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Thursday, January 11, 2007

What sort of country is Israel?

Back in January of 2003, Prime Minister Tony Blair was addressing a gathering of British Ambassadors in London when his remarks turned to the topic of global anti-Americanism and why he felt the UK should remain a close - perhaps the closest - ally of the United states.

In the course of those remarks he said:

"For all their faults, and all nations have them, the US are a force for good; they have liberal and democratic traditions of which any nation can be proud."

I couldn't help but think to myself that the very same things would hold true if one were to substitute 'Israel' for 'the US' in that sentence. 

Now, Israel certainly has its fair share of warts that deserve analysis and criticism (if not from without, then certainly from within), but Israeli society has freedoms and western traditions that can only be considered to be in the best 'liberal and democratic traditions'... not to mention 'a force for good' in the region and among the nations.

However that wasn't the part of Blair's speech that really made me sit up and take notice.  No, the real money line was:

"I sometimes think it is a good rule of thumb to ask of a country: are people trying to get into it or out of it? It's not a bad guide to what sort of country it is."

While I'm certainly no fan of the 'separation/security fence' that has been the focus of such external scorn and internal agitation, PM Blair's remarks made me think of Robert Frost's famous Poem 'Mending Walls' in which he wrote:

"Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out"

While the Israeli government likes to maintain the charade that it is indeed a 'separation' fence, intended to keep two populations from antagonizing one another, the obvious truth is that Israelis aren't struggling to get out and mingle with the Palestinians... the Palestinians are trying - for a wide range of benign and malignant reasons - to get in.

So I ask a simple question: If Israel is indeed the evil spawn of the 'great satan' and so unworthy of even the most basic recognition among the family of nations ... can someone please tell me why so many of our neighbors are quite literally dying to get in?


Posted by David Bogner on January 11, 2007 | Permalink


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Since I spend much of my day reading analyses of Israel's political warts written by scathingly sharp-tongued Israelis, it is refreshing to start the day with a reminder that it IS one of the finest countries on the planet. As is the US. Thank you.

Posted by: rutimizrachi | Jan 11, 2007 1:05:43 PM

Well, you're preaching to the Pope, as we say here (did you notice what i just did here? Considering I hate the Pope and we're both Jewish, isn't it clever? Exceedingly.). I for one don't need convincing but I could bet that question could bring forth many a stupid answer, should the right trolls come along. Almost wish they would.

Posted by: Lioness | Jan 11, 2007 1:47:00 PM

Oh oh, your site loves me again! *snoopy dance*

Posted by: Lioness | Jan 11, 2007 1:47:49 PM

A college roommate of mine, if i remember correctly, once wrote an English paper justifying an interpretation where that "Mending Walls" poem is actually all about Football.

Posted by: Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) | Jan 11, 2007 2:18:50 PM

Every time we would drive past a cemetery, my father would used to say "People are dying to get in there..."

But more seriously. First of all, there's a Snopes article which shows that Blair wasn't the first to make this point:


Secondly, there's even a bigger issue that I don't understand. Everyone seems to want to give the Palestinians their own state. That would seem to indicate "independence". But why do they give such a hard time whenever there's a hint that they'll need to work in that state and not ours?

Posted by: Dave (Balashon) | Jan 11, 2007 2:19:07 PM

Hi Trep I've enjoyed your blog for a long time (even commenting once or twice), despite (because of?) our sometimes differing politics. I noticed a large new link at the bottom of your blogroll to www.no-libs.com/ and am starting to feel a little unwanted. Should I be worried? One of the things I like about you is your refusal to play partisan games of knee-jerk snark and polarizing. You write thoughtfully and seem to be okay with folks you disagree with. When I clicked on that link I encountered the complete opposite. What's your thoughts?

Posted by: Alan | Jan 11, 2007 8:22:17 PM

Because if they can't beat Israel on the battle field, then they'll beat Israel in the maternity ward. If the Arab population outnumbers the Jewish population in the next generation or the generation after that, then Israel will have a real problem remaining both a democratic state and a Jewish one. It will have to choose. And if it chooses to be a Jewish state over a democratic one, the charges of "apartheid" will finally be accurate.

Posted by: Fern | Jan 11, 2007 9:23:52 PM

After reading your recent blog entry I still find it a pity you didn't answer my email. You could at least have insulted me or something like that.

As I kept my mouth shut about this strange Dresden Option entry, I dare to repeat my opinion here:

As long as Jews are "fighting antisemitism" in the nations of the world instead of following the words of Herzl (showing what Jews are capable of) the nations of the world will not care for the fate of Israel. Hatred will always produce hatred.

Posted by: Chris | Jan 11, 2007 10:57:15 PM

That's a very good question... which unfortunately will be ignored or somehow twisted by all the usual suspects (meaning, whatever parties uniterested in actually answering it).

Posted by: Irina | Jan 12, 2007 12:35:09 AM

can someone please tell me why so many of our neighbors are quite literally dying to get in?

For the food.

Posted by: Jack | Jan 12, 2007 1:45:47 AM


New Video Appears to Show Body of Saddam After Hanging

Posted by: zaza | Jan 12, 2007 8:05:52 AM

When I was taking a postcolonial literature class in college, the question came up, isn't it hypocritical that English professors live in and are paid by Western countries, while at the same time denouncing them as evil and imperialistic?

The answer was some rationalization along the lines of "using the master's tools to destroy the master's house."

Perhaps the Palestinians have similar thoughts.

Posted by: Shlomo | Jan 12, 2007 10:52:23 AM

One more thing:
Europeans who come back from a journey to Israel are normally amazed (and surprised) by the beauty of your country and the friendliness of the people and deplore that you can't live in peace. They do not combine you with the Great Satan.

Posted by: Chris | Jan 12, 2007 12:55:34 PM

when we can go to their restaurants...and to their malls...and to their hospitals...and walk the streets of their cities safely, then maybe i won't hate seeing them in mine...oh, and i hate them for teaching me to hate them...shabbat shalom trepp

Posted by: marallyn | Jan 12, 2007 2:56:45 PM

Lioness: Don't hate the Pope, even if he does look disturbingly like Evil Emperor Palpatine in the Star Wars saga. I am sure that's merely a coincidence. Well -- pretty sure.

Here in Californy, we've decided just to erase the border and see what happens, kind of as a sociological West Coast experiment. It's been sort of like hooking up a high-pressure vessel to a vacuum and opening a valve.

Very educational.

I've already figured out that 3rd World + 1st World = ... well, 2.5th World, by my calculations.

Adios para ahora!

Posted by: Wrymouth | Jan 13, 2007 4:41:04 AM

Very nice, Trep. It's easy to go cross-eyed studying our own blemishes. As a very smart dermatologist's nurse once said to a friend -- "get a lower-magnification mirror. Stop going pore by pore."

Can I echo Balashon -- your civility is so refreshing in an era when it sometimes seems we all want to take the Shia-Sunni conflict for our political role model, and focus on our differences without regard for the larger commonalities.

Posted by: Pam | Jan 13, 2007 9:03:59 AM

My apologies if I extrapolate a bit beyond the point of your post, but it occurs to me that "the world" (i.e., "the goy" of Psalm 2:1) perversely hates everything that sheds light on its own sins. C.S. Lewis (if I remember correctly) wrote somewhere that Europe hates the Jews, not so much for anything the Jews have done, but because the Jews' mere existence accuses Europe of its mistreatment of them.

Today both Israel and America are universally reviled by the world, not - I would argue - for what we have done, but for what we represent: America as the great emblem of freedom and Israel as history's exemplar of truth. (Note: Though America still bears the stripes of its former slaves and Israel the blood of its prophets, yet God's appointment remains.) Still, in spite of (or perhaps because of) the world's anymosity, we find the world's refugees clamoring for admission.

Your statement "If Israel is indeed the evil spawn of the 'great satan'..." drips thick with sarcasm, but its irony is at risk of being lost. Please allow me to add further that (far from Israel being America's spawn) it is America who is the legatee of Israel. The writings of America's founders (filled with homage to the God of Israel) are penned in ink that is bearly dry in comparison to the stone tablets from which those parchments sprang.

Posted by: Bob | Jan 13, 2007 9:27:00 PM

To boil it down, Bob: Israel is the Great Satan!

Yee-haw -- now we Amuricans, as the Little Satan, are off the hook!


Posted by: wrymouth | Jan 13, 2007 11:50:39 PM

To boil it down, Bob: Israel is the Great Satan!

Yee-haw -- now we Amuricans, as the Little Satan, are off the hook!


Posted by: wrymouth | Jan 13, 2007 11:50:57 PM

Urgh. Wasn't Moses chastised by G-d for hitting the "Post" button too many times? Now I know how he feels.

Posted by: wrymouth | Jan 13, 2007 11:52:53 PM

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