By MICHAEL ORENThis year Israel is celebrating . . . a series of accomplishments that have surely exceeded the expectations of its most visionary founders. It is one of the most powerful small nations in history. . . . [It] has tamed an arid wilderness [and] welcomed 1.25 million immigrants. . . . The Israelis themselves did the fighting, the struggling, the sacrificing in order to perform the greatest feat of all—forging a new society . . . in which pride and confidence have replaced the despair engendered by age-long suffering and persecution.So Life magazine described Israel on the occasion of its 25th birthday in May 1973. In a 92-page special issue, "The Spirit of Israel," the magazine extolled the Jewish state as enlightened, robustly democratic and hip, a land of "astonishing achievement" that dared "to dream the dream and make that dream come alive."Life told the story of Israels birth from the Bible through the Holocaust and the battle for independence. "The Arabs bloodthirsty threats," the editors wrote, "lend a deadly seriousness to the vow: Never Again." Four pages documented "Arab terrorist attacks" and the three paragraphs on the West Bank commended Israeli administrators for respecting "Arab community leaders" and hiring "tens of thousands of Arabs." The word "Palestinian" scarcely appeared.There was a panoramic portrayal of Jerusalem, described as "the focus of Jewish prayers for 2,000 years" and the nucleus of new Jewish neighborhoods. Life emphasized that in its pre-1967 borders, Israel was "a tiny, parched, scarcely defensible toe-hold." The editions opening photo shows a father embracing his Israeli-born daughter on an early "settlement," a testament to Israels birthright to the land.Would a mainstream magazine depict the Jewish state like this today, during the week of its 64th birthday?Unlikely. Rather, readers would learn about Israels overwhelming military might, brutal conduct in warfare and eroding democratic values—plus the Palestinians plight and Israeli intransigence. The photographs would show not cool students and cutting-edge artists but soldiers at checkpoints and religious radicals.Why has Israels image deteriorated? After all, Israel today is more democratic and—despite all the threats it faces—even more committed to peace.
Michael Oren: What Happened to Israels Reputation? – WSJ.com
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