Sunday, January 5, 2014

Five miles apart: 8,000BCE and the 21st Century

If all of ancient Gaul was divided into three parts, so, too, is the Middle East.  Life in this Region follows three paths.   

First, there is the Middle East of Yemen, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority. These places shame themselves with poverty and tribal brutality. With a population of more than 176 million, this group makes up 45 per cent of the Middle East’s 397 million people.

This group does not fully live in the 21st Century. Too many live in Stone Age conditions. Life is not characterized by work, education and family. Life is marked by killing, celebrations of killing, deprivation and torture. For this Middle East, life is too often primeval and dark.

This first group dominates news from the Middle East. Syria suffers through a devastating civil war. More than 130,000 have been killed since fighting broke out in March 2011. The real fatality number could be three times that. More than 2.3 million Syrians are refugees. Seven million more—including two million children—desperately need humanitarian assistance.

There seems no end to the killing. There seems no end to the misery.  

In Iraq and Lebanon, multiple bomb blasts kill and injure dozens every week. Syria, Iraq and Egypt become a killing field for journalists. In 2013, 70 journalists were killed in just these three Arab countries. Perhaps even more frightening, an additional sixty journalists had been abducted in Syria—and thirty were still missing as of late December, 2013.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is in this first group. While ‘peace’ talks supposedly unfold, PA news demonizes Israel. The PA is at war with Israel. In PA news, there is no talk at all about peace.  

The PA is ruled by an unelected despot, Mahmoud Abbas, who was elected eight years ago—to a four-year term. His ruling Party, Fatah, has a new 2013 logo: a map of ‘Palestine’ where Israel is today.

Abbas glorifies the murder of Jews. Human Rights Watch says he tortures his own people. He wants to conquer Israel.

The Second Middle East segment seems to contain Jordan, Iran, Turkey, Cyprus (considered by some to be part of the Middle East), Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Kuwait.  The population of this second group totals just over 203 million, or 53 per cent of the region’s 397 million people.

Life within this second group is much improved over the first group. For many here, life is often characterized by work, education and family. Law and order are common. But rule here is not democratic. Rule is autocratic. Punishment can be harsh. Rulers are typically benign towards their citizens—if, that is, you overlook apartheid-like laws that restrict everyone.

Life here is restricted but liveable.

The third segment of the Middle East contains only one country—Israel. Of the 17 countries in the Middle East, Israel is 9th in population. Its 8 million people represent 2 per cent of the Middle East’s 397 million people. If you count only Jews in Israel, then Israel represents app 1.5 per cent of the Middle East’s total population.

This smallest-of-the-three segments endures in a sea filled with 389 million Arabs. These Arabs live just miles away. But unlike Arab countries, Israel is a democracy. It lives in the 21st Century. It offers more freedom than any other country in the Middle East.

It pushes the outer limits of modernity.

This past week, Israel announced a deal between the Israel Electric Company (IEC) and America’s Cisco corporation to begin a ‘digital revolution’.  While Arabs revelled in a new terror campaign against Jews, Cisco and IEC announced a campaign to start a digital revolution.

At the same time, Israel’s government announced a “Digital Israel” project, which promised “paperless” interaction between government offices--and between citizens and the government. Israel will install fiber-optic cable throughout the country to connect all cities, towns, and villages.

Arabs pound each other back to 8000BCE. Arabs engorge on calls to murder.  Israel talks about installing a fiber-optic network.

Arabs kill. Israel wants its citizens to surf the Internet at speeds of 1 gbps (1 gigabit, or 1000 megabits, per second) and more. 

As Cisco and IEC discussed their digital revolution, another Israeli high-tech company—Wilocity—made its own announcement.  It was developing the world’s fastest wi-fi. The company said its system would be 25 times faster than the fastest home internet.

What else was Israel doing while Arabs murdered, tortured and abused each other? It announced it was developing new propulsion systems for rockets. You see, Israel is looking at going to the moon.  

Arabs and Jews live just a few miles apart. Arabs want their children to kill Jews. Jews want their children to make a better world.

The difference between 8000BCE and the 21st Century couldn’t be more stark.

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