If life is a learning experience, the year just ending provided its fair share
of interesting lessons. One lesson being that life, indeed, is not
Like most years, 5770 was not so much a learning curve as a jagged
graph. When we were up, we balanced precariously, and when we were down we were
very down – humiliated like a schoolchild scolded by a teacher while the class
Ultimately, rather than being educated, the feeling is that the
world wanted to teach Israel a lesson in the most negative sense of the phrase.
And what stands out is the scorching memory of the embarrassment rather than the
point the teacher might have been trying to make.
That is why, as
Asa-El among others has noted, although the year
was not a bad one, it didn’t feel good. It was as if the sound of
scraping on an old-fashioned blackboard drowned out the positive buzz in
Strangely, in the name of human rights, 5770 was a study of
intolerance and double standards.
MOST OBVIOUSLY there was the Goldstone
Report on the winter 2008 Gaza campaign. This was not a “could try
of report. It read like an attempt to get Israel kicked out of school.
felt like the kid who’s been bullied and beaten and, when he finally
is sent by the teacher to the principal’s office.
Which other country
would be prepared to suffer 80 missiles a day before fighting back? And,
of blasting Israel, why didn’t the UN carry out its mandate to try to
the mini-war by reining in Hamas? Or at least condemn it for using the
population as human shields? Perhaps it was easier to deal with Israel
tackle the bully (especially when the thug is best friends with
Ask NATO soldiers about the problems of fighting terrorists who
deliberately choose to operate among innocent civilians. The scores of
accidental casualties in Afghanistan show that the problem is not
this particular area.
In fact, Israel should be careful about whom it
chooses to learn from. Despite the increasing efforts to portray it as a
society second only to South Africa of the apartheid era, it should be
that it was not this country that banned the burka. It was France. Nor
forbid minarets on mosques. That would be Switzerland. If we had even
voting on the matter in a public referendum, the international community
probably still be working out what sanctions to impose on us.
this country sometimes played into the hands of those who try to
in the school of hard knocks. And we failed to internalize what we
fighting a war in the age of Facebook and YouTube.
We got a gold star for
our work in Haiti, where we speedily erected the best-equipped mobile
the other rescue teams had ever seen. But our image was so bad that some
were willing to believe anything.
A British baroness, for example,
accused us of racing to the site of the disaster to harvest human
don’t need to have studied much history for the term “blood libel” to
mind.) Any positive PR from our efforts in Haiti was drowned out in the
wave created by the flotilla affair at the end of May. Nine Turkish
were killed when navy commandos intercepted the Mavi Marmara
, trying to break
the naval blockade on Gaza.
So many commissions of inquiry followed –
despite Israel’s release of footage showing the soldiers being attacked
boarded by the ostensible peace activists – that it became clear that
isn’t the only one who wants us permanently labeled as the problem
the world might notice that Iran is Turkey’s new best friend.
had a bad name when Mossad agents, using non-Israeli passports, were
believed to be behind the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai.
it was an Israeli operation (and, in effect, one which achieved its aim
getting rid of a terrorist mastermind), the rest of the civilized world
have been a little more supportive. The operation restored deterrence,
a good thing for any country involved in the war on terror. The
factor, however, was seriously undermined when, instead of quietly
through diplomatic channels, countries like Ireland, New Zealand and the
expelled Israeli officials – even without being able to prove just who
that “Do not disturb” sign on the hotel door.
ALTOGETHER, IT was a year
in which everyone wanted to tell Israel what it could do and where.
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu declared a construction freeze in Judea and
and called, several times, for “proximity talks” and a two-state
he was seriously scolded by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and
Barack Obama for the announcement by an Interior Ministry committee,
Biden’s visit, of approval to build homes in Jerusalem’s Ramat Shlomo
The Palestinian Authority, at the same time, decided the
best thing to do would be sit back and watch.
Well, not all the PA was
content to be spectators.
Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, considered by many
as the Palestinians’ great hope, joined in the jeering crowd and had his
taken throwing Israeli produce into a bonfire. Very
Meantime, Iran, the neighborhood thug, hovered just outside
the school gates and provided the school bullies with smuggled
Again the world warned Israel about fighting back.
was also trouble at home. A small number of ultra-Orthodox zealots
teach us about intolerance in the name of religion. And the decision to
several hundred illegal foreign workers drew fire.
There was ugly
politics (even within the army, it seems) and some shocking crimes.
it wasn’t all bad.
The economy remained strong and Israel was accepted
into the prestigious OECD. Israeli Ada Yonath won a Nobel Prize (for
achievements, not simply for showing promise like Obama).
It was a record
year for tourism, and some big-name artists including Leonard Cohen and
John refused to give in to the boycott calls.
Israel discovered gas off
the northern coast while dedicated environmentalists managed to torpedo
that would have spoiled the Palmahim beach in the South. A desalination
was inaugurated – a particular blessing in yet another drought year.
Holyland real-estate scandal cast a shadow as ugly as the Jerusalem
complex, but it seems that local planning authorities learned an
lesson from it.
We had successes in sports, the arts and the sciences.
And Masada didn’t fall: It was the stage for a spectacular production of
Nabucco. Thousands visited the revamped Israel Museum – not because they
bused there on school trips, but because they wanted to see it.
other countries could look and learn, after all.
Israelis continued to be
united in our desire to see the return of abducted soldier Gilad
if we bickered over the price being demanded by Hamas. Political
not (yet) manage to hijack the campaign for their own purposes. And I
to pray for closure for the families of all the MIAs.
Making an educated
guess, I’d say this year, too, will bring good memories mixed in with
ones. May we learn from the mistakes of others.The writer is the editor
The International Jerusalem Post.