Harold Evans, editor of the Sunday Times in London from 1967 to 1981, has just published his autobiography, My Paper Chase.
You can now swallow a pill that will painlessly transmit 14 photographs a second for hours from deep within the gastrointestinal tract. It's amazing and great news for the 30 million or so Americans (and millions beyond) who visit a doctor's office with conditions that require this kind of scrutiny. But what is almost as surprising as the innovation is where it came from: a huge missile.
The classic guns-or-butter antithesis was resolved by a former rocket scientist, one Gavriel Iddan, who got the idea from examining the optics technology of a guided missile. He took a chance on setting up a company to explore the idea that everyone told him was out of science fiction—"OK, you can make a tiny camera, but you'll never find a way to cram into a small pill all the light, energy, and gear to transmit a workable image." That's what happens to many innovators; their resilience is as relevant as their brain cells. Iddan persisted. Now his Given Imaging company is on the way to selling a million pill cameras.
Here's another part of the story to invoke reflection. The pill camera didn't originate in Silicon Valley, or Boston or Tokyo, London or Dusseldorf. It came from a tiny country under the constant threat of extermination—Israel. I wrote a book and TV series on American innovation, and I follow the subject. Yet I was stunned to read how much innovative leadership is now coming from Israel. I owe this further education to Dan Senor and Saul Singer, who have combined their talents to write the short but impressive volume Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle.
It's depressing that almost the only news you get about Israel is so determinedly negative. If you asked nearly anyone about Israel, it's a good bet nobody would say, "Oh, yes. What intrigues me about that place is how they manage to have more companies on the Nasdaq technology index than the combination of all the European countries, Korea, Japan, Singapore, India, and China." Indeed, the Senor-Singer book that makes such a point comes out on the heels of two typically negative stories.
First, there was the report just approved by the United Nations General Assembly that singles out Israel for its conduct during the Gaza war earlier this year. The report had been prepared for the U.N.'s Human Rights Council by a commission headed by the South African judge Richard Goldstone. Poor Judge Goldstone now apparently regrets how his report is being portrayed. He should never have accepted leadership of a commission whose terms of reference were designed to excuse the aggressor, Hamas, and punish the defender, Israel. The Human Rights Council's announced decision was to "investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the occupying Power, Israel, against the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory."
The Swiss newspaper Le Temps reports the judge complaining, "This draft resolution saddens me . . . there is not a single phrase [in the U.N. resolution] condemning Hamas as we have done in the report. I hope the council can modify the text." Fat hope. The General Assembly approved a resolution submitted by about 20 members of the Arab League distinguished by a common revulsion for two things: Israel and democratic elections in their own countries.
In signing on for the U.N. mission—with others who had already condemned Israel—it seems to have escaped the judge that Hamas is committed not just to fighting Israeli soldiers but to pursuing genocide plain, simple, and evil. The terms of reference he accepted gave a free pass for the torment of Israeli civilians. Hamas launched thousands of rockets, each one of which was intended to kill as many people as possible, then contemptuously dismissed repeated warnings from Israel to stop or face the consequences. (Ironic, too, that the U.N. vote came as Israel revealed that it had discovered a massive supply of thousands more rockets and other arms hidden among Iranian containers on a ship bound for a Syrian port.)