Since Time Immemorial, Jews Have Been Colonizing Ideas

This Jewish trait drives Jew haters nuts because it’s not land-related, it has nothing to do with race or skin color, and it goes directly against the leftist narrative of Jews as the ultimate white oppressors.
December 12, 2023
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One of the more fashionable accusations one hears against Israel these days is “colonizer.” The implication is that the Jewish state is this predatory regime out to take over neighboring lands and impose its own cultural norms.

But a quick glance at a map of the Middle East shows 22 Arab/Muslim nations surrounding a tiny Jewish state, which controls a full 0.1% of the total land mass. Some predator.

Another alleged sin of colonization is the erasure of peoples. But if anything, it is the Jews who have been erased from the Middle East. Until the 1960s, approximately one million Jews lived in Arab and Muslim countries, having arrived in the region more than 2,000 years earlier. Most of them had to flee after the birth of Israel. Today, only around 15,000 Jews remain.

Meanwhile, despite living in a Jewish state, the Arab population has mushroomed since the birth of Israel, going from 156,000 in 1948 to 2.6 million today. In the West Bank and Gaza, the Palestinian population has grown from 2.9 million in 1997 to 4.9 million today.

In other words, if you’re going to call the Jewish state a colonizer state, make sure to mention that it’s one hell of a lousy colonizer.

There is, however, one thing that Israel and Jews in general are particularly good at colonizing: Ideas. Colonizing ideas means entering a field and coming up with ideas to improve it. This Jewish trait drives Jew haters nuts because it’s not land-related, it has nothing to do with race or skin color, and it goes directly against the leftist narrative of Jews as the ultimate white oppressors.

From its beginning, ideas have been a defining trait of the Jewish tradition.

In trying to define Judaism, the late Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks asked: “What is Judaism? A religion? A faith? A way of life? A set of beliefs? A collection of commands? A culture? A civilization? It is all these, but it is emphatically something more.”

Judaism, Sacks wrote, is also “a way of thinking, a constellation of ideas: a way of understanding the world and our place within it. Judaism contains life-changing ideas.”

The life-changing ideas that have come out of Israel in recent decades are so numerous, so ubiquitous, it’s almost boring to try to list them. Whole websites are devoted to Israeli innovation in fields such as public health, food security, disease prevention, water conservation, renewable energy, cancer treatment and countless others. On a per capita basis, no other nation comes close to Israel’s record of contributing to the welfare of humanity.

Jewish ideas, however, go beyond innovation. There are also timeless ideas dealing with life and morality. It’s always interesting to see how non-Jews describe these contributions.

The Catholic historian Paul Johnson wrote:

“To the Jews we owe the idea of equality before the law, both divine and human; of the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person, of the individual conscience and so of personal redemption, of the collective conscience and so of social responsibility; of peace as an abstract ideal and love as the foundation of justice, and many other items which constitute the basic moral furniture of the human mind.”

The second U.S. president, John Adams, described the Jews as “the most glorious nation that ever inhabited this Earth. The Romans and their Empire were but a Bauble in comparison of the Jews. They have given religion to three quarters of the Globe and have influenced the affairs of Mankind more, and more happily, than any other Nation ancient or modern.”

In September 1897, a half century before the Holocaust, author Mark Twain had this to say about a stubborn people that punched above its weight:

“His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine and abstruse learning are also very out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvellous fight in this world, in all the ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him.”

To give you a sense of the Jewish pioneering spirit that built the country, this is Twain in 1867 describing the rough land that would one day become Israel:

“…a desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds, a silent mournful presence…We never saw a human being on the whole route…There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of the worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.”

It’s humbling to have to live up to praise from high places, but humility itself is a crucial Jewish value, embodied by the humblest of our biblical figures, Moses. Israel and the Jews have had their share of failures; we’ve been humbled throughout our history. It is the idea of learning from our failures that has saved us.

Our Bible has also kept us humble. God never asked us to take over the Egyptian empire that enslaved us. Since time immemorial, our covenant has limited us to a tiny piece of land from where, today, we get to colonize ideas to benefit the world.

Not all ideas, of course, are worth colonizing. There are ideas that ennoble and ideas that diminish. Ideas that seek power for the sake of power, promote permanent victimhood, judge people by their skin color or ethnicity and replace truth with ideology, are ideas that diminish.

Ideas that bring out the best in humanity are ideas that ennoble.

The idea that Israel is a colonizer state diminishes not just the truth but hope itself. Had the Palestinians emulated Israel’s approach to colonizing ideas, we would not see a war in Gaza today but a beachfront Riviera full of Israeli tourists and a thriving economy.

Jew haters can continue to spread their lies and hatred on college campuses and elsewhere, accusing Israel of being white colonizers and calling to “globalize the Intifada” and “gas the Jews.”

But the haters are no fools. They know that if the Jews were poor and powerless and Israel was a failed state, no one would pay attention. They’re paying attention because for the past 3500 years, Jews have invested in the power of ideas.

That power isn’t going anywhere.

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