Israel and Howard Roark

May 9, 2002
By Orit Arfa, The Jewish Journal

If an individual, and a fictional one at that, can be a microcosm of a state, then Israel and Howard Roark, the legendary architect of Ayn Rand's classic "The Fountainhead," may have a lot in common.

Sound far-fetched? Not according to the Ayn Rand Institute, which ever since Sept. 11 has undertaken significant efforts to morally defend Israel. The institute, based in Marina del Rey, was created in 1985 (three years after Rand's death), to advance her philosophy of reason, individualism and capitalism as portrayed by the heroes in her novels.

"Israel represents the core values that the institute is fighting for -- freedom and individual rights," says Dr. Yaron Brook, director of the Ayn Rand Institute, who lectured on "The Moral Case for Supporting Israel" at UCLA on April 17. "We believe that you have to care about Israel if you care about Western values."

Through lectures at university campuses across the United States, television and radio interviews, editorials and now a newsletter on their Web site, the Ayn Rand Institute seeks to influence public opinion, and particularly American policy, toward unequivocally siding with Israel.

The views of the writers and speakers are, in Israeli political terms, right wing but with rationale far different than that of, say, a religious settler. The institute views Israel as a battleground of ideas, where the battle is between two value systems: reason, individualism and self-interest versus mysticism, collectivism and self-sacrifice, respectively. This is not unlike the battle illustrated by the story of Roark, who was constantly, and in exaggerated proportions, denounced by contemporary intellectuals, the media and other architects for acting in his own self-interest and according to his independent reasoning.

Brook believes that the anti-Israel sentiment across the world does not necessarily stem from mere anti-Semitism or fear of Arab wrath, but the ideas espoused by modern intelligentsia, who embrace, what Rand liked to call, the ethical code of "altruism."

"Altruism tells you, as Christianity does, 'The meek shall inherit the earth,' and the biggest sin of altruism is acting in self-interest," Brook explains. "The weak and suffering, who must not have acted out of self-interest, are virtuous. Israel, by being strong and successful, must be the villain."

In modern terms, "altruism" is expressed in such trends such as "multiculturalism," which gives all cultures legitimacy, including totalitarian regimes, and "moral pragmatism," which applauds compromise between two disparate value systems as a means of reconciliation.

"If you don't have moral absolutes, then what Israel does is viewed as bad as any terrorist act," Brook says. "An act of terror is termed 'freedom-fighting' because freedom doesn't mean anything."

The Ayn Rand Institute is committed to undoing the moral sanction that world leaders, and even the United States, give to acts of Palestinian terror, but Brook believes that Israel is often its own worst enemy. He aims some of his harshest criticism at Israeli intellectuals and government leaders.

"Israel's biggest enemies are in Israeli universities, just as America's greatest enemies are in the university," Brook says. "Average Israeli citizens are much less morally assured as they were years ago, because what they're being taught in schools is post-modern, post-Zionist revisionist."

Brook, who grew-up in Israel and moved to the United States in 1987, also lectures on the origins of Israeli left-wing ideology. A state under Yasser Arafat, in Brook's opinion, will be a cruel dictatorship and, at worst, a terrorist state. "What Israel needs to be is Howard Roark," says Brook. "Roark did what he needed to do to preserve his self-integrity."

Is there a happy ending for Israel? Brook has some reservations.

"Philosophy drives the world. The reason why Rand's heroes have a happy ending is because they were philosophically consistent. They suffered a lot, but their principles made them victorious. What Israel needs is a philosophical revolution."

Brook will address the Middle East in his lecture titled, "The World in Crisis," at UCLA on May 13 at 7:30 p.m., as part of a five-day event hosted by C-SPAN dedicated to Ayn Rand and "The Fountainhead." For more information visit .

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