and Presenting Facts About Israel
society: resilience, dignity and democracy
- insights from columnist Hirsh Goodman
Published - 25 April 2004
Beyond Images Ref: 87
|Below we reprint key extracts from an article by Israeli
columnist Hirsh Goodman to mark Israel’s 56th anniversary,
in which he highlights the resilience of the Israeli people,
the preservation of Israel’s democracy in the face
of terror, and the dignity with which Israeli society is
facing its current challenges. The article, entitled ‘Happy
Independence Day, Despite It All’ was published
in the Jerusalem Report magazine (dated 3 May 2004)
“… looking at Israel is like going to an exhibition
of expressionistic painters. If you look too close, all you
see are the daubs of paint. Take a few steps back and you see
the picture – and that is what Israel deserves, from its
lovers and critics alike, as it turns 56.
If you look at the big picture, what has been achieved is truly
amazing: the country’s resilience and ability to adapt,
to fight a war and keep functioning – schools open, banks
operating, the unions striking. It continues to absorb those
refugees and others who choose to come, keeps the streets clean,
has its institutions of higher learning turning out world-class
scholars in almost every field and is fighting its economic
problems in what seems to be a successful way.
And, perhaps most importantly, despite all the pressures to
the contrary, the country continues to operate as a democracy,
a society based on law and order with a free press and freedom
of religion. Those who claim there is discrimination in Israel
are probably right, but it’s not institutionalized other
than in budgetary terms, and at least whoever feels they’re
getting the short end of the stick can say what they like in
the Knesset, as the Arab members and those representing the
ultra-orthodox demonstrate each and every day.
It’s not that all is great over here, but overall, considering
that Israel at 56 is a work in progress that has to still sort
out fundamental questions, I would say that the glass is more
than half-full. We do not seem to be able to come to terms with
rational Palestinians at this point, so we’re consolidating.
The fence is one aspect of that, the withdrawal from Gaza and
parts of the West Bank is another. The unilateral withdrawal
issue is contentious, as is the question of where the fence
will go, but the mechanisms for resolving these disputes democratically
are in place and in the end it is the will of the people that
What is worthy of praise this Independence Day is that Israel
has finally matured to the point where it will not let its enemies
dictate its agenda, and that Israel now understands that in
order to survive demographically it must take its destiny into
its own hands, which is exactly what it is doing. Yasser Arafat
can prattle on about the Palestinian women’s wombs being
his people’s most effective weapon for as long as he likes.
If Israel soon withdraws from Gaza, they’ll have a lot
more birthing to do to become effective again.
I feel very optimistic this Independence Day despite the knowledge
that the security service has some 50 “hot warnings”
on suicide bombers trying to get into Israel as I write. There
is something about the way and the dignity with which Israel
has responded to the challenges of the last three years that
makes me proud. Society has come together. The immigrants from
the former Soviet Union and the ultra-orthodox have become more
part of the mainstream. The country has functioned admirably.
And no matter what the criticism abroad, it has behaved with
integrity and decency under the most difficult of challenges.
Happy Birthday Israel, and don’t let this or that detract
from the overall greatness of the achievements made to date.”
|Our comments: Many
commentators depict Israel as living in fear, as though
Palestinian violence had accomplished something. Goodman
suggests that this is false, and instead highlights Israel’s
underlying strength. Israel’s democratic system (which
continues to protect the rights of Israeli Arabs) and the
resilience of its society are the foundations for an eventual
peace agreement, and for a more secure and happy future.