Israelis unbothered by ‘campaign of fear’

With summer drawing to its close, people here are wondering whether they have really managed to take a rest from the hectic Israeli pace, or, on the contrary, they come out of the vacation season more exhausted than before.

Speaking for myself, I have just returned from a heavenly vacation in Italy, where the tranquility of the countryside, the sublime music and the great food and wine all made me forget the mayhem at home. That is, until I boarded the El Al plane in Rome and was offered one of the Israeli newspapers. I took a look and my heart sank. All the blessings of the vacation went down the tube.

It seems like the Israeli newspapers and the other media compete over who will make you more agitated or depressed. Every headline is scarier than the last, every story is exaggerated, carrying an alarming twist. Headlines are huge, in red letters. If my memory serves me right, in the Six Day War, when we were small but confident, the headline announcing the great victory was in black and white and much smaller.

Iran, of course, still dominates the discourse. Yet for how long can you keep the Israeli populace alert about this? How many more threats can we hear from Israeli leaders (actually, only from two: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak), vowing to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities if the United States fails to do it? And how many more experts can we hear saying we shouldn’t be doing it? Or American officials warning us not to do it?

Indeed, it seems as if someone has launched a well-orchestrated campaign to scare the Israelis. Is this the Israeli government trying to silence public debate about Iran by saturating and exhausting us, so that it has a free hand to do whatever it wants? Not likely. Having served in government in the past, I don’t credit it with such wisdom. It is more likely the need to feed the media beast, a task twice difficult in the lazy summer months.

In the course of this litany of frightening analyses and scenarios, all the clichés have been worn out. Everybody has been lectured about “crying wolf” and, of course, the immortal phrase from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly was used ad nauseam: “If you want to shoot, shoot, don’t talk.” Not to mention the useless “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” Sometimes it seems that people here would rather have Israel attack Iran just to put an end to this nerve-wracking campaign.

If the security risks involved with an attack on Iran were not enough, then Stanley Fisher, the governor of the Bank of Israel, who, by a huge consensus, is considered to be one of the few “responsible adults” in our country, explained on television how such an attack might plunge Israel into a severe economic crisis, thank you very much.

I looked around at the other passengers on the plane, who were calmly browsing through their newspapers. What is the matter with these people? Don’t they know that they should have been in a state of panic, because of an attack (or a lack of attack) on Iran? Don’t they realize that they can lose their homes, or their jobs?

Nothing. The Israelis on the plane tossed their newspapers away and turned into more important things, like watching the movie or just taking a happy nap.

When asked last Independence Day by the Israel HaYom newspaper “How proud are you to be Israeli?” 93 percent of respondents described themselves as “proud;” while 70 percent said they were “very proud” and 74 percent said Israel is a good country to live in. In other polls, three out of four Israelis said they were optimistic about the future.

What is the secret of Israelis, then, that makes them immune from that media campaign of fear?

The answer probably lies in other polls, which consistently show that while Israelis have little trust in their politicians, more than 80 percent of them trust their insurance policy: the Israeli Defense Forces.

Flying El Al, you can easily tell that many Israelis also trust God. And regardless of being religious or secular, all Israeli know the phrase: “We have survived Pharaoh; We’ll survive this as well.”

Uri Dromi is a columnist based in Jerusalem.

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