The Region: Israel isn’t in danger of disappearing

Israel’s survival shows that democratic societies can fight and defeat dictators and totalitarian ideologies.

ROME – I’m standing on the edge of the Roman Forum, by the Arch of Titus.
This is the marble structure built by the Empire to commemorate the capture of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple about 1,941 years ago. Legionnaires are shown carrying off the Menorah and other items from the sanctuary. The inhabitants are sold into slavery, the Jews are finished.
Well, not really. Today, the great empire has long vanished and the Jewish people have not only survived, but by every social, economic and security standard Israel is flourishing.
In the late 1960s, Palestinian and Arab leaders were certain Israel would not survive.
That they were completely wrong has not prevented a whole new rash of contemporary speculations.
The PLO view, shared by virtually all Arabs at the time, was very clearly defined. The two main points boil down to the following: First, Israel would not survive because it had no real basis for existence. Second, the Arabs would destroy it using various strategies.As Yasser Arafat put it in 1968, terrorism would “create and maintain an atmosphere of strain and anxiety that will force the Zionists to realize that it is impossible for them to live in Israel.... The Israelis have one great fear, the fear of casualties....”
The PLO’s attacks would “prevent immigration and encourage emigration... to destroy tourism, to prevent immigrants becoming attached to the land, to weaken the Israeli economy and to divert the greater part of it to security requirements.”
This would “inevitably” prevent Israel’s consolidation and hasten its disintegration.
The final step would be “a quick blow by the regular armies at the right moment” to finish Israel off.
Didn’t quite work out that way. Immigrants flooded the country after the Soviet Union collapsed, and were successfully integrated.
People weren’t frightened into fleeing. Casualties were absorbed and limited. The country became economically successful and militarily victorious. As a result, today’s Israel is stronger – far stronger – than ever.
Israel has lost a great deal since its foundation, especially in terms of human lives. But the biggest losers have been the Arabs who wasted resources, suffered greater casualties, faced repeated humiliations and ended up with dictatorships and stagnant societies.
They will continue to be the biggest losers if they spend the next 60 years playing the same game.
FURTHERMORE, THE Arab states in 1948, 1967 and 1973 were relatively united, and with a superpower sponsor to boot. But they couldn’t destroy Israel. So how are they going to do so today, with Israel outpacing its neighbors on every index of social and economic development. Even with so much oil money having been spent, Arab societies haven’t really advanced. Just who has the advantage today? Remember what happened in 1948. True, all the Arab states invaded the new state of Israel. But they didn’t coordinate; they all sought to grab territory for themselves. With Iran and Turkey jostling for power and leadership today, the conflict and disorder has intensified.
Yet now there is a revival of the claim – sometimes among ill-informed well-wishers, more often among antagonistic haters – that Israel might not survive. This is based partly on wishful thinking, partly on ignorance.
Underlying these factors, however, is a basic disbelief that Jews are a people and can be a state.
This attitude reflects a lack of knowledge – often among Western Jews themselves – of Jewish history, as well as a naïve acceptance of anti-Israel propaganda, of claims that have proven to be false for decades.
The fact of the matter is that Israel’s existence is not in danger. It is Israel’s adversaries, and in some ways Western Europe, that are facing true existential danger.
Israel’s enemy neighbors and near-neighbors are poised on the brink of what could be a decades-long series of horrifying civil wars: Islamists against Arab nationalists; Sunni against Shi’ite; economic collapse; and much more. Syria is on the verge of a bloodbath; Egypt faces not some bright new economic dawn, but rather a terrible reckoning. At some point the oil will run out, with much of that wealth squandered. Recent discoveries even suggest that Israel itself will be a rising exporter of petroleum and natural gas.
Periodically, some radical Muslim writes that if only each Muslim would kill one Jew, Israel would vanish. High hopes are held for the nuclear weapons that Iran still doesn’t have. But such schemes never get off the ground. Indeed, it is Arab nationalism that is threatened with extinction under a wave of revolutionary Islamism. By leaving the path of pragmatism for that of doctrinaire Islamism, Turkey is likely to lose the success it enjoyed for so many decades.
There is not one regime in a Muslim-majority country that should feel confident about its future; not one such state whose continued existence can be taken for granted.
THERE ARE only two ways Israel could conceivably disappear. If Arabs and Muslims dropped radicalism, ideology and bickering and spent the next 50 years concentrating on technological and economic progress before turning on Israel, it could happen. However, such a focus on material development and moderate democracy would erode Arab and Muslim tempers to the point that they would no longer want to engage in such a foolish and futile life-and-death struggle, which is why the Islamists reject that approach.
In fact, quite the opposite is happening. It is radicalism, not pragmatic development strategy that is in control.
Ironically, the other way Israel could find itself wiped off the map is if its leaders were to heed the advice they’re getting from the West, and those stubborn, stiff-necked people aren’t about to doom themselves by implementing the mistaken ideas of the Western media, experts, intellectuals and governments who claim such policies are the road to safety.
Part of the problem here is that all too many Western intellectuals no longer believe in patriotism, nationalism or religion, or even in the very idea of the nation-state, let alone in fighting – or even sacrificing – for one’s country.
Many Arabs’ and Muslims’ belief that Israel must cease to exist stems from contempt for Jews and the conviction that their own nations and religion are inherently superior. Many Westerners, on the other hand, believe that Israel must cease to exist because all countries, including their own, must cease to exist; that the national model is unviable.
With regard to Israel, these opposing arguments amount to the same thing, and reveal more about those espousing them than about Israel.
When a European cabinet minister says his country has no distinct culture and another urges the locals to be nice to Muslims so they will reciprocate after they take over; when a European country’s counter-intelligence chief tells me his country has no future, and a quartet of professors from another remark to me over cocktails that they believe their country is finished, is it Israel that is in danger of collapse? Who’s really staring into the abyss? All of which doesn’t mean Europe’s existing states and societies are about to be actually destroyed – but they’re more likely to go than Israel is. You want to talk about demographic threats? Overall, the majority of Europeans are having children at half the rate needed for mere replacement of the existing native population.
Yet all of this also shows why Israel is the key to understanding today’s world. Israel’s survival shows that democratic societies can fight and defeat dictators and totalitarian ideologies, Western religions do have a continuing place in Western societies and nation-states are still a viable – perhaps the most viable – way to organize many political structures.
That’s precisely why so many are working so hard to demonize and discredit Israel. If people in the West understand what Israel is and what it is doing, they will comprehend the value of those approaches and values. If they understand how Israel is lied about and mistreated they will comprehend much wider problems with the people, ideas and institutions governing their own lives today.
The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA).