Israel’s notoriety is double-edged

Israel is better off being at the center of attention than being Luxembourg.

The city of Luxembourg. (photo credit: REUTERS)
The city of Luxembourg.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel is always a hot button topic for Americans – never more so than during election season. The upcoming presidential election is no exception.
The countdown has begun – not to Election Day but as to how many times each candidate mentions Israel. Israeli media, Israeli leaders, American Jewish media and American Jewish leaders are all counting. And, like my bubbe, they are all asking the same question: “Which candidate and which party will be best for the Jews and for Israel? Every once in a while, someone is honest enough with themselves to ask me what is really on their mind. Not just who will be better, but also “why is Israel always in the center of these issues?” “Why can’t Israel be just like every other country?” Here’s my answer. Being the center of attention during US general elections and, for that matter, front and center in the news cycle throughout the year is a mixed blessing. While many people may see it as a negative to get so much attention, especially because so much of the attention is negative and focuses on Israel’s foibles, there is a positive side. Yes, the media and the candidates will lay blame and responsibility for many issues squarely on the broad shoulders of Israel, but that’s okay.
Israel is better off being at the center of attention than being Luxembourg.
Most people cannot tell you anything about Luxembourg. In fact, most people can’t even spell it properly on the first try. They certainly could not locate it on a map. And almost no one knows the capital of Luxembourg.
There is no dispute as to the capital of Luxembourg, it is Luxembourg City.
Luxembourg’s official languages are French, German and Luxembourgish, which is a variant of German. It’s not actually a dialect because thousands of words are actually French. Now that you have that information, unless you are one of the 574,219 people actually living in Luxembourg, do you even care? The average per capita GDP income is about $101,000 per year. Here, I think Israel would like to swap places.
Luxembourg has the highest per capita income in the world, even greater than Norway at $87,000 and Qatar at $73,000. Israel’s GDP per capita income is $34,000 per year and it is ranked 33rd in the world. The US comes in at number 10 with $54,000.
The essential point is to understand that Luxembourg is like The Mouse That Roared, that wonderfully entertaining, satirical political novel written by Leonard Wibberley in 1955.
In 1959 the novel was made into a movie starring Peter Sellers. The premise of the story is that a tiny European country invades the United States and actually ends up in control of the nuclear bomb. The smallest country in the world controls the most powerful weapon in the world. And no one cared.
Just like no one cares about Luxembourg.
People do care about Israel.
In the end the notoriety that Israel receives is a good thing. It helps in terms of production and sales exports and tourism. It allows for Israel to have a reputation far beyond its size and economic prowess. Of course, being a world player in biotech, computers, military prowess and technology is a huge boon. But if Israel were not in the news, no one would care about that.
The reputation that Israel has fostered is far greater than any other comparable country in the world. Israel is about the size of Belize or Ecuador, it is one third the size of Lake Michigan and Panama. In population ranking Israel is nestled right there with Papua New Guinea and Honduras.
But from all the attention it receives, all the press it receives, you’d never know its geographic size or its population.
Ask any American Joe and Jane and they will tell you that Israel is huge, a super power.
In many ways they are right. Israel is a super power – just in a tiny area and with a population of 8.5 million. Being in the center of things helps maintain that image and secure that reputation.
The author is a political commentator. He hosts the TV show Thinking Out Loud. Follow him on Twitter @Micah- Halpern.