Now it came to pass when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land.
- The Book of Ruth
Wunderkind Naomi Klein, whom Ronald Radosh writing in Pajamas Media has aptly called “this generation’s Noam Chomsky in women’s designer suits,” has made a name for herself as a one-woman anti-Israeli bulldozer. This has become her logo. In a column for The Guardian (June 16, 2007), taken up in The Nation (January 7, 2009), she accuses Israel of having cynically profited from the state of terror in which it finds itself, “selling fences to an apartheid planet” along with a host of surveillance devices, “precisely the tools and technologies Israel has used to lock in the occupied territories.” Israel, she claims, “has learned to turn endless war into a brand asset,” using its so-called oppression of the Palestinian people to pioneer the means of industrializing “the global war on terror” and to fatten on the rich contracts generated by these innovations.
For Klein, Israel has become a homeland security Megacorp for whom the Palestinians are merely “guinea pigs” in the testing of new instruments of detection, control and persecution—“something to keep in mind in the debates about the academic boycott.” In developing her astigmatic thesis, Klein pays no mind to Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, its unilateral disengagement from Gaza in 2005, or its need to defend itself from constant attack by an enemy sworn to the country’s complete destruction. She does not speak of Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s twice-uttered threat to launch a nuclear attack against Israel, taken up more recently by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the modern incarnation of the biblical Haman. But then, Klein is no Esther.
From her vantage point, terrorism does not exist as such but is a Western and Israeli fabrication, the corollary of a shadowy coven whose purpose is to maximize profits at the expense of the world’s dispossessed and downtrodden peoples. Never mind 9/11, never mind London, Madrid, Bali, Nairobi, never mind Iran, Syria and Hizbullah, never mind terror-supporting, oil-rich Saudi Arabia and terror-exporting Islamist Pakistan, never mind the Hamas bloodbath against Fatah in Gaza, never mind the Kassam rockets falling like clockwork on Israeli towns. Terror is only a by-product of the corporate merger of the Western technological imagination and the Western entrepreneurial impulse, what she calls “disaster capitalism,” an invented phenomenon which ensures her best-seller status. The fact that China, Russia and North Korea are among the world’s leading suppliers of sophisticated weaponry, which has nothing to do with “capitalism” as she understands it (she gives Russia, as victimized by the West, a minor bye), leaves her unfazed.
As for Israel, the “constant state of fear” in which it lives is, apparently, nothing short of an exploitable godsend, the country’s “ultimate renewable resource.” It appears that Klein has never heard of economist Frédéric Bastiat’s celebrated “fallacy of the broken window,” developed in his 1850 work That Which Is Seen and that Which Is Unseen, which makes it evident that prosperity based upon policies inviting destruction is counter-productive.
Israel realizes this. In point of fact, Israel’s greatest resource is the high intellectual capacity of an educated citizenry and its world-class scientific establishment. As Klein should know, Israel’s chief exports are by no means exclusively military—the profits from which represent only a fraction of its total GDP—but derive from the fields of advanced cybernetics, desalination projects, hydrology, energy technology, productive agricultural methods and life-saving medical technology, in all of which it is among the world’s acknowledged leaders. The Israeli “brand” is one that creates value for humankind.
Had she done her homework, Klein would have been aware that Israel has offered to desalinate water to redress Jordan’s critical shortage and that half of Europe’s water technology programs involve Israeli companies. A boycott would be a European catastrophe. She would have mentioned that the Israeli pharmaceutical company, Teva, is the world’s foremost supplier of antibiotic medicines, including its flagship drug Copaxone which treats Multiple Sclerosis. She would have known that the Ariva Power Company is among the world’s most advanced solar enterprises, working towards the preparation of large-scale megawatt fields. And there is much, much more.
Three quarters of Israel’s annual $70 billion export trade reside in the high-tech sector. Cisco Technology has poured more than $1 billion into Israeli companies, in which Microsoft is also heavily invested. Google maintains two R & D Centers in Israel and IBM three, including the largest research lab outside the United States. Israel’s newest technological breakthrough involves the Mobile Internet, where it is once again a global forerunner. From Klein’s peculiar perspective, such cutting-edge expertise—what she calls “high-tech toys”—constitutes further evidence for Israel’s exploitation of a ravaged planet. Given Israel’s centrality in the informatic world, I would expect that, to avoid complicity in composing her texts, Klein must write with a quill and communicate by carrier pigeon.
All of which prompts the question: Is Klein guilty of inexcusable ignorance as a scholar and commentator or simply of the willful suppression of facts we expect of the propagandist and the bigot? Her venomous account of Israel’s purposes and practices has about the same degree of truth-value as the reports in two Palestinian newspapers, Al-Ayyam and Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, on July 17 and 18, 2008, respectively, that Israel had released giant rats immune to poison into the streets of Jerusalem in order to “turn the residents’ life into a living hell, forcing them to leave.” The reports do not explain how the rats are able to distinguish between Arab and Jew, no more than Klein is able to discriminate between truth and fiction.
Expurgation is the only way she can support her biased and hypertrophic argument, developed at greater length in her recent book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (in which, as it happens, a Jewish economist, Milton Friedman, is damned for most of the contemporary world’s ills). Klein also seems to have forgotten that Israel has been carded by much of the world since its inception and has been forced to fight a war for very survival from the day after it was first recognized. It has never once in its brief history initiated a war of pure aggression.
Even the Suez War was preceded by Egypt’s closing the Suez Canal to Israeli shipping and blockading the Gulf of Aqaba in violation of the longstanding Constantinople Convention, and Israel’s two Lebanon incursions were responses to incessant shelling, border raids and kidnappings. Israel’s campaign against Hamas in Gaza, which has been launching rockets on its civilian communities for years, is condemned by Klein as “collective punishment” rather than what it is, self-defense against an enemy that has never ceased to plot its annihilation
So far as I can see, waywardness and disaffection seem to run in the family. Klein’s husband, Avi Lewis, a fairly muscular leftist interviewer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, has departed the already highly-politicized farm team for the Big Leagues: Al-Jazeera, which calls suicide bombers “martyrs,” which hosts the anti-Jewish, jihadist-backing Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s “Islamic Law and Life” program, which has been shilling for al-Qaeda since the 1990s, and which most recently misrepresented Israel’s operation against Hamas as an attack on the population of Gaza. Lewis appears to be as loyal an employee to his new boss, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifi al-Thani of Qatar, as Klein is devoted to her disreputable cause.
The biblical story of Naomi and her family has been rewritten. They remain happily in Moab, alive and well, working not merely to prolong but to create a famine in Israel.