Sunday, December 08, 2002

Why should we feel apologetic about our accomplishments? Israel is a country poor in natural resources to draw from. It’s not as if we plundered Arab oil or anything, God forbid. We even found some for the Egyptians and gave it back to them on a platter, when we signed a peace treaty with them. Before the Jews got here, this country was a swamp-ridden, malaria-infested hellhole. The Jews dried the swamps the local Arabs had been living next to for hundreds of years, and built roads. Had those local Arabs (now known as Palestinians) accepted the partition plan in 1947 and two states had been created in 1948, it's very likely that Israel would have reached the same, or similar, economic and technological accomplishments.

Our accomplishments are down to human resources (well, maybe not mine personally... although, in my role as a minor bureaucrat, I may, in some small way, be helping maintain the rule of law over the rule of the jungle, that usually prevails in the Middle East). For years we’ve been hearing that we owe our affluence to Palestinian labor, but now they're gone and we’re doing just fine without them. (Imported Thai workers may eat a few domestic dogs here and there, but they haven’t been known to blow themselves up on buses).

I love driving along the Ayalon freeway, which cuts right through the center of the greater Tel Aviv area, connecting Tel Aviv’s northern satellite towns to the southern ones. Along the way, you pass the tallest buildings in the Middle East, which house a vibrant business center (yes, even in these dark depressed days). When I came to live in Tel Aviv, about seventeen years ago, most of the tall buildings did not yet exist, but the vibrant business center did. It just grew taller, flashier and more inspiring.

The Palestinians could have been a part of this exciting venture, and not just as laborers. This is what we were offering them, in effect. The vision of a New Middle East may have been naive, but it was a wonderful one. The Palestinians chose to pass. The whole region could have profited from Israel's impressive creative ability. The whole region chose to pass.

So why should we feel apologetic? As I see it, if we end up building that fence Martin Van Creveld talks about (remember? So high even birds can’t fly over? Can’t find a link to this, offhand, that isn’t pro-Palestinian), we'll be fine. The Palestinians will starve. But even that doesn't give them a jolt. Or maybe it does, but the deeper significance of it for them is so unpleasant they'd rather starve. Seven years of unsuccessful self-rule, with billions in foreign aid and a great deal of international good will (which is a lot more than what Israel got in the early years), have shown just how much Israel isn't beholden to the Palestinians for anything. There is no reason why the Palestinians couldn’t have used those years to flourish. No reason but their own pathetic ineptitude. For two years and more, they have been trying to stick their failure on us, and quite successfully, I must say (At last, something they do well. Oh, I forgot blowing themselves up among unarmed civilians. They’re excellent at that). They've got most of the world convinced, including Haaretz’s Danny Rubinstein (yawn). Haaretz hasn’t translated that particular article, for some reason. Just as well. We don’t need any more “Made in Israel” food for anti-Israel propaganda, than Haaretz already supplies.

Haaretz was derogative of the current trend in Israel to wear Magen Davids, the bigger the better, in this weekend’s magazine. Of course, if you think this terrorism war is all down to “the occupation, stupid”, then you are going to see any outward sign of affection for your country and people, especially using any sort of abstract symbol, as Nazi style nationalism, aren’t you? By the way, the article claims that the Magen David only became a Jewish symbol par excellence in 1897. Anyone care to challenge that, armed with data, if such data exists?

I don’t remember my mother without her Magen David. At one point, she lost the Magen David she had worn for many years and swiftly replaced it. Was she, as Prof. Moshe Zimmerman puts it in the article, clinging to a symbol? Was it “a substitute for any real achievement” caused by her “enfeeblement”? Or was it her way of expressing her Jewish identity, which was a very important part of who she was?