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Culture makes the difference


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Article written by Richard Cohen

Before the Jews of Hungary were emancipated in the 19th century, they were not permitted to own land. By the end of the century, they were on their way to owning fully one-fifth of Hungary's large estates and were hugely successful in business and the arts. The Jews of Germany had a similar history. They comprised many if not most, of the country's lawyers, doctors, composers, playwrights and scientists, and were so astonishingly successful in business that while they were just 1 percent of the population, they were 31 percent of the richest families. What did it? Was it nature (Jews were smarter) or nurture (Jews had a certain culture)? Here's my answer: I don't know.

I do know, though, that if you eliminate what would certainly be condemned as a racist explanation--Jews as inherently smarter than non-Jews--then you are left with culture: There was something in the Jewish experience--1,000 or so years of persecution and being shunted into dishonorable occupations such as money lending--that prepared Europe's Jews for the onset of capitalism. Countless books have been written to explain this phenomenon, which continues to this day with Israel's intellectual domination of its region. In his new book, The Future of the Jews, Stuart E. Eizenstadt provides an example: "Between 1980 and 2000, 7,652 patents were registered by Israeli's in the United States." The figure for the entire Arab world? 367.

The cultural difference between Israel and its Arab neighbors is so striking that you would think it beyond question. But when Mitt Romney attributed the gap between Israel's economic performance and the Palestinians'-- "Culture makes all the difference," he said in Israel--the roof came down on him. PC police the world over raised a red card, giving him demerits for having the temerity to notice the obvious. Predictably Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator, denounced the statement as "racist." It was, of course, just the opposite.

This hubbub about culture may seem esoteric, but it is really very important. The tendency to hold the Arab's blameless for their own culture is part of the predeliction to hold them harmless for the lack of peace agreement with Israel. The Israelis have much to account for, but they are not alone in this matter, and they are not the ones who have over and over rejected any peace plans. shorthand explanation of what ails Palestinian society--he might also have acknowledged Palestinian achievements--but he identified what are, indisputably, two problems. The first is that of culture. The second is the reluctance to discuss it.

Romney could have been more diplomatic and eschewed shorthand explanation of what ails Palestinian society--he might also have acknowledged Palestinian achievements--but he identified what are, indisputably, two problems. The first is that of culture. The second is the reluctance to discuss it.

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Eze 39:25 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Now will I bring again the captivity of Jacob, and have mercy upon the whole house of Israel, and will be jealous for my holy name;

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