All governments, except the US, a few African countries and tiny Polynesian nations, use Israel as a way to distract their people from issues at home. Israel provides catharsis for local problems.
By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
People often ignore the tremendous amount of good the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does for humanity. It provides endless hours of entertainment, a place to project one’s anger, a way to ignore problems at home and in so doing, it may actually save lives by preventing local conflicts through distracting people and encouraging them to focus their hate and emotions at a far off place they cannot change.People often view the world’s obsession with the conflict in one of two ways. Some believe the fact Israel is condemned yearly by the UN, that a special agency exists for the Palestinians that does not exist for any other group, that the death of one Palestinian is reported around the world, while the death of 100,000 Africans is routinely ignored, is evidence of modern anti-Semitism, especially by Europeans and Muslims. The organ theft allegations in newspapers in Sweden, the hate-filled comments of socialites such as Britain’s Jenny Tonge or America’s Helen Thomas seems to add evidence to this affect.However others allege that the obsession is due to a world that no longer tolerates the human rights violations that Israel metes out to its enemies. Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer claims that “moral people around the world see almost everything that happens in the region as a result of a deeply immoral situation that the Israeli leadership and... public is doing nothing whatsoever to change.” American commentators have noted that this is the reason some young American Jews feel they have little in common with Israel, it is not living up to their secular-progressive world view. So protests against Israel in Indonesia, South Korea, South Africa and Venezuela are all because these people are moral and they are speaking out against the one immoral state that exists; Israel.BUT THERE is another way to understand, for instance, how it is possible that so many South Koreans threatened to protest Shimon Peres’s visit in the wake of the Gaza flotilla, causing the government to downgrade the visit’s status? They didn’t do it because of morality. They didn’t do it because they are anti- Semites. They did it because it provides them comfort and distraction from the problems at hand. In March North Korea sank a South Korean ship, killing 46 sailors. War was in the air as South Korea struggled to find a way to retaliate.But consider how helpful it is that Koreans have an outlet for their anger: they can be angry about the deaths of nine “activists” on the Gaza flotilla and in channeling their anger they take pressure off the government to declare war and the situation will slowly subside. Thus thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of lives were saved in Korea because of the conflict in the Middle East.Most South Koreans have no idea what is going on in the Middle East; they have no interests there, they have never travelled there and they are not adherents of a religion that was born there. Yet they are angry about Israel. Nothing will come of their anger, they won’t come all the way here to express it. So they shout and scream and they actually aid their nation in that way. Everyday spent bashing Israel is a day they don’t call for war, a day they don’t worry about the economy, a day they aren’t angry about the corruption at Samsung or in the government.SOUTH KOREA is only a tiny piece of the puzzle. Consider how helpful it is to Europe that Europeans consider Israel the greatest threat to world peace and many think it is a new “Nazi” state. By projecting all their fear, anger and historical sins on Israel, they aid their national governments and the EU. Europe is, after all, sinking under a tide of immigrants and low birth rates, its suburbs turned into “no-go” zones for the police, its economies slowly dying. Were it not for Israel there might be riots against the government, but instead the riots can be channeled somewhere else.AdvertisementIt is especially helpful in keeping the immigrants in Europe angry about Israel rather than problems at home. The conflict also keeps angry football hooligan Europeans at bay, instead of destroying European cities they focus their anger on Israel, and the anti-globalization movement which once rioted and caused deaths in Europe now protests Israel. In Greece the economic problems, which led to deaths at the hands of rioters, have ceased, in part due to Greek participation in the Gaza flotilla.Turkey has real problems with the Kurds and there is a vicious antipathy between the ruling Islamists and secular nationalist opposition. On the same day that nine “activists” died on the Gaza flotilla, six Turkish soldiers were gunned down by Kurdish rebels. Yet Turks didn’t bury them in a mass ceremony or protest about that. Instead their attention was focused on Israel. Israel is good for Turkey; it saves the Turks from themselves and their own problems.Israel saves lives. The conflict saves lives. It saves governments from Venezuela to Malaysia. All governments, save the US, a few African countries and tiny Polynesian nations, use Israel as a way to distract their people from problems at home. Israel provides catharsis for local problems. It allows people to think they are moral “human rights activists” and it provides them a platform to project their anger in a way that doesn’t lead to people being hurt. It allows governments to smooth over homegrown crises.In this sense every Israeli, Arab and Jew alike, is a lifesaver.The actions of one IDF soldier, settler or Palestinian can save governments from Brazil to Ireland.The conflict is the greatest show on Earth.The writer is a PhD researcher at Hebrew University and a fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies.
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