International computing powerhouse Intel recently announced that it was purchasing Israeli car-safety firm Mobileye for a whopping $15 billion. Although the deal set a new Israeli record, it is by no means an isolated case. Roughly 1,000 Israeli companies in the high-tech and medical sector have been acquired internationally since 2003, for a total of over $63 billion-before counting this latest deal.
Mobileye's radar, already standard on many cars, alerts drivers to inadvertent lane changes, close proximity to other vehicles, and pedestrians crossing ahead. The technology, most of which is proprietary, will be a key component of the next generation of self-driving BMW cars equipped with Intel's central processors. This Israeli innovation saves lives, and joins countless other inventions that improve the standard of living for millions around the world.
From the "pill-cam," a tiny camera that is ingested and sends internal imagery, to the technology behind voice mail, instant messaging and flash disks, Israel is at the cutting edge of modern technology. More Israeli companies are listed on the NASDAQ exchange (82) than from any other country in the world except the United States and China (with 86 companies). The combined number of companies on NASDAQ from the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Spain is 76.
The origins of Israel's high-tech miracle are many and have been well described in S
the iconic book by Saul Singer and Dan Senor. As is often the case, necessity is the mother of invention: Israel needed to develop dynamic, modern high-tech industries as compensation for a lack of natural resources, which are the mainstay of many Arab economies; for an army that is short on soldiers and has always had to keep a qualitative edge over its enemies, and; for the limited size of our local market, too small to be profitable and therefore requiring exports -where fierce market competition calls for cutting-edge innovation.
These factors have led more and more Israeli and international venture capital funds, especially in the last two decades, to invest in research and development that is geared towards the global economy. The Israeli government, too, was quick to understand the potential of the high-tech industry in driving the economy and transforming Israel into a technological powerhouse and a leader in fields such as cyber security, anti-virus software, advanced chip design, and software applications that are global trend-setters. A steady stream of governmental investment and incentives in R&D has boosted the sector and provided investors with the security that comes from having the government as a partner.
After the high tech investments began paying off, vast deposits of natural gas were discovered offshore in recent years, promising to make Israel energy-independent and a net exporter of gas to a number of its neighbors. The engine of Israel's economy will continue to be the innovation and invention that are the fundaments of Israel's high-tech sector. As the world becomes more dependent on electronics, on software and on applications that impact every aspect of our lives, Israeli companies will continue to ride the high-tech wave and provide cutting-edge innovation, forging paths for others to follow.
Incidentally (or not), Israel's high-tech phenomenon is the flip side of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Thousands of people latch onto the BDS movement as part of an omnibus, intersectional protest against everything they consider "evil."
For the new wave of BDS-ers, boycotting Israel is just another form of protest and standing up for whom they see as the oppressed-in this case, Palestinians. Those marching under the BDS banner depict Israel in an unfair, inaccurate, uni-dimensional light, only criticizing Israel, and failing to acknowledge both the complexities of its conflict with the Palestinians-and the myriad benefits the Jewish State brings to everyone's lives, everywhere, every day. This resentment and demonization of Israel is the latest incarnation of traditional anti-Semitism in an era that no longer tolerates straight-out prejudice against the Jewish people.
There is much hypocrisy (and irony) in the way that BDS supporters use Israeli technology in order to disseminate their baseless hatred of Israel and to call for a boycott of Israeli products, which they use on a daily basis. In fact, since the BDS movement began, Israeli exports have risen steadily.
Israel, for its part, will continue to invest money, effort, and energy into innovation and development. Our Jewish community in Chicago will continue to combat BDS on campuses and in legislation. Together, we will prevail, for the benefit of mankind.