and a captive sales market?
*Is the technology trade with the U.S. discussed, and in its entirety of state-of-the-art military technology and not just the run-of-the-mill, out-of-date stuff sold to other countries?
Well no, there are no answers to these questions, except for the one on U.S. technology imports, answered only partially and perhaps inadvertently in a single line in the concluding section of the work. Shimon Peres is cited as saying, "Every technology that arrives in Israel from America, it comes to the army and in five minutes, they change it." The technology Israel receives is state-of-the-art technology in military and security hardware and software.
This supposed miracle, the innovative entrepreneurial businesses based mainly in the high-tech sector, and more recently within the culture of venture capital and all its manipulations, is therefore a typical economists perspective with blinders on about the reality of the human condition in "Israel," its lack of democracy, and its abrogation, denial, disobeying, and flaunting of international law and humanitarian rights.
Biases and Mythologies
The biases and purposeful (?) ignorances begin early in the work. The worst representation of this is the authors' statistic that "defense, counterterrorism, and homeland security companies today represent less than 5 percent of Israel's gross domestic product." The implication is that the military has a very small role in the Israeli economy.
A closer look at economic statistics reveals a different picture. First of all, defense is given as 6.8% of gross domestic product (GDP), a statistic often used to obfuscate the realities of wealth disparities and to hide the distribution of wealth. In 2008, the budget's 16.2 billion dollars on defence was the highest ratio to GDP of all developed countries, on a per capita basis of $2,300. Aside from the GDP, this budgetary figure becomes 17.5% of the 2009 $92.6 billion Israeli budget.