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Israel’s ‘Social Protesters’ Live in a Fantasy World

In the manner of adolescents, they think that security and prosperity just sort of happen by themselves.

by
Jonathan Spyer

Bio

July 1, 2012 - 12:00 am
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In Egypt, a representative of an Islamist movement committed to Israel’s destruction has just won the presidency.

In Syria, the Iran-led regional bloc is engaged in a brutal life or death struggle with a largely Sunni uprising against it.  There is a real concern that long-range missiles and even chemical weapons could be transferred into Hizballah-controlled Lebanon if the Assad regime senses that the endgame is drawing near.

From Gaza, the local representatives of Sunni Islamism have been in recent days raining down rockets and missiles on outlying Israeli communities.

In the midst of all this, the activities of a small group of individuals who want to pretend that there is a socio-economic crisis in Israel and that breaking the windows of banks is an appropriate response to it are unsurprisingly failing to find  a huge public echo.

The much clearer overt presence of far-left elements and pro-Palestinian slogans in the protests this year is a further deterrent to broader sections of the population.

The fundamental issue facing Israeli society is whether it can continue to function and flourish as a small enclave of democracy, Jewish sovereignty, and economic success, at the edge of a hostile sea of dictatorship, failure, and political Islam.

At the center of this is the question of whether policies can be enacted which keep the dangers sufficiently distant to enable the citizenry to live normal lives, raise families, and pursue economic interests.

In the 2000-2006 period, the ability of Israel to achieve this came into serious question. Islamist insurgencies erupting out of Gaza, Lebanon, and the West Bank made the conflict an unavoidable presence for Israelis.

This is no longer the case, if precariously.  The Second Intifada was broken militarily.  Hizballah to the north and Hamas to the south, The Muslim Brothers in Egypt, the Syrian civil war, all are — at least for the moment — being kept from impacting on the comfortable daily lives of the inhabitants of Israel’s center.

The full restaurants, high levels of tourism, and flourishing cultural life are among the more pleasant fruits of this. Still, most Israelis maintain a strong sense of the surrounding dangers. They understand that if they can pursue normal lives, this is not a reason to relax their guard, but rather a reason to maintain it.

The social protesters, of course, represent that element which does not understand this. In the manner of adolescents, they think that security and prosperity just sort of happen by themselves.  So they want to play at being in Europe or North America, advocating other-wordly policies, vandalizing property, attacking police.

With their evident detachment from the realities of the neighborhood, they are one of the more ridiculous manifestations of Israel’s success in keeping the wolves relatively far from the door.

Yet one of the prices of freedom is that not all of its recipients will use it well. The same apparently goes for security. The very possibility of citizens who are giddily unaware of the sober realities their country faces is itself a paradoxical proof of Israel’s continued success in maintaining itself as a fertile enclave on the edge of a wasteland.

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Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, and a fellow at the Middle East Forum. He is the author of The Transforming Fire: The Rise of the Israel-Islamist Conflict (Continuum, 2011).
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