Are the Palestinians our enemies, or maybe only our adversaries? They've been trying to topple us from the 1920s, but we're still here, and doing a lot better than them.
Remember the UN declaration that Zionism is racism? It caught on with the international rabble, but didn't make a serious dent in Israel's development.
Israel's Ambassador to the UN at the time, Chaim Herzog, expressed the view that if the Arabs were likely to get a resolution, better that it be extremist than moderate. The more extreme, the easier to dispute. The more wild the bombast the more likely that moderate and decent people will support us, even if they are not entirely comfortable with all that we do.
Since then, more than a million immigrants came from the former Soviet Union, thousands from Ethiopia, and lesser numbers from just about everywhere. Detractors claim that Israelis are leaving, but during most years more are coming than leaving. People leave just about every country where it is possible. Estimates are that there are more than six million Americans living more or less permanently outside of the US.
According to data of the International Monetary Fund, Israel ranked #25 in Gross Domestic Product per capita in 2013, just behind the UK and Japan, and ahead of Italy, Spain, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia. In 1975, the year of the Zionism is racism resolution, Israel's GDP/c ranked #35, below Italy and considerably below Saudi Arabia.
Beginning in September we've heard daily predictions that the Palestinians were going to introduce a resolution to the UN Security Council giving them a state within two or fewer years, with everything over the 1967 lines, the removal of Jews from what becomes Palestine, and a capital in Jerusalem.
The most recent draft was ideally extreme, and got condemnation even from spokespeople of the Palestine-friendly Obama administration.
It finally arrived at the Security Council, but fell short of the minimum number of votes required for further discussion, without any of the powers having to cast a veto.
That's the fate of Palestinians in a nutshell. Bombast producing failure.
Now they are threatening to go back to the Security Council when its membership changes, and to bring charges against Israel in the International Court of Justice.
Even in Palestine-obsessed international organizations, there may not be a free lunch. Also in the air is the possibility of Israel bringing charges against not quite born Palestine in that international court.
No doubt Palestinian campaigns increase Jewish anxiety. The Palestinian campaign has been successful in producing resolutions from European parliaments, a wave of protests on American and European campuses that attract Jews looking for greater assurance of justice or fairness than they perceive in the Jewish establishment, however that amorphous entity is defined.
There have even been a few Jews fighting and dying in Syria and Iraq for the sake of the Islamic State. Pity their families, but don't lessen your animosity to the barbarism of the extremists the kids saw fit to join. At least some of them converted to Islam along the way. More pity. Jewish history is filled with rebels. Israel owes a good deal to the young East European Jews who rebelled against conventional Judaism and their families, made their way to Palestine, created kibbutzim, and then the modern state. Jesus and his followers also have a place among Jews who rebelled, but that's another story.
Campaigns to sanction Israel, especially focused on the settlements over the 1967 lines, remain the most serious threats. The most intense efforts come from Europe, which is Israel's most important export market.
European officials have demanded labeling of products from over the 1967 line, which hurts in terms of European taxes, prices, and the refusal of some stores to stock the products. However, the actions hurt Arabs more than Jews, via jobs lost in Israeli factories over the 1967 borders. Owners of the concerns, if forced to relocate, can move to Israel within the 1967 lines, further afield to Jordan or someplace else.
The campaigns on American campuses are more threatening to students and their parents than to Israel. Despite the participation of faculty and students who are Jews, the damage to other Jews comes from perceptions of anti-Semitism in class and social encounters, as well as a decline in the quality of what is taught on campuses that demand tuition payments off the charts compared to higher education elsewhere.
Israeli academics suffer from missed opportunities, but the damage is arguably less than what Americans suffer, especially those for whom being Jews is an important part of their identity.
There are parallels with Palestinian madness among those who consider themselves the most Jewish of Israelis. The Sephardi ultra-Orthodox party SHAS is tearing itself apart in competition for the memory of its revered founder, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Someone leaked a recording of Rabbi Ovadia telling family members some years ago that the prominent SHAS figure Ariyeh Deri--convicted and sentenced to prison for corruption while Interior Minister--was a thief and bad man. In response, Deri resigned as party leader, and from his seat in the Knesset. Following him, other SHAS MKs have resigned from the Knesset in a largely symbolic act. (The Knesset is near powerless in the period prior to an election).
Commentators are betting that all this is a way of recruiting mass support to return more or less the same group as a result of the March election. Rabbinical Sages of the party have urged Deri to stay on. His supporters, including another SHASnik who moved from a government position to prison, are accusing his rival, Eli Yishai, who left SHAS to form his own party, of blasphemy for using the revered Rabbi's words in a political struggle.
The extremism of SHAS appears in the reverence expressed toward Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, with each faction asserting support from a man dead more than a year. It's not conventionally Jewish, and is closer to how Christians treat the persona of Christ, and Muslims what is attributed to Muhammad.
There are other parallels between SHAS and the Palestinians.
Both are recently created. SHAS was the work of Rabbi Ovadia, claiming ancient roots but really something new, with a style of dress and other traits modeled after the more prestigious Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox. Rabbi Ovadia's roots were in Iraq. SHAS claims to bring together the Sephardim, but it is almost entirely North African, and especially Moroccan in its adherents. SHAS MKs tend to vote with those of the Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox Party, currently labeled Torah Judaism, but the communities are far from united. Extreme expressions of tensions are the practices of some Ashkenazi schools to refuse Sephardi students, with claims that it is not possible to rely on the knowledge, piety and adherence to commandments of their families.
The marginal status of the Sephardim among other ultra-Orthodox resembles that of Palestinians among other Arabs, i.e., good enough to use as a club against Israel, but not good enough for individual Palestinians to be granted citizenship in most Arab countries.
LIke the Palestinians, SHAS elevates an ideal of questionable value ahead of the material well being of its adherents.
Among Palestinians, primacy goes to political standing, claims of statehood, assertions against Israel, and the endless travels, high level meetings and proclamations by those claiming political leadership. Among the rabbis leading SHAS the prime values are veneration of Rabbi Ovadia and ultra-Orthodox education, as well as opposition to its young men being drafted to the IDF. They value a preoccupation with sacred texts ahead of teaching their young people what is necessary to do well in the workplace, integration in the larger society, and improving the living standards of families.
SHAS as well as Yisrael Beiteinu may go to that place in the political firmament occupied by the Palestinians and others who do not know how to play a decent hand.
A New Year is upon us. May it be a good one. Stay away from the edge. Extremism is at least as dangerous for its practitioners as for its targets.