Those of you who are against the existence of the state of Israel use as a main point the misconception Israel represents a “white” colonization of the “brown” Middle East. This oversimplified perspective disregards historical facts and diverse demographics. By examining key aspects of the current population of Israel: the Holocaust’s impact, the Arab inhabitants of Israel, and the expulsion of Jews from Muslim countries and subsequent immigration to Israel, we can shed light on the fallacy of this viewpoint and conclude that Israel is also a “brown” country.
- Holocaust: A Tragic Reminder of Jewish Origins: The Holocaust stands as a stark reminder that European Jews, with their roots in the Middle East, were victims of genocide perpetrated by the Nazis. Approximately two-thirds of European Jews were annihilated, around 6 million of them, solely due to their Semitic heritage. Nazi ideology, driven by Aryan supremacism, perceived Jews as racially inferior. Jews were not killed for their beliefs, to the Nazi murderers it did not matter if someone was a religious or secular Jews, Jews were killed over their semitic racial heritage. Thus, Israel’s establishment served as a refuge for the survivors, allowing them to reclaim their ancestral homeland not as European but as semites. Having said this now Jews of European origin are a minority in Israel.
- Arab Origins within Israel: Contrary to the notion of Israel as a white European entity, a significant proportion of its population is of Arab origin. Today, around 2 million Arab citizens reside in Israel, accounting for about 20% of the population. Way more than the 450k Arab citizens who resided in Israel when the country was established in 1948. They enjoy equal rights and actively participate in various aspects of Israeli society, challenging the notion of Israel as a colonizing force. They have more democratic rights than Arabs in Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.
- Jewish ethnic cleansing from Muslim Countries: The majority of Jews in Israel hail from Muslim-majority countries such as Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Morocco, and others. These Jewish communities have ancient roots dating back to before the advent of Islam. Tragically, they faced expulsion and persecution in their countries of origin, prompting their migration to Israel. This historical reality undermines the assertion of Israel as a white European endeavor and emphasizes the return of Jews to their ancestral land. Most of Israel settlers come from Muslim countries.
- Reclaiming Homeland, Not Colonization: Viewing Israel as a white European colonization overlooks the fact that many Jewish inhabitants were expelled or displaced from what is now Israel, and their return signifies a reconnection to their historical homeland. It is essential to recognize their rights to self-determination and reclaiming their heritage.
Understanding the multifaceted nature of Israel’s history and demographics is crucial in countering the erroneous portrayal of Israel as a white European colonization of the Middle East. The Holocaust’s impact, the Arab origins within Israel, the expulsion of Jews from Muslim countries, and the nation’s cultural diversity highlight the fallacy of this perspective. Recognizing Israel as a brown country, where different communities coexist and reclaim their roots, fosters a more nuanced understanding of its complex story. Most of the Jews who now live in Israel faced harassment and death in their countries of origin.
Natural resources have long been viewed as critical factors in a country’s economic development. However, the true engine of prosperity lies not only in having land, minerals, oil and other natural wealth but in having highly educated, hard working, and talented population. A few examples come to mind.
Israel vs. Saudi Arabia:
Knowledge-Based Israel, a country with scarce natural resources, has achieved remarkable economic success when compared with Saudi Arabia. By prioritizing human capital development, Israel has nurtured a thriving technology based economy. The nation has emerged as a global leader in innovation, particularly in defense, cybersecurity, biotechnology, and agriculture. Groundbreaking research and development endeavors have paved the way for high-value products and services. This emphasis on human resources has propelled Israel to surpass Saudi Arabia in terms of GDP per capita, despite the latter’s abundance of oil reserves. Latest figures showed Israel GDP per capita at $52k vs $20k of Saudi Arabia.
Netherlands vs. Argentina:
The Netherlands, renowned for its highly advanced agricultural sector, exemplifies the power of human resources in maximizing a nation’s potential. Despite the fact that you need 177 Netherlands to make one Argentina, and it having very limited arable land, the Netherlands ranks among the world’s top exporters of agricultural products beating Argentina on $100bn of agricultural exports vs $65bn. The country’s commitment to innovation, adoption of advanced farming techniques, and investment in research and development have fostered high agricultural productivity. Conversely, Argentina, with its vast land resources, faces challenges in infrastructure, technology adoption, and value chain development, constraining its ability to fully capitalize on its agricultural potential. Decades of corruption and poor government have left the Argentine countryside barren compared to the tiny agricultural land of Netherlands. Holland’s success underscores how skilled human resources can overcome physical constraints, driving economic prosperity.
Costa Rica vs. Venezuela:
Sustainable Development through Human Capital Costa Rica and Venezuela present divergent examples of human resources’ impact on economic development. Despite its smaller land area and limited natural resources, Costa Rica has positioned itself as a leader in sustainable development. By making substantial investments in education, healthcare, and environmental conservation, the country has nurtured a skilled workforce while attracting international investment. In contrast, Venezuela, blessed with abundant oil reserves, has experienced severe economic decline due to mismanagement and the neglect of human capital. Insufficient investment in education, healthcare, and other critical sectors has impeded Venezuela’s ability to effectively harness its natural resources. The result is that Costa Rica GDP per capita is $11k, slightly higher than that of Argentina and Venezuela who has the largest oil reserves in the world has a GDP per capita of $1350.
Japan vs. Brazil
Japan’s transformation from post-war devastation to an economic powerhouse exemplifies the transformative power of human resources. Despite minimal natural resources, Japan prioritized the development of a highly skilled workforce through investments in education and training. This cultivated human capital served as the driving force behind Japan’s industrialization and technological advancements. In contrast, Brazil, endowed with vast natural resources, has faced challenges in translating its resource wealth into sustainable economic development. Insufficient investments in education, infrastructure, and innovation have hindered Brazil’s ability to diversify its economy and fully leverage its human potential. Result is that Japan has a GDP per capita of $40k and Brazil of $8k.
While natural resources can contribute to economic growth and if you are a country like Norway that is lucky enough to have both natural and Human Resources you become the world champion on GDP per capita (over $80k). But if you have to choose Human Resources invariably beat natural resources. By investing in education, skills development, research and development, and fostering a culture of innovation, countries can nurture a highly productive workforce capable of driving economic growth, diversification, and sustainable development. Recognizing the power of human resources allows nations to thrive and overcome the constraints imposed by limited natural resources.
Several well known thinkers have expressed concerns about the dangers of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Elon Musk said that AI could become an “existential risk for human civilization,” while the late physicist Stephen Hawking warned that it could “spell the end of the human race.” I acknowledge these concerns but to some extent; AI can indeed pose a tremendous risk, much like nuclear weapons. However, it’s important to emphasize that, akin to nuclear weapons, AI cannot initiate an attack on its own. It must be programmed to do so.
AI, at its core, is a tool, a mirror. It possesses no personal agenda, no inherent morality, and no autonomous motivation to cause harm or good. It merely reflects the intentions of its creators and users. The real danger isn’t the mirror itself, but the reflection it casts – a reflection influenced by human actions.
Deepfakes, sophisticated cyber-attacks, manipulative social engineering, autonomous weapons, and perpetuation of biases are just a few examples of how AI can be misused when reflecting malevolent human intentions. Each of these scenarios underscores that the true threat isn’t AI developing its own harmful agency, but rather, those who may use AI as a tool for harm. AI can cause enormous harm, but not on its own.
It’s also equally important to remember that the reflection can be one of great good. AI can be used to create incredible benefits for society when utilized responsibly and ethically. Here are some examples:
Healthcare Advancements: AI can improve patient care, enhance early disease detection, and aid in the development of new treatments and medicines. Combine with pharmacogenomics AI can make medical care more personalized and efficient.
Climate Change Mitigation: AI can help us analyze and understand climate patterns, predict natural disasters, and optimize renewable energy sources. It’s a great tool in our fight against environmental damage.
Education Personalization: AI can tailor educational content to individual students, helping them learn more effectively and at their own pace. It’s transforming the educational landscape, making learning more accessible and personalized.
Poverty Alleviation: By aiding in resource allocation, predicting economic trends, and providing access to digital services, AI can contribute significantly to poverty reduction efforts.
Space Exploration: AI can analyze vast amounts of data from space, help navigate rovers on distant planets, and even aid in the search for extraterrestrial life. It’s an essential tool in our quest to explore the universe.
Like any tool, the benefits or harms of AI largely depend on the hands that wield it. AI itself isn’t the risk; it’s the potential for misuse by those with malevolent intent. Our focus should be on fostering responsible AI development and usage, guided by strong ethical principles and societal norms. AI can augment evil but use properly it can augment kindness. And that should be our objective.
When I was a child, back in 1972, the Club of Rome, a global think tank, released a report titled “The Limits to Growth”. In this report, it warned the world about the possible consequences of unchecked growth. These warnings were based on Malthusian theory, proposed by Thomas Malthus in the late 18th century. Malthus suggested that while populations grow exponentially, food production can only grow linearly, which would eventually lead to global starvation. The Club of Rome extended Malthus’s arguments to include resources like oil, gas, and minerals. Most scientists in the 70s believed that the Club of Rome was right in predicting our economic demise. My childhood and adolescense was marked by a sense of doom, that by the year 2000 global wars over resources were going to be common place and humanity was going to be impoverished and hungry. Few would have guessed that by 2000 we mostly had global peace (especially compared to WWI and WWII) and while population had doubled so had GDP per capita around the world.
As we moved into the 21st century, we realized that the predicted Malthusian catastrophe had been averted. Despite the global population increasing from 3.7 billion in 1970 to 7.8 billion by 2020, surprising and phenomenal advances in technology allowed us to overcome the forecasted food and resource shortages.
Key among these was the Green Revolution. It involved the creation of high-yielding varieties of cereal grains, expansion of irrigation infrastructure, and distribution of hybridized seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides to farmers. The introduction of disease-resistant wheat and rice dramatically increased per-acre yields. For instance, wheat yields in developing countries doubled between 1961 and 1982.
The energy sector also saw significant advancements. New oil and gas extraction techniques such as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” and horizontal drilling were developed in the late 20th century. These technologies enabled access to reserves that were previously uneconomical to extract, leading to an unexpected abundance of fossil fuels. Fossil fuel production grew way beyond the most optimistic predictions of the 70s.
In the face of the current global challenge, climate change, many are drawing parallels with the Malthusian predictions of the past. Scientists warn that if we continue to burn fossil fuels at the current rate, we risk causing catastrophic climate changes. However, I believe that just as technological advancements got us out of the Malthusian trap, they will also help us tackle climate change.
For instance, the cost of solar photovoltaic modules has fallen by nearly 99% since 1976, thanks to improved manufacturing processes and efficiencies. From 2010 to 2020, the cost of installing solar power dropped from $0.378 per kWh to $0.068 per kWh, making it competitive with traditional forms of energy.
Wind turbines have also significantly improved. Modern turbines are taller, have longer blades, and are more efficient than their predecessors. They can now generate power at a capacity factor of 45%, up from 30-35% in the early 2000s.
Battery technology has improved too, largely driven by the rise of electric vehicles (EVs). The cost of lithium-ion batteries fell by 89% from 2010 to 2020, from $1,160 per kWh to $137 per kWh, making electric cars more affordable.
Meanwhile, nuclear fission has made progress, with several countries investing in small modular reactors (SMRs), which are more flexible and cost-effective than traditional reactors. And while fusion power remains largely experimental as of 2021, the ITER project, a multinational collaboration aiming to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion power, is expected to begin plasma experiments by 2025.
Electrification of transportation is another promising development. By 2021, there were over 10 million electric cars on the world’s roads, up from virtually none in 2010. Companies like Tesla, Nissan, and BYD have been at the forefront of this transition, with models like the Tesla Model 3, Nissan Leaf, and BYD Qin becoming increasingly common.
While I think it made sense to think like the scientists of the Club of Rome thought back in the 70s that the world was going to destruction via starvation and resource depletion and that it makes sense that Al Gore, Greta Thunberg and millions of others think that we are on the same path regarding climate change, paradoxically, what scientists consistently get wrong is their own ability to engineer their way out of seemingly unsurmountable technical challenges.
I am confident that just like we can now house, feed, educate and take care of 8 billion people (if there still is over a billion people living in extreme poverty that is out of poor politics and not lack of resources), we will be able to deal with the temporary rise in temperatures as we stop burning fossil fuels. Wind, solar, nuclear and batteries are way on their way to give us the solution we need to avoid climate catastrophe.