Feeling bad about Israel not helping Ukraine enough? Wish we’d throw an Iron Dome or two or some F-16-Is to Ukraine’s way? We could create a whole squadron of Ghosts of Kyiv, help a David against an evil Goliath, and garner some well-needed positive global press, while easing our Holocaust-seared collective conscience.
Of course, the Russians might suddenly start noticing our planes over Syrian skies. Nobody wants their boys showing up in body bags; not the Americans, the Russians, the Ukrainians, and certainly not us.
Although it is a Twilight Zone experience for Jews to be rooting for places like Babyn Yar and Khmelnytsky, we sit here glued to our phones, anxiously following every bombing, every tweet. We watch old videos of Zelensky dancing with Ukrainian stars or ‘playing’ the piano and fall more in love with him every day.
The conflict is a moral conundrum for us, but really an abstract one. Ukraine is so far away and despite Naftali Bennett’s latest efforts, we’re bit players, right? Well, actually no it isn’t and we aren’t.
Whatever our government decides Israel should do about the Russia-Ukraine conflict – and I fully appreciate that there are no good answers here – there could be other serious ramifications for Israel in this new world order.
One of the remarkable events that has emerged from this war is the extraordinary coordination of economic sanctions on Russia. The US, the EU, the G-20 (G-18 now?) and pretty much everyone with a conscience and a pulse has joined in lockstep to decimate the Russian economy. No need for boots on the ground anymore, we can do it all from our desktop.
Among other deserved punishments, Russia has been kicked out of SWIFT, lost access to several hundred billions of its foreign currency reserves and the ruble might now be best used as soon-to-be-scarce toilet paper.
Western multinationals, large and small, are walking away from their multi-billion dollar Russian investments in everything from oil fields and search engines to haute couture and airplanes. Russian oil hasn’t been sanctioned yet, but no one’s buying it anyway. Countries have turned on their force fields and airspaces are closed to Russian planes. Hell, even the Canadians are being rude to them!
Israel is not just cheering from the sidelines. We’re doing our part, with our scrappy, cutting edge cybersecurity companies repelling attack after attack by Russian cybermobs.
Just look at the beauty of financial warfare. No need to bomb the Moscow exchange. It has been closed for over a week, but foreign markets are elegantly annihilating billion-dollar Russian conglomerates through their foreign ADRs. Gazprom is now a penny stock and ETFs like RSX fell to 1/5 of their value in February and then shuttered. Analysts predict Russia’s GDP will contract 20%-30% or more. There is monetary blood in the Russian streets, but Rothschild’s proverb doesn’t seem to apply here.
Russians are hurting. Although the WSJ described a middle class more upset over empty IKEA shelves or canceled trips to the Maldives, Putin’s base is getting walloped. The masses are queuing up for essentials and the oligarchs can’t board their yachts. And then there are those body bags.
Even if Putin takes Kyiv in the end and declares victory, it will largely be a pyrrhic one. The economic damage is already done and a measure of justice has been meted out.
SO WHAT does Russia’s economic rout have to do with us? Maybe a lot. If you no longer need military invasions to bring a superpower to its knees, then everyone has something to fear. In the Russia-Ukraine case, good and bad are easy to pick out of a lineup. I’d imagine Taiwan doesn’t look so appetizing to President Xi Jinping these days. A 20% GDP contraction for 1.4 billion people, anyone?
But what if the bad guy isn’t so clearly bad, but people just don’t like him? Then look out Israel because the bells might be tolling for us next. Like it or not, we are the bad guys in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. That narrative ship has sailed a long time ago. No one remembers or cares that we’re surrounded by enemy states who’ve been trying to kill us since we got here. No one sees our attempts to strike a moral balance in an impossible situation. We have become the instigators, the apartheid regime, the evil axis. For your convenience, Mahmoud Abbas is already drawing the parallel.
No amount of anti-BDS legislation is going to erase the four years of anti-Israel indoctrination that is now a US college education. So when AOC or her 2.0 arrives, what will we do? When Israel is labeled apartheid not by The Squad but by a sitting US president, who’s going to stop us getting frozen out of the financial markets? What if the Fed starts screening Stanley Fischer’s calls? How will we pay Lockheed-Martin for parts? (Don’t bother wondering, they won’t be allowed to sell to us anyway.) China might just lock us out of our own ports.
Dismiss this scenario as ridiculous, but Ukraine has at least shown us that effective financial warfare is possible. If the world ultimately remains relatively insulated from the fallout of economic sanctions on Russia, we could be one misfired-bomb-over-a-Gazan-school-away from economic obliteration.
Riots in Sheikh Jarrah or terrorist attacks notwithstanding, some might think it’s easy not to have to deal with the Palestinian problem. Status quo is so much fun when you’re in charge. Now or any time in the previous, say, 12 years (Bibi Netanyahu who?) would’ve been a good time to find a solution to this conflict on our terms.
We should have been preemptively charting the best course of our own choosing in a sea of lousy choices. But someday, when the adoption of the false narrative is complete and the world clamors to teach us Jews a lesson, the status quo may well explode in our faces.
I’m not talking about the steep moral price we pay for ruling over another people. We didn’t ask for that and we’re doing what we have to do and sometimes with a side of what we shouldn’t do. The genesis or the unfairness of our situation just won’t matter. The absence of a working solution will result in an untenable one being shoved down our throats.
Don’t like it? Kiss our technology export markets goodbye, Ben-Gurion Airport goodbye, our shekel goodbye. Welcome to the pariah state.
We won’t be able to get out of it this time by peremptorily striking Egyptian jets in the Suez Canal, nor by rescuing hostages from a Ugandan airport. The Holocaust was a long time ago. And even if we win the cyber battle, we will still have lost the war. Right, Left, everyone, wake up! The financial armies are coming for us next.
The author is a content writer and editor for several websites, a literary researcher at Bar-Ilan University, and a former opinion and analysis editor at the financial website Seeking Alpha.