No commentary on the Middle East, Israel, Zionism or Jews is ever really up-to-date.
For the simple reason that events in the Middle East have a tendency to take place at such a fast pace that yesterday’s clinical analysis is today’s outdated report.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, former Chairman of the Board of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is therefore to be commended. He does not claim to have produced a definitive analysis of the situation facing Israel and world Jewry. Rather, he offers a penetrating insight into how local events, regional attitudes and global perceptions impact our understanding of the Jewish state and of Jews in general.
All seen through the eyes of individuals in various countries and walks of life throughout the world.
The views expressed present Jewish, Christian and Muslim perspectives. They are secular, religious and anywhere in between. They span Asia, Europe and the Americas. They discuss legal niceties, ethical dilemmas and psychological analysis. They deal with the taboo subject of Muslims driving out Christians from the birthplace of Christianity in territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority – a practice known as ethnic cleansing. They touch down on media distortion and the role of purportedly non-governmental organizations that somehow seem to have considerable governmental funding from certain EU (and other) member states. Anti-Semitism, terrorism and the Holocaust all figure.
This highly interesting work is presented in the form of 57 short interviews with detailed references, each presentation two to four pages long and each providing a clear snapshot of a country, a culture, an attitude.
As recent events in the Middle East relegate US President Barack Hussein Obama to the sidelines and catapult Russian President Vladimir Putin to the political and strategic forefront, the future of the Middle East is front and center in everyone’s mind. It is difficult to overstate the case – President Obama appears to have squandered the USA’s moral, economic and strategic might and has succeeded in elevating a crushed former rival, Russia, to the pinnacle of power. As always, Israel is the sole stable political entity in the Middle East. The Jewish state consistently remains a morally driven democracy, a multicultural and diverse melting-pot of ethnicities, religions, political credos and not just a regional but indeed a global economic powerhouse.
Not least thanks to its massive recent natural-gas finds and discussions on an intermodal ship-rail link from the Red Sea port of Eilat to the Mediterranean coast port of Ashdod, should talks with the Chinese on its construction reach fruition. Such a link would virtually bypass the increasingly troubled Egypt and its Suez Canal. All in all, there is a very real prospect of a major regional, economic, strategic and political realignment, should the US continue to lose ground and major powers such as Russia, China and India continue their surge into prominence. The lynchpin, as so often, seems to be Israel. And where Israel is concerned, so too are Jews.
Dr Gerstenfeld’s book is all the more remarkable for taking a step back from these and other unfolding current events, focusing instead on the cultures and perspectives that are shaping attitudes to the Jewish state of Israel and Jews in general.
“Demonizing Israel and the Jews” ought to be compulsory reading in every embassy the world over. A complementary copy ought to be sent to the White House. The Kremlin already appears to have internalized the contents of the book and the frightening glimpses it affords.