Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Author Milton Viorst Honored

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Author Milton Viorst Honored

Article excerpt


The poolside patio of Lee and Larry Ramer's Brentwood home was an idyllic setting for a reception honoring Milton Viorst on the occasion of the publication of his new book, In the Shadow of the Prophet. The author had a very sobering message, however, about the motives behind his latest literary endeavor.

After an introduction by co-host Rabbi Leonard Beerman, Viorst noted his respect for Arabs he has come to know has grown over two decades of traveling in the Middle East, but "the Arabs may be poised to remain a perpetual underclass."

"I've been building perceptions of the Arab world since the 1970s," Viorst continued. He experienced an epiphany of sorts in the fall of 1993, shortly after the Oslo agreement, when he was walking in East Jerusalem. Looking at the shop wares of Jews and Arabs, he observed the handcarved wooden camels and inlaid boxes of the Arabs in contrast to the flashy, glitzy metal necklaces sold by Jews. The olive wood sculptures represented the Arabs' attachment to their past and their resistance to change, while the shiny mass-produced jewelry of the Israelis revealed a willingness to innovate on trends from the West.

"I would argue that the difference, in part, explains why the West is rich and the Arab world poor," Viorst said. "Commerce, rightly or wrongly, rewards initiative. In an age of global economics, when the returns more than ever go to those who move smartly to stay ahead of the competition, the gap between the two cultures is growing steadily wider."

While the per capita income of Arab states remains stagnant, their birth rates soar. …

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