It was sixty years ago today that Israel declared its independence.
It was sixty years ago tomorrow that Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and much of the rest of the Arab world started trying to drive them into the sea…
…an effort that has, directly and indirectly, never stopped. The Israeli military – a hardscrabble bunch of Holocaust survivors, Allied military veterans of WWII and impassioned settlers armed with weapons cast off by other nations, bought on the sly or, in some cases, stolen from them (Israel’s first tank was a Cromwell tank that had been stolen from the occupying British in 1947) and outnumbered prohibitively, Israel nevertheless fought its attackers to a stalemate. Three other attempts to drive Israel into the sea – in ’56, ’67 and ’73 – failed.
They are plagued by the same Palestinian terrorism problem that bedeviled them when I was a child – a problem that is a creation of Arab governments who have for sixty years refused to help defuse the refugee situation by negotiating, absorbing the refugees (Jordan fought a war to expel them in 1971) or, perhaps most importantly of all, defusing the situation by acknowledging Israel’s right to exist.
Israel is the sole functioning democracy in the Middle East, at least until Iraq solves its political problems. Israel is an imperfect ally – they are driven by immutable self-interest when there’s any doubt – but they have contributed much to the world in technology, literature, art, agriculture, and above all reourcefulness and courage in the face of dismal odds and lumpen hatred.
Happy Birthday, Israel!