Saluting a remarkable 75 years
As another dysfunctional Arab state, Sudan, collapses into chaos, it is not only the Jewish people who should be acknowledging the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the state of Israel – the Middle East’s only functioning democracy and upholder of the rule of law. As Israel’s founding father David Ben-Gurion once warned: “In Israel, in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles.”
He could not have been more prescient.
The survival of the Jewish state and all it has achieved against immense odds that have been ranged against it every day since its foundation in 1948 is a miracle of the modern era.
That is not hyperbole; it is the reality of Israel – an estimable, small nation of 9.7 million people surrounded by existential hostility ranging from the determination of Iran’s mullahs to build nuclear weapons with the express aim of annihilating the Jewish state, to constant threats from terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, hellbent on destroying it.
Despite the odds, Israel remains after 75 years a bulwark of remarkable economic progress in a dry land with few resources, apart from human ingenuity, and a stronghold of good sense that has made it a vital ally for the West. The Jewish homeland, commendably, is often the first in line to send help even when adversaries are in trouble, as was the case with the recent earthquakes in Turkey.
Sudan’s fate, and that of its impoverished people, reflects one tragic side of the ongoing story of the Middle East. The other side of the same story is Israel which, despite constant existential threats that would have destroyed the morale of lesser nations, has not only survived but also prospered in a way even Ben-Gurion and his comrades, for all their brave optimism, could not have believed possible three-quarters of a century ago.
As current street protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial plans for root-and-branch judicial reform have shown, Israel has its share of problems. The protracted political crisis over the failure to form a stable government before Mr Netanyahu’s eventual return to power was deeply challenging to the body politic. Israel also remains overshadowed by the seemingly intractable problem of reaching an accommodation over a Palestinian homeland, just as it did in 1948. Sobering UN projections suggest that by 2050, the Arab population of the occupied territories will have ballooned to almost 10 million.
That projection portends profound challenges for the demography of the Jewish state. But it does not detract from Israel’s remarkable achievement of the past 7½ decades in building a stable, multi-party democracy that is not only a homeland for the Jewish people but one in which non- Jews (Israel’s current population includes two million Arabs) are assured of civil rights.
Neither does it detract from Israel’s importance as a crucial ally for the world’s democracies, led by the US.
Israel’s society is vibrant, its democracy extraordinarily robust. It is all too easy to see in the mass protests against Mr Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul a deep and dangerous fissure at the heart of Israel. There may be something in that. But it is also hard not to see the protests as a manifestation of a healthy democracy, in contrast with the miserable fate of Sudan and Arab nations across the Middle East where protests regularly are suppressed and ground underfoot by totalitarian regimes. While rival armies battle each other on the streets of Khartoum and instability afflicts much of the Arab world, Israel, by contrast, has an army that is one of the world’s most powerful, capable of thwarting any foe near or far, as the 1976 raid on Entebbe in Uganda showed, and subsequent Israeli strikes against Iran continue to demonstrate.
Israelis, whoever they support politically, can take immense pride in what their country has achieved across the past 75 years after being born out of the horrors and degradation of the Holocaust and the murder of six million Jews. International human rights lawyer Arsen Ostrovsky, head of International Legal Forum which fights anti-Semitism, writes of Israel as “a source of inspiration to the champions of hope and dignity, and a role model for those fighting for their right to self-determination”. That is not to overlook the challenges Israel faces in a hostile environment. Anyone who expects the next 75 years to be any easier did not grasp Ben-Gurion’s call to realism. But its achievements, democracy and self-sufficiency against the odds of all who wish it ill or want to see it annihilated is worth celebrating. Mazel tov, Israel, on a remarkable 75 years.Article link: https://todayspaper.theaustralian.com.au/infinity/article_popover_share.aspx?guid=c9ef686a-30eb-4162-aa54-aa8630fbcad1
Article source: The Australian | Editorial | 2.5.23