I’m in Love With Israel, the Nation That Can’t Be Stopped
By Julie Burchill
April 14, 2019
I was going to start with the words “I won’t claim
to be impartial where Israel’s concerned” – but then I wondered, why
bother? Most people aren’t. To everyone from the BBC (I take great delight in
being the only guest ever on Desert Island Discs to pick the Israeli national
anthem) to the UN (more resolutions against it than any other state, just the
kind of judgment one expects from a body which recently appointed Iran to the
women’s rights panel), Israel is portrayed as the source of all unrest in a
region that would otherwise be a paradise of peace-loving,
civil‑rights‑respecting countries all rubbing along
Then, on the other hand, there’s my small band, the philo-Semites,
who, if we were forced to find one fault with Israel, it would be that there’s
not enough of it. We range from Mark Twain through Marilyn Monroe to Helen
Mirren; much anti-Semitism comes from envy, so it stands to reason that we
Philos tend to be quite an impressive lot.
I’m an especially extreme one; indeed, when asked my
of various general elections, I have annoyed Israeli friends with the
admittedly unsophisticated answer: “Whoever wins, we win!” The Middle East
expert, Julie Lenarz, said it better last week: “Election day in Israel – a
day to celebrate the fact that a people persecuted and killed for centuries have
built a home in which to determine their own fate. It’s the ultimate defeat of
And there in the middle of their haters and their
cheerleaders are the Israelis, just trying to be a country like any other,
rather than a symbol of good or evil. They’re doing pretty well; just over 70
years since the ancient homeland of the Jews was reclaimed, they are already the
10th oldest uninterrupted democracy in the world. This is a country where army
generals run as centrist candidates, rather than plan coups and revolutions.
13th Happiest Country, 10th Healthiest Country, 7th Best Place to be Gay, 3rd Most
Educated – and, of course, the number one “Start-Up Nation”.
The book of the same name – by Dan Señor and Saul
Singer, published a decade ago – asked why it was that a country the size of
Wales, surrounded by enemies, with no natural resources, produces more start-up
companies than large, peaceful, stable nations like Japan and Canada, to the
point where it has a larger venture capital industry per capita than literally
any other country in the world.
They came up with two main reasons: immigration
(“Immigrants are not averse to starting from scratch – they are by
definition risk-takers”) and the uniquely disrespectful set-up of the Israel
Defence Forces, where military service is mandatory (“If you’re a junior
officer, you call your higher-ups by their first names, and if you see them
doing something wrong, you say so. Taxi drivers can command millionaires and
23-year-olds can train their uncles… Israeli forces regularly vote to oust
their unit leaders”).
Here in Europe, however, whereas other forms of racism fade
with each generation, anti‑Semitism has recruited new blood through the
medium of anti-Zionism, leading to the upsurge of what I named
“Fresh’n’Funky Fascism” – the Left-wing kind that thrives on
university campuses, as opposed to the fading Right-wing, golf-club type. With
typical stupidity, anti-Zionists claiming they’re not anti-Semites only make
Zion stronger by sending their nation’s Jews fleeing there when the abuse gets
too much. Good work, Magic
In an age of victim-virtue, Israel refuses the invitation
to the self-pity party, and to me this is another secret of their success.
I asked an Israeli: “How do you feel about the
boycotts?”, and he laughed: “We never think about the boycotts – we’ve
got more important things to get on with.” They had to go home and go big. And
how quickly they’ve progressed from being a few dispossessed people in a
desert, while all around them there is a ceaseless reversal of human rights,
from the brutality of Brunei to the self‑inflicted tragedy of the Arab Spring.
Their space-shot may have crash landed – but the start-up
nation can’t be stopped.