Israel Celebrates 60 Years; Tribulations and Triumphs of a People Besieged

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 8, 2008 | Go to article overview

Israel Celebrates 60 Years; Tribulations and Triumphs of a People Besieged


Byline: Zalman Shoval, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A few weeks after the birth of the State of Israel 60 years ago, journalist Robert St. John interviewed Israel's first foreign minister, Moshe Sharett. The conversation took place as Egyptian planes were bombing Tel Aviv. Mr. Sharett told Mr. St. John about plans to absorb 1 million immigrants over the coming 10 years (Israel's Jewish population at that was 800,000 people). The minister's projection was on the low side and Israel's population now stands at more than 7 million, 80 percent of it Jewish.

What is even more significant in both historical and moral terms is that the rebirth of the Jewish state, against extreme odds, was perhaps the greatest victory of the human spirit over adversity. After being driven out of their country, Palestine, Jews almost everywhere suffered persecution, discrimination and physical threats - culminating in history's greatest crime, the Holocaust - in which 6 million Jews, one-third of the Jewish nation, including 1 million children, were murdered. Objectively, Israel's chances of surviving even the first year of its existence were low. On the very day it declared independence, Israel was invaded by seven Arab armies while it had no regular army, air force or navy - with all the major powers - sadly including the United States, clamping an arms embargo on a people fighting for its life.

In spite of it all, Israel did survive, though it had to fight five more wars; indeed it is still fighting, as its enemies (presently led by a genocidal Iran that is quickly going nuclear) still dream that maybe "next time" they will be successful in exterminating the Jewish state.

No less troubling is that anti-Israel incitement in Arab and Muslim communities is often abetted by anti-Semitic, and leftist, circles in Europe and in parts of American academia which question Israel's very right to exist. The hatred towards Israel is exacerbated by the fact that it is viewed as America's close ally - embodying all those values and principles which are anathema to many Arabs and Muslims: democracy and human rights (and especially women's rights) as well as freedom of speech and respect for the rule of law.

Israel's triumph should not be seen primarily in terms of victories over its enemies. Instead, it should be considered in light of its achievements. Without natural resources, without any substantial foreign aid during the first 20 years of its existence, and in spite of its ongoing security concerns it has created a thriving economy. …

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