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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

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Book Review: Will Israel survive? By Dr. Mitchell Bard, expert on Israel's political-economy.

by Ferdinand III



This is an excellent and, exceedingly optimistic book. Perhaps far too optimistic. Supportive of 'realistic-optimism', the book induces sympathetic from us neo-con Bushitler types. Dr. Bard is right on many issues, but isn't his ultimate thesis, that Israel has, can and will survive a little too cheeful? Given the myriad numbers of those who hate the Jews, the Jewish state, and the thought of burly Israeli soldiers pushing around poor, peaceful and kind Arabs, one should have many doubts about Dr. Bard's main thesis.

One reason why the book is worth reading is that Dr. Bard – unlike say the mainstream media – actually has credibility and knowledge when it comes to Israel. He is Executive Director of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE). As a political scientist, he has written extensively about the Middle East and Israel, and provided a valuable resource to Israel's supporters abroad with 'Myths and Facts, A Guide to the Israeli-Arab Conflict.' Dr. Bard has spent decades studying both sides of the issues which plague Arab-Israeli cooperation and co-existence. He makes a reasonable if decidely non main-stream case for supporting the Jewish state.

Belying the title, Dr. Bard is pretty convinced that Israel will survive. Bard's book analyses with thorough care, the threats to Israel's future, and examines its internal secular-religious conflicts, the demographic challenge posed by Arab-Israelis, the conflict over water resources with neighbouring Arab states; peace deals with Jordan and Egypt and of course the challenge posed by fascist, radical Islam.

It is in general an excellent survey. Anyone who wishes to be informed about Israel, and disinfect their mind from the mindless sludge trotted out by the mainstream press, would do well to read this account – even if it does appear to be somewhat overly positive.

According to Dr. Bard, the reality is that in most cases; the challenges are not insurmountable. These are not real threats to Israel's survival and in fact Israel faced far greater challenges during the first 50 years of its existence than it faces today. Five bloody and unprovoked wars with the Arabs; 2 massive intifada attacks using the most cruel and uncivilised of war techniques; and crippling UN and international demands for immediate conciliation and appeasement of Arab demands; have all, somewhat, receded in tenor, tone, and prevalence.

The main reasons why Dr. Bard is optimistic about Israel's survival can be summarised below:

1.Jewish states and tribes are over 3000 years old. Jews are natural survivors.
2.2/3 of Jews were wiped out in the Holocaust, Jews know that the maintenance of a nation state is vital, for them to survive.
3.Peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan prove that war is not inevitable with all Arabs.
4.No combination of Arab states can defeat Israel militarily. [especially given #4]
5.Immigration and demography. 60 years ago the Jews had about 530.000 people in the Jewish homeland, today it is 5.3 million with many millions more Jews around the world, available as future immigrants.
6.Growing economy providing wealth and power. Israel has the 20th largest economy in the world.
7.US support.


The threats facing Israel, according to Dr. Bard are essentially the following:

1.Israel's small size means a tight supply line and easy logistics, but it also means that long range missiles and air forces can easily blanket the country.
2.Palestine, as Arab leaders cheerfully admit, is a myth. There has never been a Palestinian state or tribe in history. Palestine comes from the Latin Philistin, which denotes an Aegean-Greek tribe who settled along the coast of Israel and Lebanon circa 1200 BCE. This myth however must be kept in play by the Arabs for political reasons.
3.Jerusalem. Central to any peace process is Arab control over at least East Jerusalem containing some of the holiest sites of Judeo-Christianity. From 1948-1967 the Jordanians [Arabs] occupied the city and destroyed synagogues and holy sites and refused Jewish access to the Western wailing wall [the remains of the 2nd temple].
4.Hamas and Hizbollah are well armed, and Egypt which depends on US aid [$1.2 billion in military aid alone] is stockpiling arms.
5.Saudi sources fund $300 million a year to Al Qaeda and about $100-200 million for Palestinian groups dedicated to destroying Israel.
6.Islam and Arabic history is one of imperialism, death and murder, not peace and Arabs want the Jews dead; or to be Dhimmis or slaves, or at best second class nobodies in a larger Arab state.
7.Iran and its nuclear programme.
8.Demography. Today there are 5.3 million Jews in Israel; and 3.6 million Palestinian-Arabs in Jewish land or near to its border [Gaza; the West bank and Israel proper]. Muslim birth rates are double Jewish rates [4.7 vs. 2.7].

So on balance it appears that Israel can survive. When you make a balance sheet of assets and liabilities [or threats] it is not that obvious that the challenges facing Israel are overwhelming and Dr. Bard makes a very good case for its continued survival.

Israel's 'right to life' and its defiance of being aborted, is however based on three massive assumptions either of which can change in the short term. The first is continued US support. The second is that Iran will not have a nuclear bomb. And the third is that the UN and international community will not force Arab refugee repatriation upon Israel, as part of a general peace framework.

There are currently outside of Israel about 1.3 million Arab refugees – descendants of those displaced by the 1948 Arab invasion of the new Jewish state. In 1948 there were less than 400.000 such refugees, homeless largely because Arab leaders told their fellow tribesmen living in Israel to live during the war, and come back once the Jewish state was annihilated. Now some 60 years later it is the Jews who must resettle these Arabs into Jewish land thereby tilting the demographic balance irrevocably towards the Arabs. It would be suicide.

US support cannot be taken for granted. The Americans are playing both sides. Egypt and the Palestinian Arabs receive about $2 billion a year from the US. Americans are deeply entwined with the Saudis over oil. And Bush's recent declarations that a two-state soltuion is mandatory in effect approves the resettlement inside Israel of 1.3 million UN housed-Arab refugees and the partition of Jerusalem. This would mean, in most humble opinions, the eventual demise of a viable and coherent Jewish state. Once the Muslims and Arabs have a population majority, the politics, the military and the security coherence of Israel will be shattered.

Add in a nuclear armed Iran and we have the recipe for Israeli destruction.

Dr. Bard is right to be optimistic, after all losers and negative thinkers don't win in the end. The book is a clear antidote for those who are sick of the media's anti-Jew, anti-Israel racism. But the challenges facing the Jewish state are monumental, and probably the most dire it has ever faced. Israel must survive, but its dependence on US support, a benign Iran, and Arab offers of peace make survival anything but a certainty.


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