I can't think of any country whose legitimacy has been questioned as much as the 63-year old state of Israel, especially among the left-leaning people who once supported the nation as it repeatedly faced wars and terrorist attacks by Muslim nations that far outnumbered the country of about 8 million Jews and Arabs.
Israeli journalist and security analyst Hirsh Goodman, born in South Africa and an Israeli since 1965, knows real apartheid first hand and in "The Anatomy of Israel's Survival" (PublicAffairs, 288 pages, $26.99) he resoundingly refutes the anti-Semitic charges by Jimmy Carter and other haters of Israel that the country with 20 percent of its population of Arab and Bedouin heritage engages in the former racist practices of his native land.
Goodman notes that former President Carter referred to Israel as a "cancer" and later as an "apartheid state" (page 162) and that his national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski "was considered Rasputin in Israel and an anti-Semite" (page 162). Refuting the misconception that American administrations have been uniformly friendly to Israel, Goodman on the same page writes that Caspar Weinberger, Ronald Reagan's secretary of defense, was the only foreign dignitary in the history of Israel to refuse to visit Yad Vashem, the memorial to the six million Holocaust victims. Weinberger, who died in 2006, was a Christian who was Jewish on his paternal grandfather's side. Even a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, Henry Kissinger, was recorded as saying that the Jews of Russia should be "gassed" in comments with his boss, the anti-Semite Richard Nixon.
Goodman has been called a "liberal Zionist," which some would say is a contradiction in terms. He's against Jewish settlers in the Arab villages of greater Jerusalem, which he argues should be the capital of an independent Palestine. Western liberals and "progressives" should applaud this move, outlined on Pages 194-200. In those six pages he deals with Vice President Joe Biden's March 2010 visit to Israel and the "open slap in the face to the American administration" caused by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu authorizing Israeli settlements in Arab parts of Jerusalem.
As young Jews leave Jerusalem, a city too besotted with religion for increasingly secular Jews, Arabs are attracted to the city, especially since residence there gives them most of the right of Israeli citizens, "including probably the best health care and social services in the Middle East," Goodman says.
Of the approximately one million Arab citizens of Israel, Goodman would like to see them included in the mandatory national service young Israeli Jews must complete -- not the military service but service in health care, security services, working with the disadvantaged, etc. "Universal service," he writes, "is the way to integrate, not only the Hareidim [the ultra orthodox Jews]
but also the Israeli Arabs into Israeli society."
Refuting the the phony "apartheid" argument is the freedom of religion granted to all Israelis -- Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Baha'i, which has its world headquarters in Haifa -- which is not the case in most of the Middle East. More than 800,000 Jews were driven out of Muslim countries in the wake of Israel's 1948 creation and subsequent wars, making most of those countries without Jews or with pitifully small remnant communities in places like Turkey or Tunisia.
The recent upheavals in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Libya, Yemen and other countries have raised anew the question "can Israel survive?" and beyond have raised it anew for Israelis -- and Jews throughout the world -- as well as their supporters and adversaries. Goodman set out to answer it, through rigorous factual assessment of each of the challenges his country faces, and by consulting experts and participants on all sides of every complex issue. But what he learned was that this once `essential question' has become a dangerous distraction.
Goodman shares his clarifying analyses both of recent political events and of Israel's strategic position. He shows how the country's obsession with dangers posed by outside forces has obscured the harder issues facing it from within ever since its leaders disregarded [Israel's first prime minister David] Ben Gurion's advice to leave the territories captured during the Six Day War of 1967.
Goodman argues that Israel's survival is jeopardized more by the competence of its leaders and fissures in its social and political system than by any outside threat--even the apocalyptic-sounding ones from Iran.
A severe critic of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and current P.M. Netanyahu for their settlement policies, Goodman nonetheless says (Page 101) that "The Palestinians have to realize that Israel cannot be expected to tear itself to pieces for the sake of peace. Peace should mean that 50,000 or so Jews could live in Palestine as Israeli citizens, voting in Israeli elections, but paying their local taxes to the Palestinian Authority, which would in turn guarantee the safety and security of those settlers who chose to remain in Palestine...."
Good luck on that! Especially considering that Goodman writes (Page 102) about the hatred and the conflict between Hamas and Fatah in Gaza: "In the takeover of Gaza, Hamas showed no mercy, throwing Fatah loyalists off the tallest buildings in the [Gaza] Strip and having gangs of hooligans kill others, including so-called collaborators with Israel, who were shot without trial." So much for the religion of peace, which has also seen horrendous massacres of Muslims vs. Muslims in Syria and Libya, among other countries.
Turkey, wrongly seen as a model for Muslim democracy, according to David P. Goldman ("Spengler" on the widely read Asia Times Online site) and others, is engaged in a struggle with its Kurdish minority. Kurds and Turks are both Muslims, but that doesn't stop them from hating each other. Goldman writes in his new book "How Civilizations Die" that the current leader of Turkey, President Tayyip Erdogan is really an Islamist, and a radical one at that, in a country that embraced secularism under the founder of modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk.
Gaza, ruled by Hamas, which the U.S. and the European Union considers to be a terrorist organization, is a much thornier problem that the relatively moderate West Bank, which Israelis call Judea and Samaria. Hamas is funded by Iran, which has repeatedly called for Israel to be wiped off the map.
"The Anatomy of Israel's Survival" is a must-read book by everybody, whether they are supporters of Israel or not. The country, a First World democracy -- the only one in the region now that Turkey is well on the road to being a radical Islamist state -- is not going to disappear. Get used to that, Goodman says.
PublicAffairs is to be congratulated once again for publishing an important book that everybody should read, regardless of their views on Israel and the Palestinians.