An Israeli fencing lesson

The security fence is a valuable laboratory test case from which we Yanks can learn.I recently spent 10 days in Israel at the expense of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Styled an Academic Fellowship on Terrorism, this ‘paid vacation’ featured an up-close-and-personal peek at how the Jewish state deals with terrorists, a topic of no small interest to us Americans since 9/11.

Parallels between our two countries are a little hard to find, however, Israel is about as big as New Jersey or perhaps Vermont, plus or minus some parts of New Hampshire. The beleaguered nation, surrounded by enemies armed to the teeth, somehow manages to remain a democracy.

I doubt we Americans are ready to open our purses and packages for inspection every time we enter a mall or restaurant. Universal military service is not even on our federal agenda for discussion.

One parallel did catch my eye, rolls of razor wire running parallel to a fence along the so-called West Bank of the Jordan. Similarly, Uncle Sam has started a fence along our border with Mexico.

Our FDD contingent, 45 professors strong, visited Israel’s largest Arab city, some few miles from the fence. At the town hall, the city manager gave us a little talk, then opened himself up to our questions.

Of Arab descent but Israel-born, the 50-something ‘mayor’ allowed as how he likes that fence. The barrier, which bears signs warning of ‘mortal danger’ if you climb it, has reduced illegal immigration of Palestinians to his town substantially, he says. The small city’s unemployment rate approaches 30 percent. He blames much of it on illegals who marry local Israeli-Arab girls and then either scarf up scarce jobs or add themselves directly to the unemployment rolls. Either way, he contends, they deplete scarce economic resources.

Born, raised and educated in Israel, this Arab official worries about where his children are headed. His son, he says, is pro-Palestinian. Were this worried parent an African-American, his son might label him an ‘Uncle Tom’. However, he, himself, would choose to be a Palestinian citizen if a democratic Palestine becomes a real possibility.

I don’t know if Mexican-Americans along the Rio Grande and in San Antonio and El Paso and San Diego share any of this Arab city manager’s ambivalence about their futures and those of their children. I would not be surprised to discover that at least some are eager for the US to staunch the flow of illegals into their borderland towns and cities.

Like the Arab city manager, other Israeli officials report a decrease in cross-border incursions by would-be-bombers and other illegals, thanks they believe to their fence.

The border fence, an innovation that will not in any way impact the rights or lifestyles of US citizens, may be an initiative for which the Israeli experiment is a valuable laboratory test case from which we Yanks can learn.

(Reprinted from the News of Delaware County)

Israel’s security system truly worth emulating

A way found to cope with terrorism without stifling internal dissent or abrogating the rule of law. Ever since the Twin Towers disintegrated into rubble Sept. 11, 2001, the cries of “Death to America!” coming from Arab streets have sounded more ominous than simple posturing. The recently squelched plot to blow up JFK Airport and the prospect of Iran becoming a nuclear power fill Americans with unspoken dread that catastrophe lurks.

That’s just how terrorists want us to think. Terrorism may seem to be arbitrary and senseless killing, but it’s actually sophisticated psychological warfare. Terrorists (and the states supporting them) seek to foster fear and panic in order to change the policies of nations they cannot defeat by conventional means.

The United States faces a twofold challenge in battling terrorism. While striving to deter attacks by enemies foreign and domestic, it also must avoid sacrificing the basic freedoms and quality of life that ensure the loyalty of most Americans to their government.

America should learn from Israel, a country under constant threat of attack. To gain a better appreciation for how a functioning democracy can successfully practice counterterrorism, I joined more than 40 other American college professors in late May for 10 days as an academic fellow of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Israel (FDD).

The FDD provided us with unparalleled access to almost every level of the Israeli security system, from its National Security Council to various units of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) and National Police. We even visited a maximum security prison housing convicted terrorists and spoke with representatives of Hamas and the Popular Front.

Israel’s efforts to thwart terrorism seem so much better coordinated than ours. As a small nation that prizes results, it has developed a security system free of the institutional overlap and bureaucratic turf wars that dog its American counterpart.

The National Police and Israeli Security Agency battle terrorism within Israel, while threats emanating from outside the country are handled by the IDF and Mossad (Israel’s version of the CIA). All four organizations share intelligence and readily work together in other ways.

All Israelis are required to serve three years in the military (with the exception of ultra-Orthodox Jews and most Israeli Arabs), creating a populace that is equipped to take crises in stride. Israeli citizens lead normal lives when they aren’t under direct threat. The Tel Aviv hotel that the FDD academic fellows made our base from May 26 through June 6 sat less than 50 miles from where Kassam rockets fired by Hamas operatives in Gaza hit Israeli soil. Yet, Tel Aviv’s residents went to work or school during the day and filled the city’s restaurants and clubs at night.

The Israeli approach to counterterrorism offers a balance between restraint and ruthlessness. Every restaurant and facility able to accommodate 500 or more people must have an armed guard on duty. It is a sobering experience to hand your luggage to a bellboy packing a Glock automatic pistol.

As a democracy, Israel observes higher ethical standards than many of its enemies. Besides being admirable, that policy is also wise in a public-relations sense, for Israelis are aware that much of the world does not wish them well and views them as oppressors rather than victims. At the same time, Israeli security personnel are prepared to cause lengthy traffic jams to disrupt terrorist timetables or to kill terrorists before they can blow up crowded nightspots or school buses. While the IDF tries to avoid collateral damage, it accepts the possibility of civilian casualties if the objects of targeted kills are dangerous enough.

Israel has found ways to cope with terrorism without stifling internal dissent or abrogating the rule of law. While putting security first, it has avoided turning itself into a modern Sparta or a repressive police state. America could learn much from its long-time ally as it strives to better safeguard itself.

(Reprinted with permission from the Philadelphia Inquirer)

Do they really want to boycott this?

A glance inside will explain what Israel’s universities have contributed to human progress.The decision by a British academics’ union to urge its members to boycott their Israeli counterparts has generated outrage and concern among academics and supporters of Israel. The stunningly illogical decision to shun Israeli academic institutions threatens some of the organizations most involved in promoting peace and human rights in Gaza and the West Bank and could impede progress Israeli universities enable in scores of fields.

As a service to those who want to argue Israel’s case in this matter, ISRAEL21c has created this special document with facts and figures, and links to stories and reports that will help anyone show how valuable Israel’s academics and universities are to the world. We hope you will find it useful in supporting your argument that academics, people who care about peace, and people who care about progress, should all fight the boycott and the viral impact it might have.

Please, take this information and inform your friends, organizations, local academic institutions, media and other interested parties about the value Israel’s academics add to the world everyday.

One need only glance at the following achievements to understand what Israel’s universities have contributed to human progress and peace.

** Two of the world’s most widely used FDA-approved multiple-sclerosis drugs, Copaxone and Rebif, were developed from research carried out at Weizmann Institute of Science.

** A revolutionary drug developed by researchers at Bar-Ilan University holds out hope for tens of millions of people around the world who suffer from schizophrenia. Researchers from Tel Aviv University have also invented a drug candidate which holds out promise in this field.

** An award-winning scientist at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev developed a biological control for mosquitoes and black flies that cause malaria and river blindness, saving the sight and lives of millions of people in Africa and China.

** Scientists at Hebrew University of Jerusalem have developed the FDA-approved drug Exelon for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and are now working on a new anti-Alzheimer’s drug also suitable for treating strokes and traumatic brain injuries.

** Velcade, an effective new cancer drug that treats multiple myeloma, is based on research by two Technion-Israel Institute of Technology professors. The pair won the 2004 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for their groundbreaking work.

** Scientists at Tel Aviv University developed BioPetroClean, a safe environmentally-friendly technology for cleaning oil spills in seas around the globe.

** University of Haifa researchers working as part of an international cooperative team, identified the gene capable of increasing the protein content of wheat – a giant step towards combating world hunger.

** Research by a professor at the Weizmann Institute has led to the development of promising new therapies for acute spinal cord injuries. The late actor Christopher Reeve described Israel as the ‘world-center’ for research on paralysis treatment. Proneuron Biotechnologies, the company founded to commercialize this research is also developing a therapy for Parkinson’s with support from the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

** A team from the Weizmann Institute has demonstrated for the first time how tissues transplanted from pig embryos might, in the future, be able to induce the human body to produce blood-clotting proteins for hemophilia patients.

** An Israeli scientific team from the Technion has succeeded in creating in the laboratory beating heart tissue from human embryonic stem cells.

** Researchers at the Hebrew University and the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge have isolated the protein that triggers stress in order to try to treat post-traumatic stress syndrome.

** A team of Jewish and Arab Israeli genetic researchers from Ben-Gurion University and Soroka Medical Center has identified a genetic defect that causes a severe neurodegenerative disease in Bedouin children, resulting in premature death.

** A researcher at Ben Gurion University has succeeded in creating human monoclonal antibodies which can neutralize the highly contagious small-pox virus without inducing the dangerous side effects of the existing vaccine.

** A Hebrew University doctoral student has developed an innovative drug that gives people the feeling of satiety, an important development in treatment of the obese.

The achievements do not stop there. Israel is the 100th smallest country in the world, but many of the world’s best technologies were invented here, much of the groundwork laid by whiz-kids from Israel’s universities.

** The Pentium MMX Chip was designed at Intel in Israel. Both the Pentium 4 microprocessor and the Centrum processor were designed, developed and produced in Israel, as was voice mail.

** Most of Windows operating systems were developed by Microsoft-Israel, as was voice mail technology.

** Both Microsoft and Cisco built their only R&D facilities outside the US in Israel, attracted by the high quality of engineers.

** Much of the world’s security in the fields of computers, banking, and homeland security rests on Israeli inventiveness – a necessary by-product of the years spent defending the country from terrorism and war. An Israeli company, for example, is now working on software that would prevent the kind of repeat bombings seen on the London Underground. The company wishes to complete its research in the UK, but will be unable to because of the boycott.

ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE

Israel’s universities are worldwide centers of excellence with students from all over the globe – Arab, Jewish, and Christian alike. There are no ethnic or religious qualifications for entry, and the universities are not controlled by the government.

A recent survey by the Milken Institute showed that of over 400 universities examined worldwide, Hebrew University (HU) and Tel Aviv University (TAU) were ranked 12th and 21st respectively for registering biotech patents. Only one British establishment, London University, could beat those placings. The Weizmann Institute of Science, one of the most important research centers in the world for brain studies, was voted the best university in the world for life scientists to conduct research.

Israel has the highest ratio of university degrees to the population in the world. Twenty-four percent of the workforce holds university degrees, ranking third in the industrialized world, after the US and Holland; and 12 percent hold advanced degrees. As a result, Israel leads the world in the number of scientists and technicians in the workforce – 145 per 10,000, compared to 85 in the US, 70 in Japan, and less than 60 in Germany. Israel also produces more scientific papers per capita than any other nation, 109 per 10,000 people, as well as one of the highest per capita rates of patents filed.

In proportion to its population, Israel has the largest number of startup companies in the world (3,500, mostly in high tech). In absolute terms, Israel has the largest number of startup companies than any other country, except the US. Israel also has the highest concentration of high-tech companies outside of Silicon Valley, and is ranked number two in the world for venture capital funding, behind the US.

ACADEMIC COEXISTENCE

Israel’s universities are at the forefront of work with Arabs and Palestinians to try to improve their quality of life and education. They are a main forum for liberal discussion between Jews and Arabs. Arab students and Palestinians study at most of the institutions. At the University of Haifa, for example, 20 percent of undergraduates are Arab Israelis.

Haifa University has a Jewish-Arab Center which advances dialogue on Arab-Jewish coexistence. It also runs an Arab Student Leadership Program, and researchers at the university work jointly with Al-Quds University in east Jerusalem, to develop and implement diagnostic and prognostic tests for learning disabilities in Palestinian and Israeli youth.

Hebrew University, which was targeted in a terror attack that killed both Jews and Arabs, was co-founded by Albert Einstein. It has always espoused the values of pluralism and tolerance and has a large number of Arab-Israeli programs, including training courses for dentists from the PA and Middle East countries, and a variety of joint Israeli-Palestinian research projects.

The university’s first international symposium was jointly organized by the dental schools of the Hebrew University and Al-Quds University in November last year despite political tension. The Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine has 35 graduates from Gaza and the West Bank. Some of the school’s graduates founded the School of Public Health at Al Quds University and continue to teach there. The school has a trilateral agreement with Al Quds and a US university for research, training and development of public health programs and a trilateral workshop on development of software for smoking cessation programs is planned.

In October last year, the rectors of HU, TAU, the University of Haifa, Ben Gurion University, the Weizmann Institute, and the Technion wrote a letter to Israel’s Minister of Defense to cancel a ban imposed by the IDF on Palestinian students entering Israel to study.

ACADEMIC IMPERATIVE

Israel’s universities are a breeding ground for innovation, excellence and liberal dialogue. They make a massive contribution to the world in science, medicine, environment, communications and security. Israel may be a tiny country, but it is making one of the greatest contributions of any country on the planet, improving and transforming the lives of millions.

Israel’s researchers do not deserve to be shunned, and the world should not risk losing their research.

In the words of Dr. Sari Nusseibah, president of the Palestinian Al-Quds University: “The free flow of science and information… constitutes a powerful force against war… Of all possible bridges to burn as a form of ‘well-intentioned’ political pressure, the boycott of academic cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians should be excluded…”

The New England – Israel connection

The New England Israel Business Council is building a technology pipeline between the two regions.It’s no longer news that Israel is a hotbed of technology research and development. Much of the world knows that cutting-edge technologies ranging from Intel’s Centrino chip to Given Imaging’s ‘camera-in-a-pill’ have been developed in Israel, and that Microsoft, Motorola, Google, Siemens and other iconic, technology-driven brands have chosen to establish research, investment or development centers in Israel.

Moreover, with two Technion researchers having been awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, there is little doubt that Israel occupies its rightful place on the global science and technology stage.

It takes more than a reputation for world-class technology to bring ideas from concept to reality, however. There are many challenges that investors outside of Israel face as they seek to explore and assess new technologies from Israel’s relentless entrepreneurs, and there are innumerable Israeli inventors, start-ups and even mature companies struggling to secure investment, marketing, development and even mentoring support with larger partners in North America and Europe.

While creative and motivated partners may eventually find each other, investment opportunities and partnerships generally can often be hastened and facilitated by a community of willing, interested and highly able supporters dedicated to the bigger picture.

It is in the spirit of community – and the pursuit of profit – that the potential of a unique business development pipeline is rapidly being realized. Through the efforts of entrepreneurs with feet firmly planted in both the United States and in Israel, a New England-Israel connection has not only been established, but is now being formalized and given both shape and direction.

Much of the credit for this encouraging state of affairs goes to a highly active and engaged community of Israeli ‘ex-pats’ in the Boston area, many of whom repeat a familiar story: “I came to New England to run the US office of my company for six months, and I ended up staying ten years!”

A textbook example is Yuval Malinsky, CEO of Vigorous Mind, Managing Director of Stage 1 Strategies LLC, and now president of the newly formed New England Israel Business Council.

A self-described ‘serial entrepreneur’, Malinksy, like many of his compatriots, came to Boston to establish the North American office of his Israel-based company. The company’s largest customer was located in the Boston area, so in order to serve that client better, Malinsky made the move. He expected to stay for two years. That was in 1994.

Since that time, Malinsky has invested in, operated and spun off a number of successful ventures, and today continues to dedicate his time to various business and consulting interests.

What may turn out to be Malinsky’s most lasting contribution, however, is his work initiating and leading the New England Israel Business Council. Building upon a network of investors, entrepreneurs, local supporters of Israel and a vibrant New England technology community, the NEIBC was formed in late 2006 to promote economic development and investment in both New England and Israel.

The organization provides a forum for leading technology ‘players’ to discuss their companies, their challenges, and cross-development opportunities in synergistic industries such as information technology, security, biotechnology, medical devices, clean tech, semiconductors and nanotechnology. Attendance at these events is strong and growing rapidly.

In some respects, the NEIBC stands on the shoulders of New England-based and American investors who have already shown their faith in Israel and Israeli technology, including Greylock Partners, Charles River Laboratories, Battery Ventures, Polaris and many others. An important element of the NEIBC mission is to bring these success stories to the wider community, and then to bring like-minded businesspersons together to create an ongoing flow of business and opportunity.

And the word is getting out. One firm that received the message loud and clear is Portland, Maine-based Pierce Atwood LLP, which I’m associated with. The law firm, which is more than 100 years old, recently opened a Boston office and sent one of its intellectual property and life science partners to Israel. As a result, the firm anticipates that at least one Israeli start-up will be admitted to the firm’s innovative Catalyst Program, which supports entrepreneurs and technology companies by deferring all or a portion of the firm’s fees until agreed success benchmarks are achieved.

The development of a pipeline, i.e., an established flow of intellectual property and investment, between New England and Israel, has been in the works for some time, but never has it been as well defined and productive as it is today. By creating a framework for investors and entrepreneurs, and a vehicle for the public at large to learn more about outstanding and ongoing business opportunities in Israel, the New England Israel Business Council is likely to make a lasting contribution to the technology scene in both countries for years to come.

Now is the time for Israel to make gorillas

We need companies which acquire other companies, and are not acquired themselves.The Israeli high tech industry has an excellent reputation in the global market. The hundreds of start up companies currently active in Israel, and the dozens of new start ups established every year, have turned Israel in to the leading source of technological entrepreneurship outside of the USA.

This is probably why international giants such as Google, Cisco, Microsoft, Intel, IBM, and many others seek to acquire fresh and innovative Israeli technologies. In 2006, the local start up industry set an international ‘ratings’ record, with international corporations paying nearly $3 billion for the acquisition of dozens of private Israeli technological companies.

These numbers are a source of pride to the venture capital funds, which are the primary financiers of the start up industry in Israel. Successes are marked with profits of impressive multipliers, however the significant impact of these successes on the product of the Israeli market is one-time only.

Therefore, we cannot evade the question of why the shelf-life of Israeli entrepreneurship is so brief. Why can’t the Israeli mind come up with more large international corporations, which acquire companies themselves, and are not acquired themselves within a few years of establishment.

The claim that Israel, with its seven million residents, is a mere speck of global economy, is a lame excuse. Finland, a country with a population of 5 million, and with far less entrepreneurship than Israel, has introduced Nokia to the global economy. Nokia’s power has a great deal of influence on the growth of the Finnish economy. So when will there be another Israeli Teva, or, perchance, even Nokia?

Many see Teva, the largest generic pharmaceutical company in the world, as an ‘Israeli Nokia’ of sorts. Amdocs and Comverse, which employ tens of thousands worldwide and are global market leaders, also have a clear Israeli orientation.

But that pretty much sums it up. At the end of the day, Israel, whose strength lies in its ideas, is far less competitive when it comes to execution. The amount of international corporations established in Israel, which manage to grow with long term vision and execution, is rather small.

Israel has more entrepreneurs than Germany; however, Israel isn’t producing enough large companies from this entrepreneurship. While it is true that some of the traditional industry in Israel is incapable of generating large companies such as car manufacturers, which require market proximity and immense production costs, there are plenty of other industries with lower production costs and in which the physical distance from markets poses no difficulty in the age of the global village.

Therefore, the goal is for Israeli entrepreneurship to improve its capabilities in idea application and execution, in order to establish a long term high tech industry. Collaborations between the government and private sectors can make Israel an appealing destination for the establishment of local giant corporations seeking to build manufacturing plants for pharmaceuticals, communications equipment, chips, and semiconductors, as well as equipment upgrade plants.

This would enable capitalizing on the technological manpower, trained for service in the IDF and currently without productive employment after the service, particularly in the periphery areas. Such initiatives work very well in countries such as Taiwan, Finland, and Ireland, and have no reason not to work just as well in Israel.

Venture capital funds play an important part in this process, however there is also need for complementary financial tools. The financial structure of VC funds limits the duration of the funds? investment in companies to five to ten years. Afterwards, the funds must realize their investment and return the profit to their investors. The funds start investing, at the pre-seed stage, in ideas with good potential for growth. Later on, the funds invest in companies with high potential for leveraging.

After the companies reach maturation, the funds are required to sell the portfolio companies at a profit. NASDAQ IPO?s used to be the exit of choice for funds, as the profit multipliers were higher than the average multipliers received for acquisitions of the successful companies. Nowadays, there are far less NASDAQ IPOs. Each IPO requires meeting rigid standards for income, growth, and transparency, and entails steep annual administrative expenses. The alternative public market in Britain is no real alternative to NASDAQ. Its structure as well as the auxiliary banking structure facilitates trading of local consumption, and not multinational technological corporations.

We believe that serious consideration of selling VC-backed companies to private equity funds, which can provide the companies with the necessary takeoff, is in order. This market has yet to prove itself, but appears to have a great deal of potential.

To build a stable high tech industry in Israel, management skills also need to be improved. Israel is developing its managerial tradition lazily, while globalization is posing competitive challenges versus caches of administrative personnel from the finest training programs and the most successful companies. Over time, there has been a gradual improvement of management, however, we should practice assimilation of skilled managers trained in international companies to improve management skills.

Israel is the second largest source, after India, of senior management in the USA. Furthermore, high-quality boards of directors composed of foreigners and Israelis, which are capable of giving feedback to the management of Israeli companies and improving management performance, should be established. Improvement of companies’ management skills requires an improvement of executive skills. Successful companies leverage ideas for a business, and ensure that the international deployment and manufacturing will eventually bring the profit into Israel.

Ultimately, Israel cannot ignore rising global forces, and must redefine its competitive edge over China and India, in addition to its competitiveness in Western markets. The country’s responsibility is to fortify the programs for professional training and higher education, as well as to facilitate construction of an effective business infrastructure for expansion of the operation of Israeli companies.

Developing such a solid technological industry would generate additional workplaces in the Israeli economy, foster growth and productivity, create solid economical infrastructures, and ultimately ensure larger financial stability for the next generation.