Howard Epstein




What is it about Israel that produces timeless vicsceral antipathy? Could it be just good old fashioned anti-Semitism at work? Is it the fact that many of the countries that condemned Trump’s acknowledgement of the truth about the capital of Israel (that are not Moslem) have large Moslem electorates whose voting patterns could spoil the personal ambitions of politicians? Might it be that the Jews insist on the punching above their weight wherever they are to be found? Such chutzpah!

Our detractors don’t know the half of it. And why? There are none so blind as those who do not wish to see.

In an article in the Times (of London) this weekend, there was great rejoicing that the British economy is holding its own against that of Germany. Apparently their GDP growth rates are now neck and neck. But at a mere 1.9%? This required some examination — so I examined it. The bulk of the table below comes from the Times article. The figures on Israel were not mentioned by the Times. Too shaming? Not on their radar? Fortunately, the cause is likely to have been the latter otherwise the former would have been clear to the G7 nations, supposedly the most advanced economies in the world.

As we see, Italy has been in recession over the six years 2011/6, America performed the best but none can hold a candle to the performance of the Israeli economy — whose figures run at about 2.7 times the average of the G7 countries. How much greater might the widespread resentment of Israel (aged almost 70) in Europe be, were they to realise that the Jews can do capitalism a lot more successfully than they,  they who have been developing and refining it for centuries? Let us not worry. They are much more focussed on looking for bad news emanating from what used to be Palestine — run by the British for 30 years from its natural capital, Jerusalem — than the good.

In any event, dependence on mantras like “the settlements are the source of all the evil in the Middle East” (echoes there of “Die Juden sind unser Ungluck!” — the Jews are our misfortune, as the Nazis had it) are so much easier to handle than substantive history. For that they would have to read, and inwardly digest, something telling.

Try this for size. Writing in the Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2018, Wolfgang G. Schwanitz reported that:

on August 12, 1918, Grand Vizier Talaat Pasha, Djemal’s co-triumvir, issued an official declaration in the name of the Ottoman government abolishing [these] restrictions and expressing sympathy “for the establishment of a religious and national Jewish center in Palestine by well-organized immigration and colonization.” Though issued far too late to have any concrete effect—nearly half a year after the British conquest of Palestine and some eighty days  before the Ottoman surrender—the significance of the declaration cannot be overstated. Here was the world’s foremost Muslim power mirroring the British government’s recognition (in the November 1917 Balfour Declaration) of the Jewish right to national revival in Palestine, something that many Muslim states refuse to acknowledge to date.

When Erdogan throws his weight around, affecting to revivify Ottoman domination, either he does not know the history of the woebegone empire that subjugated so many for so long, or he hopes nobody else does.

In the meantime, though the Palestinian leadership will feel energised by the support of the whole world — apart from the 35 countries that abstained (5 of which are EU members) and the 21 delegations who absented themselves (128 sought to invalidate the sovereign decision of the USA to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital) another segment of Arab society was conspicuous by  its silence: Israeli Arabs. There is a good reason for this: they see the mayhem in the surrounding countries, they know that their close cousins in Arab states and failed states fear the midnight knock on the door as much as they do unemployment, and they appreciate that in Israel they are living in a country of integrity, order and opportunity that is unlikely to be replicated around these parts for at least a generation — and maybe never. (Indeed, 55% of Arab Israelis are proud to be Israeli.)

The news (yet, as we shall, see it is not new) that should go forth in this season of merriment is that (whilst the Palestinians sulk over Trump) Israeli Arabs have a real and important involvement in Israeli life. To say they are everywhere involved is to recognise their quiet and dignified contribution, alongside their Jewish co-workers, or customers, or patients, in very many (if not the majority of, or all) fields of activity — yes, even  security. The only regret that Jewish Israelis have about the omnipresence of the local Arabs is that the world accords us no brownie points for this state of affairs, preferring to believe that our Arabs are discriminated against, put upon and the victims of a Jewish-imposed apartheid — when the truth is the diametric opposite.

As indicated, this is not new. That the local Arabs are loyal and hard-working, and part of the development of this remarkably successful country, comes from a long-standing tradition of peaceful co-existence. The Ottoman “Balfour” Declaration showed that the phenomenon of Arab hating Jew is not inevitable.

When Chaim Weizmann came to Palestine in 1918, just after the granting of the Balfour Declaration itself, with the official British Zionist Commission which he led, he was quick to try to form ties with the Arabs. He undertook a journey of a week to a campsite 40 kilometres east of the Rose Red City of Petra, not for sight-seeing but to meet with Emir Feisal, the putative King of  Syria. They readily agreed that Jew and Arab should co-exist in Southern Syria — which is what Palestine was in the long years of its repression by the Ottoman Empire — and the following January they signed a pact to that effect in London (the first such treaty, the next being the Begin-Sadat treaty of 1979).

Next, at the Paris Peace conference in January 1919, the Syrian representative (Feisal’s man), Chekri Ganem, spoke thus:

Palestine is incontestably the Southern portion of our country. The Zionists claim it. We have suffered too much from sufferings resembling theirs, not to throw open wide to them the doors of Palestine. All those among them who are oppressed in certain retrograde countries are welcome. Let them settle in Palestine, but in an autonomous Palestine, connected with Syria by the sole bond of federation. Will not a Palestine enjoying wide internal autonomy be for them a sufficient guarantee?

If they form the majority there, they will be the rulers. If they are in the minority, they will be represented in the government in proportion to their numbers.

It was not to be. Feisal was thwarted in his aims by the French, who threw him out of Damascus. But it illustrates that there is no hard and fast rule that there should always be enmity between Arabs and Jews/Israelis. There are several million in, and regarding the hell-hole of, what used to be Syria, who know that Arabs inflict far more harm on Arabs that do Israelis. We are now waiting for that reality to dawn at the UN.

In 1925, Weizmann’s greatest ambition that far was realised when Lord Balfour (as he had become) made the main speech at the inauguration of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem — Weizmann’s project. He had laid the foundation stones seven years earlier (shortly after the  meeting with Feisal) in the presence of many excited people, many of them local Arab leaders. Dignitaries and academics from all over the world attended the inauguration. The Arabs were, again, well-represented. Today, all Israeli universities have large Arab constituents (and note that all the 18 places of tertiary education in Judaea and Samaria were formed after — there were none before — the Six Day War of 1967.) Again, constructive coexistence is part of a long-standing tradition.

This, and the success of the Israeli economy, would — if they knew it — be wholly unpalatable to the peace-loving nations of the world who fetch up at the UN, not merely for junkets in the Big Apple but for the much more important task of obsessing about that reprobate nation, Israel. No matter that almost all of them — we can exclude those of the Americas, Europe and Scandinavia and be fairly confident about the remaining 100 or so other countries — oppress their own people, and especially their minorities, such as gays, Christians or those who have the temerity to seek to exercise free speech. Very few of them make any contribution to the sum of human happiness or progress.

Compare that with Israel, and the benefits it bestows on humanity in the many fields too numerous to list here, and you will realise that if they ever stop hating us blindly without reason,  believing us to be as weak as were in in the Heim, they will hate us for being more successful that we have any right to be — ie more than them — thus continuing another long tradition: hating Jews because they are perceived as strong. It was for that reason that millions of copies were sold of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Good luck with 2018. With national fragmentation and polarisation rife; North Korea, Russia and China unchecked – except in policy statements; and death by narcotics ravaging the US and parts of the UK (almost certainly as precursors for the whole of the West) and something close to economic stagnation in Europe, you are going to need it.

© Howard Epstein – December 2017

The author’s book, Israel at Seventy: In Weizmann’s Image is available now from Amazon in paperback or as a Kindle e-book

As Israel reaches its seventieth birthday, it is timely to consider the story of its indispensable founder, Chaim Weizmann. Statesman and scientist, it was Weizmann who saved the British Empire from defeat in World War I, kindled the hope for the return of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland, after an absence of 2,000 years, and was then instrumental in securing what was needed to establish the State of Israel and its future as a technological powerhouse. Weizmann may be said to be the world’s first 20th century – even 21st century – man. If any aspects of modern life became supremely important last century, and remain so in this, they are science & technology and networking. Weizmann’s chemistry, both in the laboratory and with a wide-range of key people, led to his four great political coups, each essential to the emergence of the State of Israel. In addition, he pulled off three crucial educational feats that secured Israel’s future and ensured its success – in his image. In the case of the political achievements, only Weizmann could have wrought them. In the case of the others, only he did. Despite these signature successes, today little is known of him and what he achieved. Why this should be so is revealed in a tale of rivalry between two political giants: Weizmann, the greater talent, but the older, and his nemesis, David Ben-Gurion.

Amazon USA – Paperback

Amazon USA – Kindle E-Book keywords=israel+at+70

Amazon UK – Paperback

Amazon UK – Kindle E-Book


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