Friday, April 23, 2010

Creative Destruction

"War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing."

Edwin Starr's 1969 antiwar song is... well, sooo 1969!

If NSW Jewish Board of Deputies' CEO Vic Alhadaff had his way those lyrics would read: War! What is it good for? Absolutely everything.

In a review of Dan Senor & Saul Singer's Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracles, Vic boasts that Israel had "63 companies listed on the NASDAQ in 2009, second only to the US..." and explains, after imbibing deeply from Senor & Singer, that it "all boils down to one word - army." (Military secrets behind Israel's economic miracle, The Australian Jewish News, 19/3/10)

If Senor & Singer are right, far from being a breeding ground for war criminals, the IDF is really a training ground for entrepreneurs.

Vic "elaborates":

"1) The military - and battlefield - experiences which shape the Israeli character demand that young adults take initiative, demonstrate leadership and handle life-threatening situations in real time, thereby engendering personality attributes and imparting IT knowledge that give them a leading edge when they enter the workforce. 2) The Israeli military has an egalitarian ethos that encourages soldiers to challenge authority. This culture, translated to civic life, lends itself to challenging the status quo and being creative, innovative and self-reliant. 3) By the time Israelis enter university, they have served in the army and tend to be more responsible and focused, with a clearer career direction, than their peers. 4) The nation's military and defence industries generate successful spin-offs in the IT and commercial sectors."

If this is so, there can be no doubt that the IDF's Epic Existential Struggle with the Islamofascist Hordes of Hamastan last year will produce such a bumper crop of budding innovators that the US will inevitably be bumped down to second place on the NASDAQ.

For a tantalising glimpse of the IDF's current crop of Einsteins, Freuds, Bubers and Weizmanns* in action, taking the initiative, demonstrating leadership and handling life-threatening situations in real time, you might like to read the following three selections from Norman Finkelstein's latest (2010) book, 'This Time We Went Too Far': Truth & Consequences of the Gaza Invasion:

"In postinvasion testimonies IDF soldiers recalled the macabre scenes of destruction in Gaza: 'We didn't see a single house that remained intact... Nothing much was left in our designated area. It looked awful, like in those World War II films where nothing remained. A totally destroyed city'; 'We demolished a lot. There were people who had been in Gaza for two days constantly demolishing one house after the other, and we're talking about a whole battalion'; 'One night they saw a terrorist and he disappeared so they decided he'd gone into a tunnel, so they brought a D-9 [bulldozer] and razed the whole orchard'; 'There was a point where D-9s were razing areas. It was amazing. At first you go in and see lots of houses. A week later, after the razing, you see the horizon further away, almost to the sea'; 'The amount of destruction there was incredible. You drive around those neighborhoods, and can't identify a thing. Not one stone left standing over another. You see plenty of fields, hothouses, orchards, everything devastated. Totally ruined. It's terrible. It's surreal'. One veteran of the invasion designed a T-shirt depicting a King Kong-like soldier clenching a mosque while glowering over a city under attack, and bearing the slogan 'If you believe it can be fixed, then believe it can be destroyed!' 'I was in Gaza', he elaborated, 'and they kept emphasizing that the object of the operation was to wreak destruction on the infrastructure'." (pp 61-62)

"The Goldstone Report concluded that 'the Israeli armed forces repeatedly opened fire on civilians who were not taking part in the hostilities and who posed no threat to them', and that 'Israeli armed forces had carried out direct intentional strikes against civilians' in the absence of 'any grounds which could have reasonably induced the Israeli armed forces to assume that the civilians attacked were in fact taking a direct part in the hostilities'. The postinvasion testimonies of IDF soldiers corroborated this wanton killing of Palestinian civilians in an "atmosphere" where "the lives of Palestinians, let's say, is something very, very less important than the lives of our soldiers': 'You see people more or less running their life routine, taking a walk, stuff like that. Definitely not terrorists. I hear from other crews that they fired at people there. Tried to kill them'; 'People didn't seem to be too upset about taking human lives'; 'Everyone there is considered a terrorist'; 'We were allowed to do anything we wanted. Who's to tell us not to?'; 'I understood that conduct there had been somewhat savage. 'If you sight it, shoot it''; 'You are allowed to do anything you want... for no reason other than it's cool' - even firing white phosphorus 'because it's fun. Cool'." (p 88)

"No doubt some IDF soldiers exploited the occasion of the massacre to give free rein to their sadistic impulses while others were brutalized by the environment. Thus, IDF testimonies recalled 'the hatred and the joy', and 'fun' and 'delight' of killing Palestinians, the wreaking of destruction 'for kicks' and to 'make [oneself] happy'. And thus soldiers bantered, 'I killed a terrorist, whoa... We blew his head off'; 'Fortunately the hospitals are full to capacity already, so people are dying more quickly'; and 'He just couldn't finish this operation without killing someone'." (p 92)

Please Vic, whatever you do, don't pass Up-Start - sorry, Shoot-Up, sorry, Start-Up Nation on to Tony Abbott.

[* Vic alludes in the introduction to his review to the fact that Einstein, Freud, Buber and Weizmann, "each of whom pushed the frontiers of humankind's intellectual capacity in his own unique way, all served on the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's first board of governors," and claims that this "underscores the premium which Israel placed on intellectual prowess, even before the State had been established, and which continues to this day." Einstein, Freud and Buber (if not Weizmann), of course, may have a different take on this, not to mention their being forcibly conscripted into the IDF by Vic.]

See also the Tony Clifton quote which heads my 1/2/09 post The Banality of Evil.

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