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November 4, 2019 6:32 am

An Arab Analysis of Israel’s Scientific Progress

avatar by Rami Dabbas

Opinion

A man enters the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, Jan. 29, 2017. Photo: Reuters / Baz Ratner.

Israeli universities and research centers have for years led the world in their respective fields. Take, for example, the development of military technology. Israel has produced robotic devices and vehicles that now enable it to engage in espionage and carry out attacks on enemies without risking the lives of its soldiers. Israel has also fielded defensive innovations like the Iron Dome missile system, which is capable even of intercepting mortar shells.

Then, of course, there’s the medical field, where Israel has again contributed, among other things, advanced robotic surgical devices. One of my colleagues who is a neurosurgeon by profession has witnessed these devices in action during courses on performing spinal surgery held in Germany.

There are many more examples, but this is all to highlight the fact that the tiny nation of Israel has produced breakthroughs and innovations now in use by the world’s top nations. How did it manage to do so, and why are none of its Arab neighbors on equal footing in this regard?

Already decades before the rebirth of Israel as a nation state, the Jewish leadership determined that education and science should be the foundation of any national enterprise, and thus established the Technion Israel Institute of Technology in 1912.

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Arab leaders, by contrast, insisted that the state come first, and did so to the extent of ignoring and suppressing their own intellectuals, who posed a threat to the public ignorance required to maintain a dictatorship. As such, almost no public funds were spent on scientific research; instead, they were poured into military and religious institutions to ensure the people remained brainwashed and submissive. This led to the creation of tyrannical dynasties, some of which we see collapsing today in bloody civil wars. But even in the “best” of cases, like Saudi Arabia, the people remain shackled to backwards populist ideologies and religious doctrines that keep their nation by and large lagging behind the rest of the world.

Back to Israel, the Technion was not the first Jewish university established before the Jewish state’s founding. Many other schools and research centers were created, and the Jewish leadership made great efforts to attract many of the world’s top scientists.

Israel was one of the first countries in the world to develop a strong computer industry, starting back in the 1950s, and also one of the leaders in the field of aviation. The late Israeli President Shimon Peres once noted that his colleagues laughed at him when he proposed the establishment of an Israeli aviation industry. But like many of Israel’s early leaders, Peres was a visionary, and Israel did indeed go on to become a world leader in many areas of aviation.

From the outside looking in (as an Arab observing Israel), it’s notable that Israel’s scientific and technological advancements occur mostly outside the religious sphere, meaning they are not directed by the religious leadership. This is not to say that Israel is not a religious state — and there are many minority religions, all protected by law. But these industries are separated from religion.

It’s not that we Arabs have no scientists. In fact, we have millions, but they primarily work for the preservation of racist and tyrannical regimes. Clinging to the provincial theories and ideologies of the past is anathema to progress and advancement. The situation has become so dire that while Israelis are conquering some of mankind’s most urgent medical crises, those who call themselves Arab “scientists” are debating the benefits of camel urine. And then they wonder why we are so underdeveloped.

As a Middle East Arab, I consider Israel the only truly democratic and scientific state in the region, and I want to express my deep admiration for the Jewish state’s incredible achievements.

Rami Dabbas is a civil engineer by profession who writes for several media outlets. He is a pro-Israel advocate, peace campaigner, and political activist speaking out against terrorism. A version of this article was originally published in Israel Today Magazine’s November issue.

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