Ottoman Palestine was a place of peace, placidity, social harmony, no refugees, no mass immigration and a place where living standards were generally high based on the standards of the era and the region. Today, the once peaceful Ottoman Palestine is besot with two rivalled failed entities that both fall short of their claim to normal statehood.
The political rivalries and divisions within Palestine are both infamous and tragic. A now cancelled Palestinian conference that was to be held in Beirut underscored these divisions, even at a time when the US under Donald Trump has transformed the de-facto anti-Palestinian position of Washington into an overt policy. Whether the Fatah/Hamas rivalry or the position of the ideologically un-compromised, but necessarily equally uncompromising Popular Front of The Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), political unity in Palestine remains an illusive goal, even when all Palestinians are against a common oppression. The conflict in Syria has further divided Palestinians with many leftist Palestinians including and especially supporters of the PFLP fighting with their Syrian ally, while many members including some Hamas leaders have fought alongside al-Qaeda against the pro-Palestine Syrian government.
But while Palestine’s inability to political unite is a common refrain both in pro-Arab unity media and in disparaging Zionist media, “Israeli” society is becoming more divided than ever and may in fact grow more politically and ideologically divided than Palestine.
24/7 war as a reality
The elephant in the room when talking about “Israel” is the fact that “Israel” can only survive if in a perpetual state of war. Since the very essence of the “Israeli” reality is the conquest of another state by colonial settlers and their progeny, the fact that Palestinians have refused to forfeit their statehood or accept a colonial master as the indigenous peoples of Australia and North America largely have over the centuries, means that “Israel” and Palestine have been in a state of war ever since the 1940s and while some periods of this decades long span of time have been more violent than others, the war mentality is pervasive in the region.
In order to cope with constant war, the “Israeli” regime has mandated conscription for both male and female citizens and security measures that are extreme even by the standards of many countries facing civil conflict. All of this has coalesced to create a violent, militarised and trigger happy society that just today saw “Israeli” forces kill one of their own citizens who was mistaken for a Palestinian.
On top of this, many “Israeli” citizens are growing resentful at this constant state of war as is natural in any population. While many incite hatred against Palestinians as a means to explain this growing feeling of resentment, there is also an increased divide on the issue that cuts across many liens of cultural origin, national origin and ideological and religious concerns.
Recent protests have seen religious Jews protest the putatively secular regime’s attempt to conscript ultra-religious Jews into the military. This has occurred in spite of the ruling Likud party clinging on to power due to its alliance with political factions representing ultra-religious Jews.
At the same time, the influx of individuals and families from Russia and other former Soviet states have created new often violent cultural dynamics which themselves hint at the different historic experience of Jews living in western and central European states versus those who lived in the Russian Empire and later the Soviet Union. On top of this, many younger urban “Israelis” are often at odds with those in so-called settlements with the former tending more towards favouring de-militarisation and the later typically espousing bellicose expansionist aims.
It’s the economy, stupid!
But the biggest elephant in the room is the fact that of every nation in a state of war or conflict, the cost of living is more expensive in “Israel” than anywhere else in the world. “Israel” is number ten on the list of the highest aggregate cost of living in the world. Crucially, the top nine are all nations that are not only in a state of peace but are famous for their placidity. The top three states with high living costs include the holiday destination and tax shelter Bermuda, followed by Switzerland and Iceland, two states that are among the most peaceful in modern history. By contrast, other states experiencing conflict or war have far lower living costs. Neighbouring Syria for example is ranked 110 and of 115, while Lebanon which was torn apart by a violent civil war in the 20th century is ranked at number 37. Egypt which continues to fight terrorism within its own borders and occasionally in the neighbouring failed state of Libya has one of the world’s lowest costs of living at 114 out of 115.
The reason this matters is that if one expects to pay high prices for general commodities ranging from food to shelter, one generally expects peace and safety as a result. In this sense, are “Israeli’s” really getting what they are paying for? The answer is clearly no when one considers that for only slighter higher prices one could be living in peaceful, safe and clean Japan or Singapore. Things become even more magnified when one realises that when measured using different statistical methods, the price of living in “Israel” can be classed as the highest among countries considered developed by the Paris based The Organisation for Economic Co-operation (OECD).
Perhaps ironically, while Arab media hardly covers this subject, pro-“Israel” media has covered it. The following was written about the cost of living crisis in a December 2017 edition of The Times of Israel:
“The Taub Center’s “State of the Nation Report 2017” showed that while employment was up and salaries had increased over the past 12 months, “price levels in Israel remain among the highest in the OECD.”
The report found that Israel’s price index was 23 percent higher than the average of countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a club of developed or developing countries, besting rich Western nations such as the US, France, Germany and Luxembourg.
Only Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Australia and New Zealand had higher price indices, according to the data.
Israel’s high cost of living and runaway real estate prices have been a major concern for several years, sparking large scale protests and promises of government reforms to bring down housing costs.
“Housing prices continue to rise at a faster rate than rental prices, and there continues to be a decline in the return on owning an apartment,” the report found.
An increase in average wages led to an “impressive increase in consumption” as well as an improvement in the standard of living. Nevertheless, a large segment of the labor market still suffers from low productivity and low wages, the report found.
In the long term, the report warned, the rate of economic growth is expected to slow, due to a smaller percentage of working age population and a demographic increase in populations with relatively low employment rates and without the skills necessary for the modern workforce”.
In an article by Robert Swift in the ultra-Zionist Ynet News, a local resident is quoted as saying,
“Because of restrictions on the food market and the price of housing, the cost of living in Israel is high compared to that of the OECD countries”.
The most expensive of any war torn partially recognised state
Thus, costs of living which exceed countries like Luxembourg, Japan and France and rival those in Switzerland and the Nordic belt, combined with a 24/7 war footing and increased religious and nationalist sectarianism do not make for a stable situation. While “Israel” is often lauded in pro-Zionist circles as a success story, in reality, it should be viewed more like a nuclear armed Republika Srpska, Transnistria, or Kosovo in so far is that it is a state with uneven recognition throughout the world, born by conflict and living with conflict. In the case of “Israel” the conflict is far more deadly than the frozen conflicts surrounding the aforementioned partially recognised “states”.
By any means, a state which requires 24/7 war to survive, a police state to monitor things which in the rest of the developed world are generally non-existent and prices that rival and exceed the most expensive but placid developed states in world history and all while receiving only partial international recognition, is de-facto a failed entity.
Of course, Palestine which has similar problems but with the added detriment of violent political infighting is also a de-facto failed entity. The only conclusion that one must reach is that for those who do not have natural sympathies with one side or another, one owes it to him or herself to realise that objectively, the long running conflict between “Israel” and Palestine is one of two entities which simply cannot sustain their existence without radical change. Of course, the only template for a peaceful, placid and comparatively economically sustainable Palestine was the one which existed under the Ottoman Empire when there was no sectarianism warfare, police state mentality, extortionate prices, a mass exodus of refugees and a mass influx of foreign migrants.
The closet contemporary model to the old Ottoman realities in Palestine would be a one state solution where all peoples live with the same economic, civic and political rights. In order to achieve this, a foreign power would almost certainly need to work with locals in order to foster this development. Interestingly, the state best placed to do this, is the last state which successfully ruled Palestine and this is of course, Turkey.