Theodor Herzl leaning 311.
(photo credit: E.M. Lilien)
This year we celebrate 62 years since the reestablishment of the State of Israel and 150 years since the birth of the Zionist visionary Theodor (Binyamin Ze’ev) Herzl. We can look around our nation and take enormous pride in what we have achieved in the few decades since Jewish sovereignty returned to the land of our fathers.
Herzl famously wrote, “If you will it, it is no dream” more than 100 years ago, but unfortunately he died only a few years later. His dream, a Jewish state, would against all the odds be recreated in its ancient land, as he prophetically stated, less than five decades later.
Today, most of us have not known a time without the State of Israel. Few alive remember the battles, the struggles and sacrifices that the early Zionists and even early Israelis had to endure to ensure that Herzl’s vision would not remain a dream. Too many take the presence of Israel for granted, and this has allowed us to become complacent about its role and its future. We must never forget that we are a reborn nation surrounded by many enemies intent on our destruction.
When David Ben-Gurion read the Declaration of Independence at the Tel Aviv Museum in 1948, the ink had barely dried before five Arab armies invaded our infant state to destroy us. For many decades afterward, Arab armies would attempt to destroy Israel on the conventional battlefield, but none were successful.
Today, we can claim with pride that we have the strongest military in the region and those hostile to us have learned they cannot defeat us this way.
Next, our enemies tried to defeat us economically. The Arab League initiated a boycott against our state when we were welcoming hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters from around the globe. They issued ultimatums to every company in the world, telling them that if they conducted business with the Jewish state, they would not be able to conduct business with any Arab state. Today we have one of the world’s strongest economies and are about to join the OECD, the forum of the most powerful global economies.
After economic warfare also failed, our enemies began an unconventional and terrorist war against us. Israelis and Jews have been butchered in their thousands by extremists who chose their death over our life. Although no one can claim that the threat is 100 percent extinguished, we have managed to beat this scourge and today far fewer innocent people are being killed by terrorists, even though there are still daily attempts.
HAVING FAILED on so many occasions, our enemies have lately discovered a new way to attack us. This is through the current delegitimization campaign and so-called “lawfare” and may prove to be our toughest battle yet. Our enemies know they have distinct advantages that are difficult to contend with. They have an automatic majority in international institutions and have created an orchestrated system to tar the Jewish state as akin to the Nazis or the racist apartheid regime. They prevent us from speaking on campuses or having our voice heard in forums, and deny us freedom of speech because they know that if our voice is heard our enemies’ flawed narrative will collapse.
Although few know it or report on it, the Organization of Islamic Conference clearly stated on a number of occasions that it initiated the Goldstone Commission. How many of those who scream about Israeli war crimes know they are the mouthpiece of autocratic regimes? How many of those who read about the attempted arrest of Israeli officials in Europe realize that these attempts are initiated, supported and funded by those in our region who will not allow a woman to vote and kill or oppress their own people?
However, the verbal terrorism and attacks on our legitimacy will fail just as every other tactic before it. Nevertheless, to win this battle we must reinforce education about our history and purpose. We need to further the understanding of our historical, religious, moral and legal rights. Too few of our people understand that our modern legal rights are not based on history, religion or the Holocaust, as important as each of these is, but because the international community came together in 1920 as rarely seen before and conferred national rights in Eretz Yisrael to the Jewish people.
LESS THAN a week after we celebrate Independence Day, we will commemorate 90 years since the San Remo Conference. Few nations can show such a determined and unified statement of intent for their national aspirations. When we add this to the corpus of international statements, resolutions and treaties, we will find that although we are perhaps the only member of the United Nations whose legitimacy is regularly questioned, few nations have such modern legal instruments as the Jewish state with which to cement our legitimacy. We need to learn these facts and teach them to others.
On this Independence Day, many see the glass half empty. We have so
many challenges and obstacles to overcome. However, we should remember
our achievements. Intellectual property will become the greatest
resource of the 21st century, and Israel stands at the forefront of
innovation and technology. Its inventions and technological knowledge
are making the deserts bloom in Africa, saving millions of lives
through medical innovation, creating alternative energies and securing
the future of many people around the world.
We have continued
Herzl’s vision, even after our independence, and are dreaming of bigger
and better things. This is why we have a bright future, and we can make
it even brighter, not only for Israel, but for all the people who are
inspired, assisted and supported by Israel.The writer is deputy minister of foreign affairs.