Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Helen Thomas touched the sore point

"Jews know that they can land on their feet in any corner of the world. The real test for us is to make Israel such an attractive place--cutting edge in science, education, culture, quality of life--that even American Jewish young people want to come here. If we cannot do this, even those who were born here will consciously decide to go to other places. This is a real problem." Ehud Barak

A recent survey by the Jerusalem-based Menachem Begin Heritage Center found that 59% of Israelis had approached or intended to approach a foreign embassy to ask for citizenship and a passport.(...) Insofar as Israel is very much a part of the global economy, it is no longer unusual for Israelis to commute to work in Europe and even the United States. A European or American passport renders the commute that much easier. A second-generation Israeli of Polish extraction might want a Polish passport so she can study and work freely throughout the E.U. for a few years. And an Israeli doing business in the Arab world would definitely need a second passport. And then there’s this: Despite the aspirations of Zionism to create a safe haven for the world’s Jews, Israel is hardly the safest place in the world. Can we blame Israeli parents for wanting their children to have another option, an insurance policy, just in case Mahmoud Ahmadinejad makes good on his threats? The Forward

Israel fears the new Turkey, Syria and Iran as much as it fears Russian support for it. A new Middle East is being born - and there seems to be only one place for Israel: isolation.
Pepe Escobar - Asia Times
David Seaton's News Links
Helen Thomas the ancient mother superior of White House correspondents was immolated in a firestorm of her own making when she suggested that Israelis get out of the Middle East and return to Poland, Germany and America. I'm sure that one of the reasons the reaction to her off the cuff remarks was so violent was that she touched a nerve. Because as you can see from the quotes of Ehud Barack and The Forward above, quite a few Israelis are prepared and equipped to do just what she said.

Scientists, computer and aerospace engineers and the other practitioners of  the "cutting edge" technologies that make up the backbone of Israel's new information-society prosperity are in great demand in Europe and the USA and can find jobs in those countries at the drop of a hat and all they need to continue working can probably fit onto the hard disk of a laptop computer. Transferring them and their technology from one place to another would only take a matter of days. Overwhelmingly this elite is of European or American origin.

In short, if things got too rough, if the tension built up beyond a certain point the crème de la crème of Israel could be gone in a week... with nice jobs, nice homes and good schools for their children waiting for them wherever they went.

Now, of course, not all Israelis are from Poland, Germany and America, in fact over half of the Jews of Israel are "Mizrahim" or "Oriental" Jews, originally from places like Yemen, Morocco, Iraq, Algeria, Iran, etc. To cut to the chase, they are the poorest people of Israel, the least educated, with the fewest marketable skills, whose countries of origin wouldn't welcome them back, even if there were any jobs to be had in those places.

So even if a full scale war never finally broke out, if the tension became too nerve wracking, too constant, went on too long, Israel could experience a crippling brain drain and  gradually more elite Ashkenazim would take Helen Thomas's advice and then the vast majority of Jews left in Israel would be the less educated oriental Jews or the fundamentalist Ashkenazi Haredim who don't even do military service. Israel would quickly be converted into a poor Middle Eastern country bordering Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt.

The Turks know this and the Israelis know they know it.

My reading of the flotilla crisis is that the Turks are playing mind games with the Israelis in order to dictate the terms for peace in the Middle East.

The Turks are uniquely equipped to do this.

Turkey is a Muslim country, but they have been living peacefully with a large and flourishing Sephardi, Jewish community for 500 years (no "Christian" country can make that statement). The Jews know the Turks very well, and perhaps more importantly the Turks know the Jews well too.

The Turks are one of the oldest and historically most active warrior cultures in the world, who once ruled an immense empire... (we drink coffee thanks to their siege of Vienna in 1683... Cervantes lost the use of his left hand fighting the Turks in the battle of Lepanto). They were in the Korean war and their reputation for sheer stoic toughness and cruel ferocity in battle remained undimmed. They have one of the most powerful armies in the world today.

Nobody in their right mind would want to go to war with Turkey.

My reading is that the Turks, being who they are, and having lived side by side with the Jews for centuries, are much less impressed by Israel's military prowess than the rest of us. They probably think that inside every Moshe Dayan there is a Woody Allen trying to get out and they are playing on the Israeli's "inner Woody Allen".

The Turks have completely changed the game and since they can raise and lower the tension at will, they can and will play on the Israeli's frayed nervous system like a bağlama.

In short, they are "psyching out" the Israelis. They have found the Israeli's spot and are playing on it... the resultant hysteria is proof of this strategy's effectiveness.

If Turkey has decided to become the "play maker" of the Middle East then the eastern Mediterranean and the ME are going to get very complicated for the Israelis and the tension that they will have to endure in dozens of incidents like the flotilla massacre, any one of which could set off a war they might end up losing will be too much for those Israelis whose skills are marketable in Europe or the USA. They will begin to move out.

Unless the Israelis let the Turks dictate the terms of Palestinian statehood, that is probably what will happen.

In the end, Helen Thomas, whose remarks were taken as antisemitic, may simply have predicted the future. DS


Anonymous said...

Interesting .... very interesting. Thank you.

Harry Haller said...

Yes, I thought her remark was just pure common sense...

Forensic economist said...

On the prowess of the Israeli commandos - unarmed civilians on the Turkish boat managed to disarm three of them.

Hezbollah stopped them from advancing even after a month long bombing campaign.

Israeli soldiers are very good at shooting civilians from the air. They are no longer supermen.

Stephanie said...

It's possible they were never really the supermen they were trumped up to be.

This incident has certainly changed the game but I wonder by how much. Turkey doesn't need the US, but I'm sure the Turks don't want to alienate us entirely??

More Russian Jews are emigrating to Germany than Israel - when they have a choice.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

The strategic location of Turkey and it cultural and commercial connections in the region make it the absolutely essential player in a multitude of situations. They probably are wondering why they took so long to make these moves. The USA needs them more than they need the USA.

Buttermilk Sky said...

Ever since the attack on the flotilla, I've been considering the possibility that Israel would split into two countries along the lines you suggest. (There is historical precedent -- the Davidic kingdom only lasted a hundred years). The future you envision seems more likely, and infinitely sadder for everyone in the Middle East.