My Word: A conflicting but interesting year

Looking back in anger – and pride – at 2010.

It was the year of the oxymoron.
“There are two sides to every story” goes the cliche. Wrong. Every story has multiple sides, or at least several angles.
Drawing up year-in-review-type stories is an occupational hazard for journalists.
In Israel, the passing of no civil or Jewish year goes unmarked, but the “hazards” are many: It’s impossible to cram into one readable article of reasonable length all the events in a country where the news changes, often dramatically, from hour to hour. And very often the different views are conflicting indeed.
Israel is a country of contradictions.
This year, even the weather proved the point. One day, firefighters were battling the lethal Carmel inferno which was exacerbated by the extreme drought; the next, torrential rains were causing the loss of archeological treasures as cliffs collapsed into the sea.
There are probably even conflicting opinions concerning what events merit a mention in an annual overview. Readers can vote for their favorite stories of the year on the Jerusalem Post website ( What follows is not meant to be a comprehensive review, but another look at some of the paradoxes and absurdities that featured in the outgoing year.
The paradoxical tone of the year was set early on, when the settlement freeze declared in January by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to further the “peace process” (an oxymoron in its own right) provided the main excuse for its failure.
No Israeli review would be complete without the Mabhouh assassination story. As we all know – because Dubai’s top cop became one of this year’s surprise media stars – Israel is considered to be behind the thriller-style, hotel-room murder of archterrorist Mahmoud al- Mabhouh in January.
The story also contained some of the greatest paradoxes.
If Mossad agents were so successful in penetrating the heart of an Arab emirate, carrying out their mission and returning safely, how come the operation was considered such a failure? If “friendly” nations expelled Israeli diplomats for misusing their passports (without being able to prove that the Mossad was behind the event), how friendly are they and just what do they mean by “the war on terrorism”? More poignantly, how can a country succeed in pulling off such a complicated mission in the distant Gulf state and still not manage to get Gilad Schalit out of Hamas captivity in Gaza? Schalit, incidentally, was the one person who managed to unite the country (by his prolonged absence).
One of the greatest contradictions of the year was the footage of the IDF naval commandos being attacked by ostensible “peace activists” during the Gaza flotilla affair at the end of May – and Israel being damned for having the nerve to shoot back.
Why the Mavi Marmara was allowed to get as far as it did, and why the government decided to send in the elite unit and hand a PR victory to Turkey and the pro-Hamas lobbyists, are other unfathomables of the year.
How the Gazans managed to open a shopping mall a month later and still claim they were starving is yet another story.
The red-green alliance between the Western radical left and Islamic extremists, too, is an ongoing paradox.
It was the year in which calls for boycotting Israeli universities were made in the name of academic freedom, and Jewish heritage sites (including the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb, dating from an era before Islam even existed) were declared “Palestinian.”
IN JERUSALEM, the Holyland residential complex became much more complex and significantly more unholy. The ugliest building in the capital was found to have been born in sin, kicking off a major corruption investigation.
The Emmanuel affair emphasized some nasty divisions, when the Beit Ya’acov school erected a physical barrier between girls of different religious streams (and for the most part different ethnic backgrounds); parents chose to go to jail rather than comply with a secular court decision; and the very term “educational” became ironic.
That Shas, the Sephardi party, did not speak out in this case, and throughout the year battled causes generally close to its electorate’s hearts, is yet another contradiction.
Unfortunately, religious issues were the cause of many rifts and absurdities.
(Take, for example, the conversion bill.) And the religious extremists who placed the importance of ancient (probably pagan) graves over the construction of a missile-proof emergency room at Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center deserve a special mention.
The nonstop shelling of the South during a year of peace is another sign of Israel’s unique circumstances.
Israel Beitenu’s proposal to impose a loyalty oath to a “Jewish democratic state” on only some of those seeking to live here was a bone of contention, as was the letter by the rabbis supporting a ban on selling and renting property to Arabs. Indeed, sadly, the phrase “Jewish democratic” country increasingly seemed to be a contradiction in terms.
And strangely, more and more foreign workers were given permits as efforts increased to prevent migrants from settling in the country.
It was a year of mounting (and brutal) crimes. So many children were killed by their parents – the very people who were meant to protect them – that I can’t mention them all. I can only wonder how it is that in a country where nosy neighbors are the norm and perfect strangers feel free to offer uncalledfor advice, nobody realized just how great a risk these children faced until it was too late.
IN THE GLOBAL village, nobody was unaffected by the major events of the year. Israel sent the first and bestequipped mobile hospital to Haiti following the earthquake in January (and was rewarded by both glowing reports and a blood libel that it was harvesting organs).
Special socks created by an Israeli inventor helped protect the feet of the Chilean miners in the real-live drama that turned into a reality show.
The Jewish Wedding of the Year – Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky – was only half Jewish.
The biggest media story of the year was WikiLeaks, which as the Post’s Herb Keinon noted, was more of a torrent than a leak. It gave a new meaning to the phrase “too much information.”
THERE WAS also good news. Israel found vast quantities of natural gas off its shores, but even that fueled a controversy: Who was to benefit – the entrepreneurs who invested in the dig or the average Israeli who might enjoy some of the wealth via the royalties? Israeli filmmakers continued to earn fame and awards, mainly with propeace movies paradoxically about wars.
Truth being stranger than fiction, although Iran’s Twitter Revolution of 2009 failed, this year its nuclear ambitions were delayed by a (possibly Israeli) computer worm.
And while countries like Ireland, Portugal, Greece and Spain suffered a financial near-meltdown, Israel weathered the global monetary storm reasonably well and even joined the prestigious OECD economic club. This was not an insignificant achievement at a time when the call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions mounted.
Medical developments were too numerous to mention; using scorpions to take the sting out of pain was one of my favorites. And the country’s hi-tech sector continued to produce gadget after gadget.
It will be interesting to see how many of this year’s technological wonders will be considered dated by the time we part from 2011.
The writer is editor of The International Jerusalem Post.
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