In case you missed it, Sunday was International Happiness Day.
As usual, it was accompanied by a U.N. study of the state of international happiness, including the ranking of countries from most to least.
This year’s top ten are pretty much the ones you would expect: Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Canada, Holland, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden. All are peaceful, long established, prosperous democracies with homogenous populations, located in the calmest regions of the First World.
And then, at number 11, comes Israel.
Israel? A hated democracy in the world’s most violent neighborhood? A society where boys and girls are drafted into the army at eighteen and men do military reserve duty well into their forties? Where taxes are higher and salaries far lower than in dozen countries that rank lower on the happiness scale? A nation with a history so somber that it three separate national days of mourning?
Yep, that’s the one.
When the UN happiness report was published it shocked Israel’s post-Zionist intelligentsia, for whom it is doctrine that Israel is a miserable place that gets worse by the day.
But elite’s effort to debunk the UN finding ran into a flurry of other Happiness Day reports.
Hardest to refute was from the Organization for Economic Coordination and Development (OECD), a club of the world’s most advanced nations. Its 2015 survey examined “general satisfaction with life,” in its member states, on a scale of ten. The OECP average was 6.6. The Danes and the Swiss finished neck-and-neck at 7.5. Israel finished in a three-way tie for second place with Norway and Finland.
Further corroboration if needed, arrived last week. srael’s official National Bureau of Statistics reported that in 2013, 86% of Israelis over the age of nineteen said they were “very satisfied with their lives,”—the same percentage of very happy Australians.
These statistics are interesting because they paint a picture of life in Israel that is very different from the usual portrayal in the international media. But they are crucial for understanding an essential truth about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
Back in 2006, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman published a list of rules for reporting on the Middle East. They were, by and large, sensible nostrums about the region he covered (and still covers) with distinction. But the Happiness Day statistics caused me to revisit them, especially Rule 12: “The Israelis will always win, and the Palestinians will always make sure they never enjoy it.”
This is a good aphorism. It represents the conventional thinking of the Israeli intelligentsia and progressive journalists and politicians (almost the only people foreign correspondents ever meet). It also correctly reflects Palestinian fantasy which, unhappily, is the basis for Palestinian policy.
For most of the past century, the Arabs of Palestine have believed that the Jewish state was an artificial entity, a concoction of Europeans who would, if sufficiently pressured, go back where they belonged.
That led to a decades long campaign of terrorism, propaganda warfare, efforts at international demonization, anti-Israel UN resolution, rocket attacks, bogus peace offers, threats about the demographic power of “the Palestinian womb” (one of Yassir Arafat’s favorites), moral posturing on the evils of occupation and then more terror.
The current iteration features a campaign of almost daily knife attacks on Israeli citizens by Palestinian teenagers and a worldwide effort to make Israel into a pariah state.
What the Palestinians do not understand is this is not going to work. In fact, it is a counterproductive waste of time.
Year by year, Israel gets bigger, stronger, richer, more technologically advanced and better accepted by the countries that matter (including regional Sunni regimes in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia that were once patrons of Palestinian “resistance”).
And Israelis get happier.
Anyone who has been to Israel in the last fifteen years knows this. Israel is a country with a vibrant Hebrew cultural scene, great restaurants and nightlife, abundant tourism (it is a destination for both Evangelical pilgrims and LGBT visitors), world class universities, honest courts, omnipresent internet connection, newly discovered oil reserves, plentiful water resources (thanks to Israeli techniques of desalination), a booming high tech sector, low unemployment, steady immigration, increasing a high Jewish birth rate, bloodless elections and plain old daily life.
The Palestinians need to internalize this. So do American policy-makers and anyone else banking on life becoming so intolerable that Israel gives up on itself. With apologies to Tom Friedman, here is Rule Number 1: Israel is very good at turning bitter Palestinian lemons into sweet, satisfying lemonade.
Zev Chafets is a Fox News contributor. His latest book is “Remembering Who We Are: A Treasury of Conservative Commencement Addresses” (Sentinel 2015).