02 August 2006

Israel, as Greece with a lag

A historical and glorious nation used to have no land of its own. After many centuries and lots of struggles, its influential and well organized Diaspora manages to take control of a small land with certain historical claims and create a country as a basis for the national resurrection. What follows is a period of enormous cultural and economic success, and most crucially a period of territorial expansion.
That is a common tale of two nations, Greece in early 19th century and Israel in the 20th century (1). The driving force behind this success was the “Great Idea” (“Μεγάλη Ιδέα”) in Greece and “Zionism” in Israel. The underlying structures, mechanisms and to a great extent results are the same.

The end of the story for Greece was bitter but hopeful. In all their zeal for the glory of Greece, Greeks went a bit too far inside Turkey. Eventually, the national disaster of 1921 (“Μικρασιατική καταστροφή”) sealed the borders with blood and terminated the territorial expansion of this country. After that, the energy of the nation was focused in “organic growth”, the new battles were in the social, economic and cultural arenas -with admittedly positive results (2).

Contrary to expansionist 19th century Greece, Israel's assertiveness was mostly driven by its hostile neighbors; however the critical issue remains the same: realizing the limitations of the nation and settling the borders. Israel luckily did not face any disaster up to now. Ariel Sharon was a statesman who tried to finish the territorial issue while Israel is still the strongest player in the region, on his country’s terms. He dared to face first the leftwing peaceniks and then the ultra-orthodox fanatics and unilaterally remove the settlers from Gaza and parts of West Bank. But Sharon is not there anymore and Olmert looks too clumsy to finish the job of his predecessor. We all hope that it will not take a disaster for Israel to be done with the territorial issue.

(1). It can be fairly argued that the same historical pattern of a strong national ideology that initially can successfully lead new nations but eventually reaches its limitations, can be seen elsewhere, e.g. Japan and Germany.
(2) A couple of Nobels, relative economic and political success unseen before in the most backwarding region of the Europe, the Balkans.


Harry said...

I don't think the analogy is valid.
The issues Israel faces are anything but territorial

Anonymous said...

Anything but territorial???

I agree that there are more issues involved, but the basic dynamics are similar and it DOES come down to settling the borders.

penguin_witch said...

I can actually see the similarity between Israeli aggressiveness of the early 21st century and Greek aggressiveness of the early 20th century. I can also easily see Israel falling into the same trap that Greece had fallen in 1922 (biting more than it can chew, based on uncertain promises by the superpowers of the time and then left out to fend for itself when the superpower protection is taken away...)

Anonymous said...

The analogy not only is NOT valid at ALL but it is blasphemous and offensive to all Hellenes of the world. Comparing "Μεγάλη Ιδέα" to the "Balfour Agreement" is barbaric. Hellenes were always there. They endured 4 centuries of hellish Ottoman occupation before they revolted on their own. They also fought on their own and freed their land. The Jews through their standard method of political machinations, undue influence and skillfull manipulation were able to accomplish something truly UNPRECEDENTED: They managed to make ONE country (Britain) promise an ethnic/religious group (Jews) the land of another (Arabs). I can go for hours about this but my question has always been: If the Jews considered Palestine their (promised) land how come they all took off and left it to the Arabs. I mean the standard is if you love your country you stay and you defend it. Right? Somehow -again- the poor Jews managed to have their cake and eat it too! Its unbelievable!?!?!

Anonymous said...

We Greeks used foreign powers too for our benefit as well as they used us... I always found many parallels with Greece and Israel and it's a mystery why this parallel is not widely mentioned. Although I do agree that in Israel's case the basis on its foundation was according more so on historical grounds than on heavily Jewish populated areas that were occupied. In Greece's case liberation was mainly based on freeying areas where Greeks were the majority population. This difference can be seen today with the problem Israel is facing in sharing land with the massive local Arab population that settle in the area over the years. In the end though it was Israel's right to have a nation of it's own and one must take into account that this country is in the middle of a sea of Arab nations and their people have suffered much. All people have a right to have a home country and so does Israel have a right to exist.