Israel's 60th anniversary has produced some wonderful essays in honour of that heroic people but the most down to earth was in my view written by Prof. Barry Rubin -- a man who has converted his love of Israel into an unceasing verbal war against all those in the media who misrepresent Israel. I reproduce an excerpt below. The whole thing, of course, is a must-read for all of us who support Israel
As part of the sixtieth anniversary celebration, Israelis are choosing their national bird but they have long since picked the national sport: self-criticism. The great Israeli humorist Ephraim Kishon described his own arrival in the country shortly after independence by joking that as the ship approached the coast it became very hot and we began criticizing the government over the weather. Daily Israel, every conceivable failing (real or imagined) is relentlessly dissected. The negative is usually highlighted, though afterward people feel optimistic at having been able to vent their pessimism. One day walking down the street I ran into a friend.
"How's everything?" he asked. "Great," I answered. "How can you say that!" he exclaimed. "Don't you read the newspapers?" This characteristic has a positive effect, by inspiring a ceaseless effort to make things better. In dictatorships and places ruled by extremist ideologies, the stifling of this process has been one of the main reasons for their failings.
I know our society could have been, and could be today, far better. Don't get me started on the teacher's strike or the low calibre of politicians. The president and prime minister have rightly both faced charges of malfeasance. One cannot help but think that if so much effort didn't have to go into self-defence, the country would be within shouting distance of utopia.
Still, when annual quality of life polls are taken, the positive scores from Israelis are into the 90th percentile. Moreover, although Israel faces very real threats, its security situation is better than the great majority of those sixty years. While there is full, formal peace with only Egypt and Jordan, most Arab states-except for Syria-have in practice made the material, as opposed to verbal, pursuit of the conflict, a low priority.
It's true that the old comradeship of decades ago has declined, as have the institutions created to build the state. As in other countries, privatization has replaced statism. I can remember when a telephone installation took a month. Now it takes a day. Television stations have gone from a single choice to dozens. The national airport has been upgraded from a place barely fit for a small provincial town to a large, thoroughly modern complex. This tiny state of now seven million people is a world leader in science, medicine, and hi-tech among other things, yet still has some of the globe's best-tasting fruit and vegetables as well as internationally exported flowers.
And nothing more symbolizes Israeli daily life than the driver behind you setting off his horn to beat the speed of light from the changing traffic signal. Yet civility, too, is creeping in gradually. With all of its problems-at times because of its problems-it is a great place to live.
Oh yes we are human beings, a fact that often seems forgotten in the hate-filled propaganda that pervades too many institutions, the slanderous misrepresentation of latest fact and longer-term history which is heard far too much. A friend told me today that he was seriously informed on an international television broadcast that former prime minister Ariel Sharon drank a glass of Palestinian blood every day.
It's often explained that criticism of Israel is not antisemitism as such but increasingly the extreme, crazed attacks precisely duplicate that hateful standpoint. More important is this: historic antisemitism's claims and assumptions have simply been adapted to Israel; the word "Zionism" simply substituted for "Judaism" and "Israel" for "Jews." We are the only people in the world continually called on to apologize because we survived, even after 85 percent of European Jews were murdered and about 90 percent of Middle Eastern Jews were expelled or had to flee the countries where they were born.
In contrast to the false accusations, we will be delighted to agree, cooperate, and celebrate the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state willing to live in peace alongside Israel. Unfortunately, that prospect seems distant. Equally unfortunately, that movement's Islamist and much of its nationalist leadership prefers to continue the conflict-and intensify their own, and our, people's suffering--rather than accept anything less than Israel, in the words of Iran's president, being wiped off the map.
A thousand years ago, Chasdai Ibn Shaprut wrote from Spain: "Dishonoured and humiliated by our dispersion, we have to listen in silence to those who say: `every nation has its own land and you alone possess not even the shadow of a country on this earth.'" But if there really was a place, Shaprut said, "where harassed Israel can rule itself, where it is subject to nobody.I would not hesitate to forsake all honours, resign my high office.and travel over mountains and plains, over land and water," to reach it. Well, now it exists and will keep on doing so, very probably long after seemingly more established states or at least societies vanish in its neighborhood or elsewhere.
Nahum Lenkin, one of my few relatives who escaped with his life from wartime Poland, wrote how his parents there often "went without food" to pay for the town's Zionist school where he and others could be prepared "to one day go as pioneers to Eretz Israel." Virtually all that town's survivors, and their children, live in Israel.
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