Home Book Review “Israel is the Pivot, the Axis, the Litmus, the Trial”

“Israel is the Pivot, the Axis, the Litmus, the Trial”

Book by: George Gilder
Reviewed by: Shoshana Bryen Winter 2024

The civilized world was appalled by October 7 … for about 24 hours. Then the “pro-Palestinian” demonstrations began, primarily on northeastern American college campuses and in large Eastern cities – both with rather large populations of Jewish residents. In London, more than 100,000 marchers called for the destruction of the Jewish state. In Paris, tens of thousands blamed Israel for the murder of its own children. In Sydney, liberal Australia, they chanted, “Gas the Jews.” Hundreds of thousands of “protesters” were in full-throated rage over ISRAEL’s policies which, they said, resulted in the murders of its own children and the retaliation that was to come — Israel didn’t strike back until days later.

Two questions arise: How were the demonstrations — complete with those “Gas the Jews” and other disgusting signs — organized even before Israel responded to the attacks? And how did they mobilize so many people so fast?

The answer lies in the slim book, The Israel Test by George Gilder. Written in 2009, Gilder explained the intersectional movements that could thread together against Jews. In the movement are feminist radicals, black radicals, white radicals, Muslim radicals, and, oh yes, grounded in the ideology of Communists and Nazis, both radical by definition. None of them have room for Jews.

I admit that while I read The Israel Test in 2010, I didn’t read it again until 2023.

Don’t make my mistake.

Gilder, an exuberant proponent of capitalism, starts with capitalism vs statism. Remember here, Nazi ideology is, in fact, socialist, a point Gilder makes early and often. For now, just remember that it is.

Anti-capitalists, like antisemites throughout history, have always been obsessed with the “gaps” everywhere discernible between different groups: gaps of income, power, achievements, and status. Against the background of Palestinian poverty, anti-capitalists and antisemites alike see Israel as primarily a creator not of wealth, but of gaps.

As is the United States — with Jews.

Jews lead all other American groups in per capita income, signifying another gap, presumably rectifiable by the United Nations.

What makes capitalism succeed is not chiefly in structure of incentives, but its use of knowledge and experience. As a knowledge system, capitalism assigns to the entrepreneurs who have already proven their prowess as investors … the right to shape the future pattern of investments.

Nothing is more destructive to opportunities for the poor than diverting resources from entrepreneurs who know how to use them profitably and giving them to government to spend politically … If governments were superior investors, the Soviet bloc would have been an economic triumph rather than an economic and environmental catastrophe. China would have thrived under Mao.

So, that’s your setup.

Stalinists and Nazis vs. Capitalist entrepreneurs. Radical Arabs, feminists, Black and Latino activists, eco-warriors, “gap-ologists,” and other unhappy people on one side. Jews on the other. To produce the crowds, they only had to message the other groups to stand with the Hamas supporters. Fast.

Now, it isn’t ONLY about Jewish people. Jews are the avatar of what Gilder calls the “fondest dream of the twentieth century Left, to reconcile democracy and socialism, to imagine democracy without economic freedom or a system of law and property rights that transcend the vicissitudes of elections.”

Modern, high-tech Israel is what happened when Jews shed their early twentieth century socialist ideals, which were driving Israel into poverty, and then brought in tens of thousands of Russians who were steeped in socialism/communism and despised it for what it failed to do for the people, and created wealth faster than some people thought possible. In this, antisemitic stereotypes pushed to the fore and the claim that it could only have been done by subterfuge emerged as “Israel apartheid.” There was no other explanation for Israel’s success than that it crushed its own Arab population and the Arabs around it.

With wealth seen as stolen from the exploited poor, the poor in turn win a license to dispossess and kill their oppressors and to disrupt capitalist economies … But no capitalist system can sustain prosperity amid constant violence. The idea that suicide bombing [today, read massacres and rocket fire] is a tolerable policy that can be extenuated by alleged grievances is preposterous.

At this point, we’re finished Chapter One.

And now you know how October 8, 9, 10 and so on happened.

The rest of the book expands on the point — and is absolutely a compelling read and a necessary adjunct to understanding the horrors of October 7 and the war that followed.

Chapter Two is the modern history of the Jewish people, culminating in the thesis that Jews prosper under capitalism.

Chapters Three, Four and Five are a dive into Arab/Palestinian politics from the Nazi era to today and the unwillingness of today’s “experts” to acknowledge the roots of today’s anti-Israelism. Palestinians are NOT, Gilder writes, looking for a Palestinian state, they are hoping, planning and agitating to ERASE the world’s single Jewish State.

Chapter Four explains the economics of being Palestinian in Gaza, Judea and Samaria, and Palestinian Arab across the Arab world. [Side note: Arab citizens of Israel have their own, much different and more prosperous economic track.]  There is a natural tie-in to Chapter Five, “The Politics of Hate” which explains the European hatred of Jews, the popularity of Mein Kampf and the fact that when Israel raided Yasser Arafat’s camps in Lebanon, Hitler’s book was in abundant supply. Gilder notes:

To Hitler … Jews were anathema, not chiefly because of such exotic figments as their alleged racial inferiority or their demonic Satanism or their perennial Masonic intrigues, but because of a far more common and fashionable complaint still widely voiced at Harvard, Berkeley, and around the globe. Hitler’s case against the Jews focuses on their mastery of capitalism.

Referring to Zionism, Hitler wrote, “They have not the slightest intention of building up a Jewish state in Palestine so as to live in it. What they really are aiming at is to establish a central organization for their international swindling and cheating.”

What ties these chapters aside from the word “Palestinian,” appears here:

This is the Hitler vision of the split between devious individuals (to him, Jewish) who gain power by prevailing in economic rivalry and groups that gain power by blood sacrifice in the perennial and always ultimately violent struggle for survival. It is the division between those who imagine that humans can manipulate nature and create new things under conditions of peace and those who believe that the greatest attainments come from solidarity and sacrifice in war…  “He who would live must fight. He who does not wish to fight in this world, where permanent struggle is the law of life, has not the right to exist.”

Chapters Six through Nine detail Israel’s economic maturation. They work best if you know a lot about computers, physics, the atomic bomb, and algorithms. They are fascinating even if you don’t.

Ten is the upcoming generation; Eleven is a case study; Twelve is the growth of the finance industry. As with the chapters on science, it helps to have some expertise knowledge, but it isn’t necessary. Thirteen is a putdown of Israel’s Peace Now movement — the only chapter that is outdated by events — there are no adherents of “Peace Now” anymore.

Chapter Fourteen is a horror to read now. It begins with Nobel laureate Robert Aumann’s understanding that by “relentlessly seeking Peace Now, Israel has predictably communicated to the Arabs that terror and aggression work. By repeatedly informing the Arabs that it wants peace more than it wants victory, Israel evinces a short-term strategy that powerfully and consistently rewards bad behavior. As a result, Israel gets neither peace nor victory and the Palestinians get neither economic growth nor political progress.”

Auman’s only mistake is in capitalizing the P and the N. This was not only a shortcoming of the group Peace Now, but of Israeli governments over time. Until October 7.

Chapters Fifteen and Sixteen follow in the same vein.

Gilder tells his own story in Chapter Eighteen. It is worth reading.

The whole book is, in fact, enormously worth reading. Even the parts that parse a “peace movement” that likely no longer exists, is important to understanding not only the hatred for Israel of the early chapters, but also the value that Israel’s various governments and its citizenry placed on the notion of peace and the idea that their neighbors could come to value what Israel valued.

[A “did you know?” here: Israel had issued more than 18,000 permits for Gaza Palestinians to work in Israel — for Israeli wages. There was no shortage of willing takers. After 10/7, it was discovered that many of them had made detailed maps and drawings of the villages and kibbutzim, including where the living spaces were. Hamas made use of those drawings. Did you think it was “luck” that they found so many families in their homes but didn’t spend much time finding animals in barns?]

And there is, in that, a warning to those in other situations who believe that being nice can make one’s enemies nice as well. Iran, Houthi terrorists, China — everyone has a set of priorities, and they may not be ours.

Oh, wait — the test! Chapter Seventeen:   

Regardless of flaws — and Israel has fewer flaws than perhaps any other nation — Israel is the pivot, the axis, the litmus, the trial. Are you for civilization or barbarianism, life or death, wealth or envy? Are you an exponent of excellence and accomplishment or of a leveling creed of troglodytic frenzy and hatred?


Shoshana Bryen is Senior Director of The Jewish Policy Center and Editor of inFOCUS Quarterly.