The Jewish Report Editorial

The worst neighbourhood in the world

“So? What’s new?” is the instinctive response to a talk by an Israeli security expert about how dangerous the situation in the Middle East is for Israel. That refrain has been heard a thousand times in the 66 years since its birth.
by GEOFF SIFRIN | Jun 18, 2014

The kidnapping last week of three young Israelis in the West Bank, continuing rocket fire from Gaza, threats from Iran and the build-up of thousands of missiles pointed at Israel from Lebanon and elsewhere, all seem so familiar, as if nothing has changed.

What has changed, says Major-General Yaakov Amidror, until recently National Security Advisor to PM Benjamin Netanyahu, who was one of the speakers at last weekend’s Sinai Indaba at the Sandton Convention Centre, is that the Middle East itself is descending into utter and lethal chaos. No-one can predict where it will lead. 

This catastrophe is not about Israel. Once, most Arab countries were ruled by dictators who held them together, creating a certain kind of (false) stability. They united in attacking Israel. 

Today, Arab countries are coming apart, their populations slaughtering each other in internecine-Arab religious and ethnic warfare. Some people are even suggesting it would be better for the dictators to return, because in those Middle Eastern countries it seems the alternative to dictatorship is not democracy, but mayhem. 

As South Africans celebrate 20 years of democracy – which looks likely to continue and strengthen – it is hard from our perspective to imagine what Arab countries like Syria, Egypt, Iraq and Libya are going through. And, in the light of that carnage, the ranting of the anti-Israel lobby in South Africa and elsewhere seems increasingly bizarre, with the Israeli-Palestinian issue paling into insignificance.  

The Americans are saying they are no longer willing to be the policeman of the world, as they once were. Says Amidror: “They came to save the world 100 years ago in the First World War, then in the Second World War, then in the Cold War, then in the war against terrorism. Who will take this position tomorrow?” The UN and other international organisations are powerless.  

The 200 000 Syrians killed and the millions made refugees, seems incomprehensible to us. There will probably be unending slaughter until one of the sides is exhausted. Egyptian army head - and now newly-elected president - General Abdul Fattah el-Sisi taking responsibility on himself to save Egypt from abandoning modernity under Muslim Brotherhood rule is equally foreign to South Africans, whose Struggle was never based on religion. 

In Egypt, either the army or the Muslim Brotherhood will rule - the idealistic Egyptians who demonstrated for democracy in the “Arab Spring” number perhaps 500 000 in a nation of 80 million. “They are not Egypt!” says Amidror.

In Iraq a huge al-Qaida state is emerging which could encroach into Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. 

An al-Qaida controlled territory from Baghdad to the Mediterranean seems possible. Iran is a dark threat which Israel cannot allow to become nuclear. Israel is a “one bomb state”, says Amidror. If the world powers won’t stop Iran, Israel will have to do it.  

Some political leaders, including many in SA, naively maintain that if Israel makes peace with the Palestinians, the Middle East will change. It will not. The area needs to be seen for the international flashpoint it is, rather than simply through the Israeli-Palestinian prism. Israel is doomed to live in a chaotic Middle East for the foreseeable future in a situation of asymmetry. Even if all the world’s Jews go on aliyah, it will remain a tiny country surrounded by some 300 million Arabs. The only way it will survive is by remaining an innovative, strong democracy maintaining a qualitative edge over its neighbours.  

We had our great icon Nelson Mandela in South Africa, who saved us from our own potential bloodbath. Could a Middle Eastern Mandela emerge? It seems almost impossible. There was no religious component to our Struggle, which poisons the possibility of Middle Eastern peace. 

Mandela couldn’t have done it here unless the people of this country had it in them to make peace and move on to build a new country together. The scenes from the Middle East should make us appreciate just how blessed we are. 



1 Comment

  1. 1 Israeli 19 Jun

    One can only be astounded at this editorial, especially written by a person claiming to be a staunch Zionist.

    Mr.Editor, You indeed paint a gloomy picture on the life of the Israeli people with all it's problems from within and without. No one can deny that the Land God has granted us is easy going. But the fact is that God, in His mercy, has restored sovereignty to His people over most of the Land after 2000 years of cruel exile. An exile that has seen far more suffering for the Jewish people than what is now taking place in Israel now.

    (You also fail to mention the miraculous progress both physically and spiritually that Israel has achieved since it's rebirth in 1948. Space prevents me from listing all these achievments

    My point is that you, Mr Editor, ended your essay with the statement that Jews in S.Africa should make us appreciate just how blessed we are. (to be living here in exile).

    No , Mr. Editor, No Jew is blessed to be living here or anywhere in the Diaspora. Your editorial is a insult to the God of Israel who has given His people the greatest gift of love - the Land of Israel. To live outside of Israel is a curse and punishment, never a blessing.


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