TEL AVIV – Size matters, and in geopolitics it can be critically important.
A grasp of this elementary fact could provide a better understanding for, and empathy with, a small country besieged by hostile powers on its borders.
Yet this fact often escapes people living in countries of continental dimensions with large spaces empty of inhabitants – as in Canada, the U.S., Russia, Australia and the E.U. – and they may, ironically at times, display a chauvinism reflecting the size of their country.
The fact of how small Israel is territorially, and how this fact deepens its sense of vulnerability, weighs down upon anyone who visits the country.
As I write sitting at a cafe on Tel Aviv’s waterfront, I remember how this city and Haifa to the north were targets of Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Scud missiles during the 1991 Gulf War.
Israel is merely a dot relative to the Arab world, and yet made responsible, in the logic of the anti-Zionist bigots, for the problems of the Middle East and the inability of the Arab-Muslim culture to deal with the challenges of the modern world.
Consider the following: The Arab world, excluding Iran and Turkey, is comprised of 22 countries stretching from the Gulf to the Atlantic Ocean with a total area around 13 million sq. km and a population of nearly 350 million.
In terms of territorial size, only Russia is larger than the Arab world at 17 million sq. km.
Israel is barely 22,000 sq. km, or about three times the size of New York City, with a population of 7.5 million of which 20% are Israeli Arabs.
An objective consideration of the huge disparity in size and population between the Arab world and Israel should dispel the drivel the world has been fed that Arabs are the “underdog” in a colonial struggle against Jews as a colonizing people.
The reverse disparity between Israelis and Arabs is the tremendous human achievement of the former as free people, and the contrast when measured against the sullen reality of the Arab world just about at the bottom of the UN human development index despite the resources available.
But here, too, Arabs, Muslims and their apologists in the West will fault Israelis for the collective failure of the Arab world.
It is as if the plight of Palestinian “occupation” by Israelis explains the Sudanese civil wars and genocide in Darfur, or the savage killings inside Algeria, or the long list of atrocities, gender oppression, humiliation of religious minorities, wars, military dictatorships, and with no end in sight of violence and murder in the name of Islam across the Arab world.
It is sheer absurdity to hold Israelis responsible for the utterly dysfunctional nature of the Arab world.
Palestinians are an integral part of this dysfunctional world, and their politics reflect, in a heightened sense, the problems the rest of the world seeks to avoid discussing for fear of being denounced as politically incorrect.
Israel is a very small country packed with immensely talented people.
Their story is a gift to the Arab-Muslim world as it is to be found in the Qur’an if only Arabs and Muslims understood either.