In recent years, the main locus of anti-Semitism has swung, slowly but perceptibly, from right to left. In this purposefully provocative book, Gilder, the author of WEALTH AND POVERTY and several other modern conservative classics, lays a finger on one potential reason why: Jews, by their success in all manner of fields -- in particular, by their success in turning Israel into a miniature technological dynamo -- have provoked envy and resentment in those less adept in straddling the cutting edge of change. Gilder's "test" posits that how one feels about Israel mirrors how one feels about exceptional individuals in any walk of life. Do you resent their success, or do you subscribe to Gilder's "golden rule of capitalism," that "the good fortune of others is also one's own"? By a logical extension, one's attitude toward Israel reflects how one regards human freedom. In the years after World War II, many liberals supported the establishment of Israel because of the fresh memories of the Holocaust, which cast Jews as victims. Now, the left has found other victims to succor, and a thriving Israel has become one of the "haves," and, therefore, a target.
Gilder's book breaks into three parts. The middle portion, with its lengthy description of how Israel shook up its slumbering socialist economy and encouraged venture capital to invest in the country, can be skimmed over by those not overly interested in contemporary technological developments. Even if "Israel Inside" doesn't interest you, you should still read the historical matter covering such important figures as John von Neumann and Albert Einstein. Parts one and three lay out the lineaments of Gilder's "test" in measured but straightforward language. I happen to believe that Gilder's argument holds water for the most part, though making it stick "on the ground" in the Middle East would be difficult; so many interests have a stake in the rather squalid status quo, and ethnic and religious disputes far predate the development of modern capitalism. Granted that its relentless focus on the importance of economic development leaves many other issues unexplored, Gilder's thesis is sound enough to be taken seriously by anyone interested in the maintenance and extension of political and economic freedom.