Home  > Israel-News Today  > Week in Review
It’s a Place, Not a Conflict (NY) TIMES) By SHMUEL ROSNER / Blog WASHINGTON 05/30/12)Source: http://latitude.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/29/israel-is-about-more-than-the-arab-israeli-conflict/?ref=global NEW YORK TIMES NEW YORK TIMES Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
WASHINGTON — Sitting on the edge of my hotel bed here two Sundays ago, I watched a “60 Minutes” segment on Tel Aviv, the place I call home. It made me think two unkindly thoughts. One, they — that is, the people of “60 Minutes” — must have come up with this ultra positive story on the city that Lonely Planet ranks “the third hottest” in the world to compensate for the negative and very controversial story on Israel’s treatment of Palestinian Christians they broadcast in April. Two, even in a report supposedly about civilian life, about being chic and fashionable, Israel isn’t portrayed as a country; it’s portrayed as a conflict.

Tel Aviv, as the “60 Minutes” correspondent Bob Simon observes, is indeed a wonderful city. That’s not an easy feat for a place “bordered on all sides by danger,” as he puts it. This is the Middle East, so of course every story has to have wars, bombs and sirens, and every triviality has to have inner, hidden and broader meaning.

The youngsters on the beach are not just fun-loving youngsters; they are people at whom are pointed “hundreds of rockets” and “thousands of missiles” from Gaza and Lebanon.

And Tel Aviv’s bar-goers aren’t just drink-loving residents. They may be “dancing on the Titanic.” In this Jewish city “not that far from where Moses came down the hill with those commandments” — this is Simon still — a bar cannot just be a bar.

“Years ago, people in Tel Aviv were passionately political. They are not anymore,” Simon claims. In fact, last year hundreds of thousands of Israelis protested in the streets of Tel Aviv to ask for more social justice. In the years 1996, 1999 and 2003, Tel Avivians may have voted for the Knesset in numbers 5-7 percent lower than the national average, but in 2006 and 2009, they voted in numbers 8-12 percent higher. Tel Aviv’s residents are as political — and as fun loving — as they’ve been for many years.

In Simon’s defense, the Tel Avivians he picked to represent my city were more than happy to deliver one-liners that give credence to his story line about the city being under siege. Gideon Levy is introduced as “a columnist with one of Israel’s leading papers.” He is also — and this is not mentioned in the segment — Israel’s most vocal advocate for the very far left. Shrewd and eloquent, he has made a name for himself by saying things with which hardly any Israeli agrees.

Levy is also a man with a mission: he wants to make Israelis more aware of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. He has failed with Israelis but seems to have succeeded with Simon: neither can tolerate the possibility that Israelis may have other things on their mind than the West Bank. A foreign correspondent in need of a story is an easy sell: There are Israelis, there are Arabs, they’re all at war, the situation needs to be fixed.

The war seems to explain all. Why is Tel Aviv so tolerant of homosexuals? My old friend Gal Uchovsky, a journalist and filmmaker, tells Simon: when it’s as hard to keep your children alive as in this war zone, parents are hardly fussed by their sexual orientation. I hope what I’m about to say doesn’t ruin my friendship with Gal: this theory, too, fits in nicely with the nothing-in-Israel-can-possibly- be-unrelated-to-the-Arab-Israeli-conflict thesis.

And it hardly stands up to factual scrutiny. People in Israel don’t die younger than people elsewhere. Life expectancy at birth is 81 years for Israeli Jews and 79 for Israeli Arabs, rates among the world’s highest. For people aged between 20 and 25, it is the fifth highest. So much for keeping-your-child-alive homosexuality-tolerant parents.

Not long ago, a much-debated op-ed in the New York Times even accused Israelis of “pinkwashing,” or concealing “the continuing violations of Palestinians’ human rights behind an image of modernity signified by Israeli gay life.” As if Israelis can’t be tolerant of gays because they are tolerant people. As if they can’t go to the beach because it is pretty, the weather is warm, and the girls are beautiful. As if there is no Israel but the Israel of conflict.

Shmuel Rosner, an editor and columnist based in Tel Aviv, is senior political editor for The Jewish Journal. (Copyright 2012 The New York Times Company 05/30/12)


Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY