Analysis from Israel

After a Forbes article on Israeli-Palestinian cooperation in high-tech industries drew horrified responses from the Palestinian companies featured, Jonathan correctly cited this as yet more evidence that Israeli-Palestinian peace is currently unattainable: When Palestinians fear being viewed as collaborators for working with Israelis to build the Palestinians’ own economy, and when the very idea that such cooperation could advance peace is considered treasonable, peace clearly isn’t in the offing. But Palestinian businessmen at least have an excuse for this reaction: They genuinely fear their own anti-normalization thugs. What’s harder to explain is why Europe also opposes cooperation with Israel even when it would clearly benefit the Palestinians.

Haaretz recently reported two salient examples: The Dutch government is pressuring a Dutch company to withdraw from a sewage treatment project run by Jerusalem’s municipal water corporation, and Germany’s state-owned development bank KfW is seeking to bar Jewish settlements from burying their trash at a new landfill it’s planning in the West Bank. In both cases, the primary victims will be Palestinians–but in both, European governments have decided that eschewing cooperation with Israel is more important than helping Palestinians.

The Dutch company, Royal Haskoning DHV, won a contract to build a sewage treatment plant in the West Bank to reduce pollution in the Kidron stream. As Haaretz explains, the Kidron “runs from the Mount of Olives and the village of Silwan in eastern Jerusalem toward Ma’ale Adumim and the Dead Sea.” Silwan is a large Palestinian neighborhood of Jerusalem while Ma’ale Adumim is a Jewish settlement, so the project would help both Jews and Arabs. But Palestinians would benefit more: Not only does Silwan have a larger population than Ma’ale Adumim, but the Kidron runs entirely through land that, in Europe’s view, should belong to a future Palestinian state.

Royal Haskoning’s withdrawal from the project would at best significantly delay it, and might even result in it being canceled altogether. Meanwhile, Palestinians would continue to suffer from a polluted waterway nearby, and the future Palestinian state would suffer additional environmental damage. But in the Dutch government’s view, increased Palestinian suffering is preferable to any cooperation with Israel in “occupied territory.”

KfW’s project is a landfill to replace the one that used to serve both the Palestinian town of El Bireh and nearby Jewish settlements. The old landfill was recently closed because it had become a severe environmental hazard, so the new one is needed urgently. But KfW has demanded that it only serve Palestinians, not the settlements.

This has three possible consequences. First, Israel might build a second landfill for the settlements, thereby rendering additional land in the future Palestinian state environmentally unfit for any other use. Second, the settlements might be left without an authorized landfill, forcing them to resort to pirate dumps, which would significantly increase the environmental harm to both Palestinians living in the area and the future Palestinian state. Third, Israel could reject KfW’s proposal on the reasonable grounds that a landfill serving only some of the area’s residents is economically and environmentally inefficient and seek a new developer. That would significantly delay the landfill’s construction and increase the already enormous suffering of El Bireh residents, who are drowning in garbage. 

All three options would primarily hurt the Palestinians. But the German government, too, evidently views increased Palestinian suffering as preferable to cooperating with Israel in “occupied territory.”

Europeans don’t have the excuse of being vulnerable to threats by Palestinian anti-normalization thugs; this is pure spite. And when that’s the example set by “enlightened,” “peace-seeking” Europe, is it any wonder that Palestinians see nothing objectionable about doing the same?

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Jewsraelis: A Review of ‘#IsraeliJudaism’ by Shmuel Rosner and Camil Fuchs

Through 2,000 years of exile, Judaism survived because rabbinic sages reshaped it into a portable religion rather than one anchored to a specific land. But what happens once a Jewish state is reestablished? Judaism is changing once again, Shmuel Rosner and Camil Fuchs argue in #IsraeliJudaism: Portrait of a Cultural Revolution—only this time, from the bottom up.

The book, published in Hebrew in 2018 and English in 2019, is based on a survey of beliefs and practices among 3,005 Israeli Jews. The survey was commissioned by the Jewish People Policy Institute, where Rosner is a senior fellow; Fuchs was the project’s statistician. A book based on a survey could easily become an indigestible mass of statistics, but Rosner and Fuchs have produced a highly readable (and superbly translated) analysis of what this data actually tell us.

What they tell us, the authors say, is that a “new Judaism” is emerging in Israel—one that values Jewish tradition, though not strict adherence to halacha (Jewish law), and that views national identity as a crucial component of Judaism. For instance, 73 percent of Jewish Israelis say being Jewish includes observing Jewish festivals and customs. And 72 percent say being a good Jew includes raising one’s children to serve in the Israel Defense Forces, while 60 percent say it includes raising one’s children to live in Israel.

This fusion of religious and national identity characterizes 55 percent of Israeli Jews, whom Rosner and Fuchs infelicitously dub “Jewsraelis.” The rest divide roughly equally among people whose identity is primarily Jewish (17 percent), primarily Israeli (15 percent), and primarily universalist (13 percent).

Israeli Judaism necessarily differs from both the Diaspora and pre-state versions, since its national components, like army service, aren’t possible outside a Jewish state. Moreover, Judaism is present in Israel’s public square to a degree impossible elsewhere, from public-school classes on the Bible (since it’s part of Israel’s cultural heritage) to the country’s complete shutdown on Yom Kippur. Unsurprisingly, this produces fierce arguments over what Judaism’s public component should look like, including efforts to dictate it through legislative or executive action.

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