Conflicts & War

Israel turns 75 amid deepening identity crisis

By Pablo Duer

Jerusalem, Apr 26 (EFE).- Celebrations for the 75th anniversary of Israel’s founding began on Wednesday, overshadowed by surging Israeli-Palestinian violence and deep internal divisions.

“It will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex,” Israel’s first prime minister David Ben-Gurion said in the declaration of independence in 1948.

“It will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations,” he added in the speech that has resurfaced amid the massive demonstrations against the most right-wing government in Israel’s history.

Israel has been roiled by protests, the biggest in the country’s history, for four months since prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government announced controversial judicial reform plans that critics say are a danger to democracy.

“We are brothers. We don’t always agree on everything. Sometimes we argue passionately,” Netanyahu said Tuesday evening in his address to mark Independence Day.

“Let’s look for a moment at the great wonder that is called the State of Israel. How many miracles have we achieved here in the last 75 years as one people?

“As one nation, we rose from the ashes of the Holocaust to the peak of revival. As one nation, we won Israel’s wars. As one nation, we absorbed millions of Olim (Jewish immigrants).”

He also listed the “historic peace agreements” Israel reached with Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.

Israel, with more than 9.7 million inhabitants, is celebrating the founding anniversary at an unprecedented crossroads, caused by a social fragmentation that is so deep it has eclipsed the Palestinian-Israeli conflict escalating to levels of violence not seen since the Second Intifada (2000-05).

“There is no doubt that Israel is one of the most successful states founded after World War II, but we are now facing an unprecedented crisis that is jeopardizing the important achievements made over the past 75 years,” says Israeli historian Anita Shapira, who witnessed the birth of Israel after immigrating from Poland at the age of seven in 1947.

“On the one hand, we are an economic, military, scientific and cultural powerhouse. On the other, we are grappling with a fierce internal division triggered by racist and extremist groups rising to power,” Shapira adds, referring to Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox and far-right coalition allies.

Israeli society is deeply divided between secular and religious groups, and liberal and right-wing sectors, putting the country at a turning point in its short history.

“It is not a division between people who love or hate the state, nor is it between Zionists and anti-Zionists. It is rather a rift based on how the Jewish state is conceived,” Israeli author Daniel Gordis says.

The country, Gordi adds, is currently facing an identity crisis that he believes it was not addressed in the past years “due to wars, hunger, and the lack of money and infrastructure.”

“The first 75 years were maybe about building infrastructure and a strong economy, with a focus on becoming a military power and winning peace agreements with various Arab states. And now we are transitioning into the second 75 years in which discuss how to balance being a Western liberal democracy and a deeply Jewish state at the same time,” he continues.

Both analysts describe the current situation as an existential crisis that is unlike the historical security threats that are stabilized and under relative control, except for Iran’s potential development of nuclear weapons.EFE


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