Saturday, December 22, 2007

Aliyah and the Brain Gain in Israel

The appointment of Stanley Fischer in 2005 as Governor of the Bank of Israel (Israel’s Central Bank) was both mind boggling and fascinating at the same time.

Who is Stanley Fischer? He is an economist who prior to holding the Governor post was the Vice Chairman of Citigroup and prior to that he was the First Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, and prior to that he was the Head of the Department of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and prior to that he was the Chief Economist at the World Bank, and the list goes on. Mr. Fischer is also a Zionist. His appointment as governor was a last minute deal between two of Israel’s staunchest Zionists Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon.

Fischer’s immigration to Israel should not be taken lightly. There are questions to be asked and lessons to be learnt from someone we might feel apprehensive about but still find impressive.

Fischer is an Oleh (Hebrew for immigrant) making the Aliyah (Hebrew for ascent - Jewish Immigration to the Land of Israel). His move to Israel cannot be seen in any other light except ideological. Why would such an accomplished economist take such a demotion and accept this position after having made it big in all the major leagues (academic, multilateral/public, private)? His resume speaks volumes; I actually had difficulty keeping track of his record.

What sort of culture breeds the Stanley Fischers of the world? More important, what sort of ideology and beliefs pull the Fischers of the world from the circles of the rich and powerful into the smalltimeville of the Bank of Israel? How could someone so accomplished like Fischer be a Zionist? Fischer’s work is all based on inquiry and deduction, how did he fail to deduce the injustice based on which his Zionist belief is built? I know I sound naïve; I sometimes have a tendency to simplify matters that are supposed to be “complex”. I would love to know what is so complex about understanding the Zionist movement that had no place in particular to settle the Jews in: it started with Argentina, then Uganda (offered by the British and accepted by Herzl and then later rejected by the World Zionist Organization Congress), then Cyprus, then Mozambique, then Congo, then Egyptian Al-Arish, until it landed in Palestine (Thanks to a fortunate coincidence of interest with the British who colonized Palestine starting in 1917 following the secret Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916) . Therefore, the mumbo jumbo that we hear about the religious and historical claims are nothing but justifications for an illegal and inhumane usurpation of Palestinian land and uprooting of innocent Palestinian civilians.

My question remains, how does all of this go passed someone like Fischer? In this regard, he is truly a paradox. On the one hand one cannot but have the utmost respect for him and and for what he has accomplished. On the other hand, a discerning observer can’t but question the intellectual integrity of any follower of a dogmatic and belligerent movement such as Zionism. This is especially true given the impact that Zionism has had on the life of Fischer.

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