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Eureka: Israeli foreign policy paper
by Jay Gutman
2018-02-18 11:37:07
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In this paper, I will focus on two aspects of Israeli foreign policy: image and security. 

Now regarding image, having spent my entire life educated in European, Middle Eastern and Asian institutions, here's what the curriculum has for the Jewish people and Israel on one foot:

islfor1_400The Jews were the chosen people of God and set up a Kingdom in Israel which is narrated in the Bible. Then they were disobedient and were punished by being exiled. They then scattered around Europe and the Middle East became usurers and became very rich, then they ruined the German economy because they controlled the banks and were responsible for the German economic crisis of the 1920s which led to the rise of the Nazis and the Holocaust, then they started using the Holocaust for gainful purposes and stole Palestian land and today they are very rich and control banking, politics, the media and entertainment and they will shout you down if you dare criticize them. And of course you have to be Jewish to be a famous comedian.

I'm sketching but that's pretty much what you learn in Eastern and Western history textbooks. Now when I was in Korea studying at the Academy of Korean studies, we were actually paid money to go on a fact-finding mission to see what was being said about Korea in the average textbook. One thing I would say and no one would listen to me was the Korea was shining by its absence in foreign history textbooks. You had the Korean war, which was taught in the context of the Cold War, the Japanese invasion which was taught in the context of the events leading up to World War II, and perhaps the occasional mention of Korea in the context of Chinese history.

Now Israel does suffer from an image problem around the world, because what I describe above is often what's on most people's minds when mentioning Israel, including on the minds of some diaspora Jews. This view of history often puts Israelis at a disadvantage when dealing with foreign dignitaries because the view is often distorted and the implications are often not what they should be. So here are a couple of things that can be done to take care of this image problem.

First, Jewish history on one foot. Geologists claim that a volcano on the Greek islands spread ash across the Mediterranean circa 1,200 BC and led to famines and plagues around the Mediterranean, including in Egypt where the Hebrews resided, prompting an exile East to the promised land where it was said that milk and honey flowed. The Hebrews eventually organized around a Kingdom where they built a temple and codified religious life, which was the first known monotheistic religion at the time. The Kingdom was surely small because every year the Hebrews would go to the temple in Jerusalem and make offerings on the Passover festival. The temple was eventually destroyed in the Babylonian invastion of 586 BC leading a first exile to Babylonia. The temple was then rebuilt but the Romans invaded in 70 AD and the Jews were completely exiled. The Jews then lived in states where the main religions were mainly first polytheism, then Islam and Christianity and were mainly craftsmen, there were some farmers, and there a handful of bankers as well. Then there were the Crusades, then the plagues, prompting many Jews to move to Eastern Europe. Back then Jews had autonomy when it came to legal affairs and were allowed to have their own Rabbinical courts and were often not subject to local law, which was common at the time for minorities. Then modern times came and people had identity cards and legal systems were standardized, meaning that the Jews were no longer subject to their own law.

They often assimilated and even started intermarrying with non-Jewish people, which was kind of illegal in the old days. In modern times there sprang the idea of creating a Jewish homeland, and Jews started moving to Israel which was part of the Ottoman empire. A first wave of immigrants moved in the 1880s, then in the 1920s and 1930s. In the meantime the Ottoman empire lost World War I and Israel became a British mandate. Perscution was common throughout history, some kings or rulers did not mind the presence of Jews, others resented the presence of Jews and either forced them to exile or organized murderous campaigs against them. The Germans lost World War I and had to pay reprations, causing the country to experience hyperinflation between 1921 and 1923, but by 1923 the hyperinflation was controlled. 10 years later the Nazis were elected and put the Jews in concentration and exterimination camps. When the camps were liberated, it was not wake up and smell the roses for the survivors, survivors were in transit camps and had no clear future or fate in sight. Some wanted survivors in transit camps to go back to their original countries, the United States did not want to welcome a large influx of Jewish immigrants, and the British who controlled Israel did not want such a large number of Jews to enter the country. Eventually a lot of them were smuggled to Israel, the British who had suffered economic losses during the war gave up their colonies including India and Israel. Israel declared independece, fought a war with the Arab states and the word “Palestinian state” only started being widely used in 1968. The per capita GDP in Israel is about 37,000 dollars a year today which is not bad, and a lot of today's Jews are middle class people, with some working class and a happy few enjoying the high life. And you don't need to be Jewish to be a famous comedian.

My point is if the Koreans started a movement to review history textbooks around the world, there's no reason Israel shouldn't review the historiography around Judaism and the State of Israel. The reason I'm suggesting this is because Jews were the largest and most visible minority is Europe and the Middle East, in some cases, as in Baghdad, Jews outnumbered Sunnis, Shias and Chaldeans until the 1950s. So we need to do better than “the Jews were usurers.” As for the history of the State of Israel, almost every European and Middle Eastern country had some kind of role to play in it, positive or negative, so we need to do better than “Jews stole Arab land.”

Fixing this can rid misconceptions that don't always play in Israel's favor. Second thing, I say this as a mere private citizen, is that a lot of countries have used entertainment to their advantage. Americans used Hollywood to promote the image of kind, romantic and funny and at times rough and invincible people, who all live in large houses with super equipped kitchens. East Asians have used entertainment to their advantage, giving some sort of illusion that they were always one step ahead when it came to technological innovation.

Regarding security, the general impression I have is that, among citizens as well as politicians around the world, there's a tendency to, let's put it this way, wait for the next episode of drama, war and action in Israel because everyone tends to pay attention when politicians are commenting on Israel. The tendency is to believe that Israel wants to fight wars at all costs. So the idea is, in some European circles, some believe that an Iranian presence in Syria or even a nuclear Iran would merely lead to a balance of powers in the region. The problem is that Iran is not the Soviet Union, Iran is not India or Pakistan. The Soviets did not try to invade Alaska, the Pakistanis did not try to invade Northern India. Iran has different plans and intentions.

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