‘Only when Israelis begin to feel that they are no longer welcomed in Europe as equals because of the occupation will it become the main election issue,” wrote an Israeli professor recently. Another commentator at an Israeli newspaper recently claimed that “no other Western democracy holds millions of foreigners under military rule, no other enlightened nation....”
This idea that Israel is a “Western” country whose people want to be “welcomed” in Europe is a sub-culture in Israeli society, that was once more dominant in the leadership of the country and imagines that it is the majority today. Uri Avnery, famous Israeli activist whose life has spanned that of the state, wrote in 2015 that “growing numbers of well-educated, talented Israelis will emigrate to the US and Germany, leaving behind the less educated, more primitive, less productive population.” He noted that “almost all my friends have sons and daughters living abroad.”
The demographic in Israel that sees the country as closely linked to Europe and frets over it becoming less “Western” and less European tend to be the same demographic that speaks of “returning” to Europe. What they have never internalized, and what many commentators on Israel abroad have never understood, is that Israel is not a Western country. It is not a European country. (...)
But the majority of Israelis today don’t care about being welcomed in Europe and don’t seek European approval. They don’t see themselves as primitives begging for acceptance in the halls of Paris or Berlin. They are proud of their society, and they don’t think that they need to beg acceptance from the grandchildren of Nazis.
At the same time this Israeli rejection of Europe does not end the judgment that Israel is held to “higher standards” because it is seen as a Western democracy.read more