Eons ago, a popular song by Uri Zohar extolled the virtues of "the Jewish brain that's always inventing things." Now it's official. According to a report in Haaretz this week, an American consulting firm did a survey ranking the advancement of the human race by the number of patents that citizens of each country applied for each year, how important these inventions were and how innovative. And who do you think came in third place (relative to population size) if not Israel. Right after Japan and the United States, and ahead of Germany, France, England, Italy and the rest of the world.
This study, as you can imagine, has stirred up some controversy. To such small-mindedness, we can only say: Eat your hearts out. Around here, not all inventions are registered and recorded, but the Jewish brain just churns them out.
Take the "decolorizer," for example, that little gizmo that turned colored TVs into black-and-white to safeguard social equality. And after that, the "anti-decolorizer" that neutralized the decolorizer. Then we had the "snitcher-line" invented by the income tax people, to encourage citizens to call up and rat on their tax-evading friends. And the "roster of taxpayers" that singled out all the rich people for public execution.
Remember the "energy source that would illuminate all of Ramat Gan with a single bulb" promoted by the late minister of energy Yaakov Meridor? And who invented the clothespin to neutralize car seat belts, the unbeatable line "I've only got one question" for jumping the queue at Kupat Holim, the communal sing-along, the culture of the barbecue? Who proudly told the nation that "knowing how to hold back is also strength," with the real reference, of course, being to our bladders, not to limiting our use of brute force? Who thought up the "after the holidays" trick for postponing unpleasant decisions, the "I'm weighing my options" announcement of corrupt public figures, the strategy of blaming anything that goes wrong on the guy at the bottom of the totem pole?
"Israel has no foreign policy - only a domestic one," said Dr. Henry Kissinger, one of our own who understood better than anyone the ingenious inventions of Israeli politics: Losing the elections time after time and responding angrily "Me, a loser?" Opposing the right of return while belting out tunes like "Two Banks of the Jordan." Fighting terror as if there were no negotiations, and negotiating as if there were no terror. Destroying the economic and security infrastructure of the Palestinian Authority and expecting it to disarm Hamas without a moment's delay. Being a lousy prime minister but winning the elections by a landslide every time the country goes to the polls.
We invented the "painful concessions" which cannot be elaborated on by anyone in the government. We invented targeted killing, and the dumb smart-bomb that misses the target, kills innocent bystanders, and sets off a new round of violence for good measure. We invented the "outposts," legal and illegal, which the attorney general recommends that we treat with kid gloves, and over which the rabbis, fathers of the "kill those who are out to kill you" school, are crying treason and inciting soldiers to disobey orders. We invented a way to invest NIS 100 billion in the settlements without knowing to this day where the money came from, who gives the orders to whom, and whether the Jewish residents of the territories will ever recognize the existence of the State of Israel.
After three decades in politics, if there's anyone who should be patented, it's Sharon himself. Because nowhere in the world will you find anything like him: A man who knocks down settlements with the same enthusiasm that he once built them, trying to create an irreversible situation in the West Bank. A man who outflanked Shamir, the hard-liner on the right, and Peres, the believer in concessions on the left. The holder of an exclusive patent on "keeping the cards close to his chest," sometimes taking flak from his government, to whom he promised a debate on political strategy but never kept his word, and sometimes Mr. Teflon. The great fighter against a Palestinian state, now the great fighter for a Palestinian state. Dr. Strangelove, past and present clashing in his subconscious.
Sharon, the great advocate of staying on good terms with America, was wrong in interpreting Bush's rebuke of Hamas as an open ticket to bash their teeth in. Years ago, a similar misinterpretation of the remarks of U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig led him into the Lebanon War. It was the rational Sharon who began dismantling outposts in spite of the attack at the Erez junction; it was the irrational Sharon who forgot that even with smart bombs, you have to use your brain.
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