Friday, January 25, 2008


Deep Inside the Plucky Country - Greg Sheridan
Alongside the territories is a much under-reported but fascinating and unique country. It's called Israel.
The world media makes a mistake by using the same reporters to cover the Palestinian territories as well as Israel. They cover the territories and they only cover Israel as a brooding and malign presence in the territories. Naturally the reporting is one-sided. But it is worse than that. It omits from the equation Israel and the Israelis, and all the countless enthralling and diverse aspects of Israeli politics and society.

After the 1967 war, when Israel was attacked by a coalition of its Arab neighbors, Israel took territory in eastern Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. Some of this, Israelis argue, is necessary for security. It has since left Gaza. Israel is constantly urged to go back to its 1967 borders, but the two places where it has done that, in southern Lebanon and Gaza, the result has been disastrous. It was subject to thousands of rocket attacks from southern Lebanon and now every day Kassam rockets are fired from Gaza at nearby Israeli civilian towns, especially Sderot.

After a three-week visit I left Israel profoundly optimistic about the morale of the society and the resolve of the people, but profoundly pessimistic about the peace process. If there were peace, any compromise on borders might be possible. But too many Arab leaders, and too many Palestinian leaders, are playing for the very long term and still believe that in time they will wipe Israel off the map.

The most powerful image I saw in Israel was in a small office in the Knesset (parliament) building in Jerusalem. I had gone to see Ephraim Sneh, a white-haired veteran Labor Party politician and soldier, a former cabinet minister and a former general. He points to a picture on the back wall of his office. It is of two Israeli F-15 fighters flying over Auschwitz. "When we didn't have F-15s, we had Auschwitz," he says. His grandparents, he tells me, were killed by the Polish farmers they had paid to shelter them. You learn the lessons of trusting other people with your security. Israel will certainly make compromises. But it will not commit suicide. The writer is the foreign editor of The Australian. (The Australian)

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