The “Israel problem” remains vexing, especially in relation to the suffering of the parallel nation of Palestine, but those who believe in liberty and order may want to raise a glass in honor of Israel’s thriving democracy, now entering its seventh decade. BBC is marking the 60th anniversary of Israel’s independence with a wonderful 30-minute documentary about life in Jaffa, a port city where Arabs and Jews live in peaceful coexistence.
After the short-lived Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006, someone who visited Beirut as part of an international monitoring team wrote a front-page commentary in the Inquirer — I forget who, but I’m sure with a little research in the office I can find the actual page. I remember being dismayed at the casual contrast the writer made between the inevitable tumult that lay in wait for Ehud Olmert’s inept administration and the outpouring of adoration already falling on Hezbollah’s collective head. The writer seemed to have discounted the main reason for the turbulence in Tel Aviv: that it was the noise of an open and democratic society, loudly calling its leaders to account. Of which other country can that be said in the Middle East?
A Haaretz columnist interviewed on BBC, for a spot news report earlier today, described his country’s central narrative as one of “tragic success.” I think he got it exactly right — but the obvious must be belabored too. That Israel is a genuine democracy also means that Israelis can — and do — judge themselves by democracy’s own exacting standards.
“Jaffa Stories” airs again at 11:30 pm tomorrow (Friday) night, and at 5:10 pm on Saturday (Manila time). The BBC website is a bit of a mess, so here are two links to essentially the same thing, but you get video (the outtakes from the documentary) only in the second link. Must be a British thing.