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From Hayek to Murray – shaping Israel’s discourse one book at a time

The Red Pill effect. Sella Meir introduced Douglas Murray's international best seller The Strange Death of Europe to the Israeli public

From Friedrich Hayek and Thomas Sowell, to Douglas Murray, Jordan Peterson and Stephen Hicks – Sella Meir’s books are revolutionising the Israeli discourse.  

“Ban Friedrich Hayek?” gasped maverick publisher Rotem Sella, “Hayek is one the greatest thinkers who ever lived, the man has changed my life.”

Sella listens with disbelief to the news of students at the London School of Economics calling for the dissolution of the HayekSoc – last year he made history when he translated Hayek’s The Fatal Conceit, to Hebrew, introducing the noted economist’s vision to the Israeli public for the very first time.

The Fatal Conceit by Friedrich Hayek

The past few years have seen Sella Meir, Rotem Sella’s publishing house, rock Israel’s culture boat through the introduction of publications that are the cornerstone of Western civilisation, written by some of its most profound thinkers – from “the great Thomas Sowell who can explain complex ideas with fluid simplicity”, to Hayek, Charles Murray, Roger Scruton, Douglas Murray and Stephen Hicks among many others. 
“I was shocked to discover that no Israeli publisher has ever bid for the classic titles I was interested in” Sella told me, “I didn’t know what to make of such a revelation – does this mean that Israelis have never read Sowell, Hayek, or Scruton? That for decades upon decades Israelis were only exposed to Leftist ideology? this would certainly explain the make up and evolution of Israeli society since 1948.”

Israel was founded on socialist  ideology, explains Sella, “this was the state of affairs until Right Wing Begin’s 1977 historic win which turned Israeli society upside down, of course, the real cultural revolution came with the internet and exposure to alternative voices.”

The Quest For Cosmic Justice by Thomas Sowell

In the past, explains Sella, “there were 20 to 30 leading commentators who ‘engineered’, stirred and controlled the public conversation, but today we have tens of thousands of influencers online.” This is a great eye opener for society maintains Sella but “a book remains the only way to convey complex ideas, and for a person to ‘have a conversation’ with the writer – it is a process where a person dedicates themselves to a writer ‘whispering in their ear’ for 8, 10, 12 hours – there simply isn’t a more invasive and intimate act than this.”

When a person read a book say 50 years ago reflected Sella, they might have talked about it to perhaps five of their friends, today, each reader talks to hundreds and often thousands of followers and ideas often spread like wildfire.

The Madness of Crowds by Douglas Murray

Sella’s revolutionary journey began prior to his university days, when he discovered Milton freedmen, Hayek, Tocqueville, Leo Strauss, Machiavelli, and Thomas Sowell.

“When I got to university I quickly realised that I was being conned” reflects Sella, “I really thought that at university I would ‘discover the key’ to how things really work but instead I was being indoctrinated – the only reason I was able to see through it is because of the books I read previously which informed me that what I am now being told is suspect. I turned into a dissident, questioning lecturers’ assertions and arguing with them during lessons. I organised a petition to protest a course about Adam Smith titled ‘the dark side of Adam Smith – it troubled me that right from the outset Smith was presented as evil – I ended up putting together an independent student program which ran twelve courses and counted five hundred students.”

Through this rebellion, Sella understood the importance of ideas. “I realised that had I not read independent thinkers prior to being a student, I would have followed academia’s agenda like a sheep, I would have blindly absorbed the often toxic narrative thrust upon us.”

One of the blogs Sella followed avidly soon after graduation was published in the Asia Times website and written by the mysterious Spengler. “It was an analysis of the world economy, religion, music and geo politics” recalls Sella, adding that “Spengler came out as David Goldman”, publisher of the book How Civilisations Die. “Goldman could not find an Israeli publisher to take the book on and in an unexpected turn of events, it became the very first book I published”. 

Beyond Order by Jordan Peterson

This experience set the path for Rotem Sella as the publisher of titles and authors shunned by others.

“I have no interest in bidding wars over a highly coveted title” explained Sella, “ the most I will achieve here is higher profits, there is no challenge and no real satisfaction in that – I am motivated by giving a voice to an original author who is being silenced and rejected by others.”

The publishing house skyrocketed with Catch the Jew by Tuvia Tenenbom that became one of 2014 biggest bestsellers. Sella Meir soon became the voice of a revolution, penetrating the market with liberal, conservative, centrist and right wing thinkers, from Sowell, James K Wilson, and Victor Hanson, to Murray, Trevor Noah and Ben Shapiro. 

“Against all odds, our books have become part of the main stream conversation” said a somewhat surprised Sella, “they are shaping, often starring in the debates of the day – ideas that go against the largely Leftist consensus, have somehow found their way to the very heart of the discussion. In some cases the ideas have become a term in themselves – a great example of this is ‘engineering of minds’, derived from Hanan Amior’s book “The Minds Engineering Workshop” that exposes the tricks played by the media to brainwash unsuspecting minds – the term is used widely by media-pros and laymen alike, and the astonishing thing is that even those who have not read the book, understand it’s meaning use it correctly.”

The Mind’s Engineering Workshop by Hanan Amior

Amior’s is one of many original, game changing Sella Meir titles within the Israeli discourse including The Bagatz party by now MK Shimcha Rhotman – “by far the most important critic of the supreme court in recent history”, and Why do you vote right and get left? by Erez Tadmor hailed as one of the most important non fiction books in Israel in the last decade.

The magic does not happen at the till when the book is purchased, added Sella, “it happens when the book is opened and ‘activated’ – the most important thing is getting people to open a book. If we need to create some kind of media provocation or controversy to ensure the book reaches say 4000 hands instead of 2000, we will – after all, these individuals will read a book that will touch the roots of their soul, and forever change the way they perceive reality.”

By reading these books argues Sella, “you spend two hours a day in conversation with the cleverest people on earth, you talk to them about life, the world, the economy, about how people ‘operate’ – you will become a better person and this will become a better world.”

The truth is a powerful thing, concludes Sella, “once discovered, it cannot be ignored or forgotten – you could read 172 books that teach you nothing in the sense that they dwell on familiar abstractions, and have little impact on the essence of how you view the world, but than, you come across a writer who talks of something at the root of your soul, rendering all preceding insights irrelevant – we might not have mainstream media or academia at our disposal but with the truth on our side, we need to reach a person just once, grab their attention and you change the world.”

About the Author
Hannah is a London based journalist covering culture and current affairs. She writes about photography, film and TV for outlets in the UK and US, and covers current affairs with particular interest in the Jewish world. She is also an award-winning filmmaker and photographer. Her films were screened in festivals worldwide and parts of her documentary about Holocaust survivor Leon Greenman were screened on the BBC.
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