Stateless, &c.

Inset: World Clock country selection screen in iOS7.


Some stories recur and recur — you hear of them all of your life. I’ll give you an example.

All of my life, there’ve been stories about Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and how some people refuse to acknowledge Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. They refuse not only in their thought or their conversation — they refuse in the directories they make, and so on.

Recently, I’ve been reading about the iPhone, that famous, near-universal Apple product. The phone has a “World Clock.” It enables you to get the time in just about any city you can think of. There is a list of cities, with the country listed after the city. The list begins with “Abidjan, Ivory Coast,” and ends with “Zurich, Switzerland.”

But there are three cities without a country — one of them is Jerusalem. (I’ll tell you about the other two in a bit.) Jerusalem is contested, of course, but what is uncontested is that some part of Jerusalem will be Israel’s capital for as long as there’s an Israel.

You may remember something hilarious, and disturbing, from the run-up to the 2012 Olympics in London. Olympic officials listed Jerusalem as the capital of “Palestine” — a country that does not exist (yet). For Israel, they simply omitted a capital.

Maybe Israelis should feel lucky that the Olympic people acknowledged the existence of Israel at all?

These issues — directories, etc. — may seem trivial, but, in their essence, they’re deadly serious: because they have to do with Israeli legitimacy and Israeli permanence. Is Israel to be just a brief inconvenience, to be dealt with sometime soon?

The other two cities on the World Clock that don’t have countries are Vatican City, which is perfectly appropriate — Vatican City is a city-state — and Taipei, the capital of Taiwan (or the Republic of China, if you like). Three guesses why the word “Taipei” appears alone: No doubt, Apple fears to offend the dictatorship in Beijing, which regards Taipei, and Taiwan, as its.

I have written about Taiwan and Israel, together, before. For example, I wrote about this issue in a report from Taipei last year: “Questions on Taiwan.” Forgive a lengthy excerpt, because it may be kind of interesting:

Charles Krauthammer has said that Israel’s survival depends on two things: the will of the people to live and the support of the United States. Some Taiwanese tell me that their own country’s survival, as a liberal democracy, depends on the support of the United States. The Taiwanese certainly have a will to live: Taipei is one of the most vibrant cities you will ever see. There are important differences between Taiwan and Israel, not least in military standing: Israel is stronger against its (many) enemies than Taiwan is against China. But the similarities are worth pondering.

Both countries wish for normality in a world that won’t give it to them. Both countries find themselves isolated in the “world community.” There are American scholars and analysts who say — not so bluntly, of course — “Let’s throw Taiwan to the wolves, because our relationship with the PRC is so much more important. Why should this one little island disrupt relations with a coming superpower? The tail must not wag the dog.” There are many who would be happy, or at least willing, to throw Israel to the wolves too — a tiny country in the vast Middle East, bringing on headache after headache.

Taiwan and Israel are small and vulnerable democracies, not able to count on other democracies to back them up. They are potential Czechoslovakias: feedable to the tiger, in the hope that the tiger will get full.

These are dark thoughts, but Taiwan is too booming, too boisterous, and too wonderful to allow dark thoughts for long. . . .

There are all sorts of concessions one has to make to the PRC, and to the Arab governments, and to Iran. The world is a messy, dangerous place. But I myself would insist on “Jerusalem, Israel,” and “Taipei, Taiwan.” There are some things in the world worth defending: Israel and Taiwan are two of them.

I hope you have your new issue of National Review. (For the digital version, go here.) Among other offerings, we have a story about Harold Hamm. Do you know him? You’ll want to. Let me quote the opening paragraph, please:

Harold Hamm is a major oilman, the biggest in the United States. He’s also a significant contributor to our national debate over energy policy. But beyond those things, he’s an amazing story. Horatio Alger would blush to include him in one of his novels. Hamm was born the 13th and last child of sharecroppers in Oklahoma. Today, according to Forbes magazine, he’s the 90th-richest person in the world. (Remember, there are more than 7 billion of us.) Even foes of oil, and of capitalism generally, must smile a little, if only inwardly.