Against the odds: Israelites and Jews (Part 2)


Where the Arabs had found the environment forbidding, the Israelis found the way out and made the country green and fruitful.

Those who have visited Israel and read its history say the economic future of Israel and the Negev, in particular, lies in the ability of young scientists to use nuclear age methods to solve boldly and brilliantly problems which for centuries have kept the Middle East backward despite that ancient civilisation started there.

In 1963, I had the chance of attending a lecture given by Mrs Golda Meir at a hall in Dares Salaam whose name I have forgotten. She was then Israel Foreign minister. After telling us how Israel was founded and what difficulties the Israelis had with their neighbours, Mrs Meir ended her lecture thus “Living in foreign lands you (Africans) have suffered discrimination because of your colour, we Jews have suffered discrimination because of our religion. Let us feel sympathy for each other.”


Not quite verbatim but words to this effect.

When Israelis counter-attack the Palestinians who have attacked them, usually Israel is condemned for having overreacted. What should we say about such a situation? There is not much an African country can do but we can adopt a balanced view. This is that Israel has the right to exist permanently. Besides Israelis have a natural right to defend themselves against those who want to obliterate their country.

The Palestinians have the right to form an independent State but outside a boundary which was fixed by the United Nations. Both sides should restrain their extremists. Israelis are our friends. Palestinians are also our friends.


Israelis were told by their ancient prophets that they had been chosen to enlighten the world. For us Christians, we thank Israel for having written the Bible. But from the secular point, Israel has a good to teach us today how to succeed against the odds. Let us study their methods and send some of our students to the Hebrew university to study their techniques and how to develop motivation. Small though, Israel has worldwide influence through its scientists. It is visited by presidents of great countries for the sake of what it can offer.

Now we turn to the Jews, especially those still in diaspora; most of them not very much inclined to emigrate. Despite attempts to make things difficult, the Jews wherever they live produce great and successful men and women in any field of life.

Take, for example, science. It was when anti-Semitism became brutal in the first half of the 20th century that one of the greatest scientists in world history emerged. This was Albert Einstein and he was a Jew.

The founder of social science called economics was a Scotsman called Adam Smith. But as a subject for academic study, we have to thank David Ricardo whose theories about international trade are always discussed in most economics textbooks.

When you mention the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the name of Professor Paul Samuelson immediately comes to mind. He wrote the most popular economics textbook of the 20th century and he was the first American to receive the Nobel Prize for economics. He was followed by Professor Milton Friedman of Chicago University. Both of them were Jews.

In the field of psychology, one of the most influential figures Sigmund Freud was an Austrian Jew. He is best known for the principles of psychoanalysis. Also well-known Jewish psychologist is Abraham Maslow whose insight into the hierarchy of human needs is quoted by all who write books on management.

Turn to the sociology of religion. Emile Durkheim of France is as esteemed as Max Weber of Germany and Durkheim was a Jew. What about philosophy? We all have heard of Karl Marx’s and Engel’s Communist Manifesto.

Many Jews have won Nobel prizes in science, medicine and literature. It would require several months to uncover Jewish achievements in all fields. Suffice to say, as minorities in their respective countries, they tend to contribute out of proportion.

We Africans since half century ago have become independent. Most artificial barriers that we faced during slavery and colonial rule have been removed. To get full recognition in the comity of nations, we must be seen to be contributing to the growth of technology, science and other elements of civilisation.

Our young men and women have been to the most reputable universities and have come back with PhDs. They must not stay there. They must proceed to earn Nobel prizes for contributions to science, medicines, literature, economics and peace. So long as Africa continues to be the poorest in the world, unfriendly people will keep saying we have less intelligence than they have.

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