September 7, 2010
Shame on Israelis for enjoying life!
The world will not leave Israel alone.
The usual beef against Israel is that, in its zeal to defend itself, it overplays its hand: An ugly separation fence; too many roadblocks; an unfair blockade; brutal retaliation against terrorist attacks; oppression of Palestinian Arabs, and so on. Recently, another beef against Israel has been that it’s losing its liberal soul, as pundits like Peter Beinart have so aggressively been trying to tell us.
Now, it looks as if the world is going after Israel because… it’s having too much fun.
Or making too much money.
In a cover story that is spreading like wildfire on the Internet, Time magazine comes down from the mountaintop to eagerly explain to the world, “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace.” Evidently, instead of “caring about peace,” Israel cares more about things like buying nice real estate, making money and having a really good time.
The nerve on these Israelis.
Now, before you rush to defend the magazine by telling me that the “story inside” is more nuanced than the provocative headline on the cover, let’s not forget a rule that all smart editors understand: People remember headlines, not “the story inside.”
And what an incendiary idea it is that people will take away: Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace.
Time could easily have said on its cover: Why Israel Has Forgotten About Peace, or Why Israel Has Stopped Believing in Peace, or even, Why Israel Has Chosen Life Over Peace, or even still, Why Israel Cares About Peace (But Not the Peace Process). Any of those would have done justice to a new reality of Israeli society that the story was trying to tap into.
This is the reality: Most Israelis have been so burned by previous attempts at peace—from a terror war that killed 1,000 Israelis after Israel’s peace offer at Camp David in 2000; to the terror wars that followed the evacuations of Lebanon and Gaza; to the PA’s refusal to even make a counter offer to Ehud Olmert’s generous offer two years ago—that they’ve tuned out to the “peace process” and have decided, instead, to live their lives.
And yes, I can tell you, after spending a month there this summer, Israelis know how to live their lives. They fill the cafes and restaurants late into the night. On a hot summer night in Tel Aviv, I saw hundreds of people having barbeques on the beach. Everywhere I went, I saw people living life with a vengeance.
Does this mean these people “don’t care about peace”? Of course not. What it means is that Israelis would rather worry about real life than fake peace. After 20 years of seeing their hopes for peace lead to one disappointment after another, why waste their time worrying about something they don’t think they can get?
Israelis remember well the trauma of the second intifada and the hundreds of suicide bombings that befell them. Without a peace process, like Time magazine reported, Israelis are now “observing 2 ½ years without a single suicide bombing on their territory,” and yes, they’re taking full advantage of this quiet to savor every moment of life.
Who can blame them? Who can begrudge them this human reaction?
And seriously, what new information has arisen in the past few years to give Israelis more reason to care about peace? The rise of a Hamas terrorist state in Gaza? A terrorist state that is viciously at odds with Israel’s official “peace partner,” the Palestinian Authority? Even a liberal peacenik like Peter Beinart is a major skeptic, as he writes in The Daily Beast:
“Given his lack of democratic legitimacy, it is delusional to imagine that Abbas can carry out the brutally painful concessions a final peace deal would require. And it is delusional to imagine that Hamas will permit the success of a peace process meant to further marginalize it; indeed, it has already greeted the start of direct talks with terrorist attacks.”
It is the peace process that Israelis don’t care much about, not peace itself.
Time magazine missed that key difference, but it did establish one crucial fact: Israelis love life. And in doing so, the magazine hoisted itself on its own petard, because it is undeniable that if you love life, you must love peace.
The fact that Israelis are not talking about peace at the moment means they don’t see it as attainable, so they’re focusing on things they can attain, like building a life and a country.
As far as peace itself goes, their message to Time magazine and the peace processors of the world is this: Give us something real—something more than another tease—and we’ll start paying attention.
But what a dull headline that would have been.