I seem to remember-but cannot find-a line in a Monty Python sketch in which a professor is introduced as teaching Marxism, but only if he proves it wrong. That approach is used today against a wide range of other topics. Israel, when not outright criticized, often seems able to make an appearance if it is ‘dissed,’ let’s translate that as ‘put down,’ or at least seen through the lens of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Even a recent NY Times travel story on Tel Aviv includes snobbish asides. (The poet Alan Ginsberg once said he didn’t like Israel because it reminded him of Brooklyn, which might be on the minds of the trendy Manhattanites who usually write in elite publications.)
Let’s note that Israel’s economy is doing remarkably well. Morale is high even though everyone hates the government. There is good reason for both impulses though the former is newer than the latter (The humorist Ephraim Kishon said of his arrival shortly after Israel’s independence: As the ship approached the shore it became very hot and people started blaming the government for it.)
The Israeli business magazine Globes, July 23, reports that unemployment is at a 19-year low. The figure is 6.1 percent for May 2008. In comparison, the figure was 11.2 percent, almost double, in 2003.
Oh, yes, there’s also just been a record month for foreign tourism. And in typical Israeli fashion a newspaper headline explained that the terrific upturn might create a crisis due to a lack of hotel rooms.
Regarding media coverage, back around the time unemployment was highest, I put a U.S. newspaper under my arm, walked to the popular Shenkin street, zigzagged through the crowds, couldn’t find a seat in a café because all were taken, and finally got a place in my favorite café. I opened the newspaper and my eyes immediately fell on a headline explaining that Israelis were too afraid of terrorism to go outside.
Is Israel going to disappear? No, just the vacant hotel rooms and available seats in good cafes. Having a café hafuch (cappuccino) on a perfect Tel Aviv day, with high employment and lots of tourists, is the best revenge.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley).