Israel at 60: So vilified, yet so deserving of praise
The world should appreciate what it has accomplished.
As Israel celebrates 60 years of nationhood this Thursday, and looks ahead to the next 60 years, the world should appreciate what the Jewish state has accomplished.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Built on the ashes of the Holocaust, Israel's birth was followed by a massive attack from all sides by the surrounding Arab nations. Threatening another genocide, they managed to kill 1 percent of Israel's population, but Israel survived – and even thrived.
In the years since, the Jewish nation has turned deserts into gardens, swamps into orchards, sand dunes into cities. Lacking the natural resources of its neighbors, Israel made the best of what it had. It became a high-tech giant, specializing in life-saving medical technology. Indeed, it ranks second only to the United States in NASDAQ listings.
Faced with barren land, Israel has also developed agricultural technologies that maximize food production, and exported these life-saving and life-enhancing technologies to the rest of the world.
This young nation has also produced more art, literature, music, academic articles, and books than most countries triple its size. As Jeffrey Goldberg wrote in an otherwise critical article in The Atlantic:
"Israel is, by almost any measure, an astonishing success. It has a large, sophisticated, and growing economy ... the finest universities and medical centers in the Middle East; and a main city, Tel Aviv, that is a center of art, fashion, cuisine, and high culture spread along a beautiful Mediterranean beach. Israel has shown itself, with notable exceptions, to be adept at self-defense, and capable (albeit imperfectly) of protecting civil liberties during wartime.... Zionism may actually be the most successful national liberation movement of the 20th century."
Israel's Arab citizens, numbering 1.2 million, live longer, healthier lives, and have lower infant mortality, better educational opportunities, and more basic liberties than the Arab population of neighboring states.
Even in its efforts to defend itself from aggression – it was attacked by Arab states in 1948, 1967, and 1973 – Israel has exemplified restraint and high ethical standards.
Although Tel Aviv was bombed by the Egyptian Air Force in 1948, Jerusalem was rocketed by Jordan in 1967, and several Israeli cities were threatened by Syria in 1967, Israel never bombed Cairo, Amman, or Damascus. (It did attack terrorist bases in the suburbs of Beirut in 2006.)
In its efforts to protect against terrorists, it has also complied with a high standard of human rights, even while its enemies have targeted Israeli civilians while deliberately hiding behind human shields in densely populated civilian areas.
When I speak at university campuses, I issue the following challenge: Name a country, faced with comparable threats to its own citizens, that has ever tried harder to comply with the rule of law or human rights than Israel.