That Was The Week That Was was the title of a satirical programme on UK television in my youth, bringing a great deal of mirth and merriment to the British viewing public. As satire tends to be, it was irreverent and entertaining, helping to brighten the somewhat dull atmosphere of daily life there.
Life in Israel might at times be gloomy but it is never boring. The week that has just ended in Israel provided a veritable roller-coaster of emotions, starting with our entry winning the Eurovision Song Contest, followed by the celebration of Jerusalem Day, marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Six Day War, when Israel captured and regained that part of its ancient capital that had been barred to Jews in the nineteen years when it was held by Jordan. Hot on the heels of that event came the inauguration of the US embassy in Jerusalem, situated on land that has been part of Jewish Jerusalem since before the Six Day War. One wonders why so many people have managed to get so hot under the collar about one country recognizing another’s capital, or in other words, calling a spade a spade. As a sovereign country, it is Israel’s prerogative to determine where its capital should be. Throughout that period, and also for some weeks beforehand, the Palestinian population of the Gaza Strip had been holding supposedly non-violent demonstrations along the border fence with Israel.
The participants in those demonstrations, which were orchestrated by the Hamas organization whose avowed aim is to destroy Israel, were encouraged to break down the fence and enter Israel in order to wreak havoc, murder and mayhem there. Claims were made by some world leaders and especially in the foreign media to the effect that Israel had used disproportionate force in firing live ammunition at the demonstrators, whom it would be more accurate to call rioters. It brings no joy to learn that over sixty individuals lost their lives in those demonstrations, though later on Hamas acknowledged that the majority of them had been members of that organization.
The media outlets that I happened to encounter (BBC, Sky, CNN, France24) were quick to juxtapose the scenes of Palestinians milling about on the border with Israel and the rejoicing displayed by the dignitaries participating in the festive opening of the US embassy. Naturally, this kind of reporting cannot fail to present Israel in a negative light. Some reporters claimed erroneously that the demonstrations were a direct result of the opening of the US embassy, which was very far from the truth, as the demonstrations had been going on, as planned, for several weeks, after Friday prayers in the mosques. Other journalists hastened to point out that the root cause of the discontent was the ‘expulsion’ of Palestinians in 1948, when Israel was created. Needless to say, this was also a gross misrepresentation of the situation. In 1948 the Arab residents of what was then Palestine were encouraged to leave temporarily by their leaders to give the invading Arab armies a freer hand as they invaded the territory allocated by the UN to the nascent state of Israel. Their temporary departure and refugee status was perpetuated by the surrounding Arab states, while at the same time an almost equivalent number of Jews living in Arab countries were expelled from their homes, most of them finding refuge in Israel. Strangely enough, none of them are considered stateless refugees or housed in refugee camps in Israel today.
I have come across discussions on the internet that deny Israel’s right to exist, condemning it as colonialist, racist and adhering to a policy of apartheid. The thinking behind these exchanges seems to be an implacable hatred for Jews and their country, against which there seems to be very little that can be done. Denying Israel’s right to exist is simply one way of trying to deny reality and living in a fantasy world.
So Israelis continue to serve in their army, cultivate their land, develop their scientific, artistic and technical abilities, and hope that one day the Palestinians will come to the negotiating table so that a durable settlement can be reached. Until that day comes they will have to protect their borders from those who seek to breach them in order to destroy what they have built.