You couldn’t mistake the atmosphere that enveloped Independence Day this year: It was an atmosphere of satisfaction. The State of Israel sees itself as strong, flourishing and sustainable. Ninety percent of its Jews and about half of its non-Jews are proud to be Israelis. Most of them believe that the state of their state has improved in recent years. Most of them describe themselves as happy.
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It appears that over the past few years a rather subversive thought has been spreading through the country: It’s actually not so bad here. There’s actually a reason to be proud. Maybe Zionism hasn’t been a total failure, and maybe the Jewish state isn’t a total loss. Maybe there’s hope.
Five recent phenomena help explain this newfound satisfaction. The effective deterrence in the Gaza Strip and the unprecedented quiet in the West Bank have created the illusion that the Palestinian problem really isn’t much of a problem anymore. The new Middle East, which has temporarily sidelined the threat of war and the challenge of peace, has removed the Arab from our field of vision. Our new high-tech and gas-driven economy and its consistent growth assure many that Israel is on a horse galloping off into a horizon of prosperity.
Meanwhile, the new politics of Facebook and "brotherhood" has effected a change in the government and the Knesset. It has also sparked expectations among the bourgeoisie that the non-Zionist minorities will be controlled and that it will be possible to march Israel into a generally Zionist future. And the new Barack Obama, who conducted a riveting visit here, signed off on these new developments with a new gesture of love, promising Israelis that they are not alone.
But beyond all these developments, what best explains this optimistic mood is the invalidation of post-Zionism. Since the start of the 1990s, Israel was under heavy attack by the post-Zionists. For some 20 years they enjoyed the halo of being fashionable, of being at one with the times. For all that they claimed we were ugly, they were beautiful. For all that they claimed we were evil, they were good. For all that they portrayed us as South Africa, they portrayed themselves as Nelson Mandela.
The post-Zionists’ systematic attacks on the Jewish national home, on the Jewish national movement and against the Jewish people won them global acclaim. Their unconscious cooperation with anti-Semites, old and new, made them the darlings of international academia and the world media. Although their ideas made the rounds in only the narrowest of elite circles, they resonated spectacularly. Over the past decades the new post-Zionism hooked up with the old anti-Zionism and threatened to turn Zionism into an illegitimate movement and the Zionist enterprise into a pariah.
But when the national liberation movement of the Palestinian people became a movement of religious fascism that shaves the heads of freedom-seeking young people in Gaza, it became clear that something was wrong with the picture of reality that the post-Zionists were painting. When the Arab national movement slaughters 70,000 of its own people in Syria, it’s clear to any honest liberal that Israel is not the source of evil in the Middle East.
With Arab modernism collapsing and Arab secularism evaporating, Zionism suddenly looks like a shining star. Is there any comparison to be made between the inherent injustice of the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Fund and Hamas’ fanaticism and the Ba’ath party’s murderousness? Is there any similarity between the (intolerable) situation faced by the Arabs in Nazareth and that faced by the Arabs in Homs?
Americans, Europeans, Arabs and Israelis are now being exposed – whether they know it or not – to the enormous gap between the (human) dimensions of Israeli injustice and the (inhuman) intensity of the brutality that surrounds it. This gap has opened people’s eyes and explains some of the things we’ve had to do and the immense accomplishment we’ve achieved. It has made post-Zionism obsolete, explains the feeling of deep pride that we felt on Independence Day, and defines the challenge that we face in our 66th year.