SETH J. FRANTZMAN .
(photo credit: AP)
People often ignore the tremendous amount of good the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does for humanity. It provides endless hours of entertainment, a place to project one’s anger, a way to ignore problems at home and in so doing, it may actually save lives by preventing local conflicts through distracting people and encouraging them to focus their hate and emotions at a far off place they cannot change.
People often view the world’s obsession with the conflict in one of two ways. Some believe the fact Israel is condemned yearly by the UN, that a special agency exists for the Palestinians that does not exist for any other group, that the death of one Palestinian is reported around the world, while the death of 100,000 Africans is routinely ignored, is evidence of modern anti-Semitism, especially by Europeans and Muslims. The organ theft allegations in newspapers in Sweden, the hate-filled comments of socialites such as Britain’s Jenny Tonge or America’s Helen Thomas seems to add evidence to this affect.
However others allege that the obsession is due to a world that no
longer tolerates the human rights violations that Israel metes out to
its enemies. Haaretz
’s Anshel Pfeffer claims that “moral people around
the world see almost everything that happens in the region as a result
of a deeply immoral situation that the Israeli leadership and... public
is doing nothing whatsoever to change.” American commentators have noted
that this is the reason some young American Jews feel they have little
in common with Israel, it is not living up to their secular-progressive
world view. So protests against Israel in Indonesia, South Korea, South
Africa and Venezuela are all because these people are moral and they are
speaking out against the one immoral state that exists; Israel.
BUT THERE is another way to understand, for instance, how it is possible
that so many South Koreans threatened to protest Shimon Peres’s visit
in the wake of the Gaza flotilla, causing the government to downgrade
the visit’s status? They didn’t do it because of morality. They didn’t
do it because they are anti- Semites. They did it because it provides
them comfort and distraction from the problems at hand. In March North
Korea sank a South Korean ship, killing 46 sailors. War was in the air
as South Korea struggled to find a way to retaliate.
But consider how helpful it is that Koreans have an outlet for their
anger: they can be angry about the deaths of nine “activists” on the
Gaza flotilla and in channeling their anger they take pressure off the
government to declare war and the situation will slowly subside. Thus
thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of lives were saved in Korea
because of the conflict in the Middle East.
Most South Koreans have no idea what is going on in the Middle East;
they have no interests there, they have never travelled there and they
are not adherents of a religion that was born there. Yet they are angry
about Israel. Nothing will come of their anger, they won’t come all the
way here to express it. So they shout and scream and they actually aid
their nation in that way. Everyday spent bashing Israel is a day they
don’t call for war, a day they don’t worry about the economy, a day they
aren’t angry about the corruption at Samsung or in the government.
SOUTH KOREA is only a tiny piece of the puzzle. Consider how helpful it
is to Europe that Europeans consider Israel the greatest threat to world
peace and many think it is a new “Nazi” state. By projecting all their
fear, anger and historical sins on Israel, they aid their national
governments and the EU. Europe is, after all, sinking under a tide of
immigrants and low birth rates, its suburbs turned into “no-go” zones
for the police, its economies slowly dying. Were it not for Israel there
might be riots against the government, but instead the riots can be
channeled somewhere else.
It is especially helpful in keeping the immigrants in Europe angry about
Israel rather than problems at home. The conflict also keeps angry
football hooligan Europeans at bay, instead of destroying European
cities they focus their anger on Israel, and the anti-globalization
movement which once rioted and caused deaths in Europe now protests
Israel. In Greece the economic problems, which led to deaths at the
hands of rioters, have ceased, in part due to Greek participation in the
Turkey has real problems with the Kurds and there is a vicious antipathy
between the ruling Islamists and secular nationalist opposition. On the
same day that nine “activists” died on the Gaza flotilla, six Turkish
soldiers were gunned down by Kurdish rebels. Yet Turks didn’t bury them
in a mass ceremony or protest about that. Instead their attention was
focused on Israel. Israel is good for Turkey; it saves the Turks from
themselves and their own problems.
Israel saves lives. The conflict saves lives. It saves governments from
Venezuela to Malaysia. All governments, save the US, a few African
countries and tiny Polynesian nations, use Israel as a way to distract
their people from problems at home. Israel provides catharsis for local
problems. It allows people to think they are moral “human rights
activists” and it provides them a platform to project their anger in a
way that doesn’t lead to people being hurt. It allows governments to
smooth over homegrown crises.
In this sense every Israeli, Arab and Jew alike, is a lifesaver.
The actions of one IDF soldier, settler or Palestinian can save
governments from Brazil to Ireland.
The conflict is the greatest show on Earth.The writer is a PhD researcher at
Hebrew University and a fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Market