Israeli Consul General at New York University

17 02 2009

On Monday February 9, 2009, the Israeli Consul General in New York, Asaf Shariv, paid a visit to New York University, in an event organized by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) of NYU.  There had been a big fuss about the outcome of the Israeli elections this year, with close competition between Kadima, led by Tzipi Livni, and the Likud, led by Benjamin Netanyahu. Shariv had come to give his opinion.


The majority of the 40-some audience at the King Juan Carlos Center was young, between 18 and 30 years old. After half an hour to 45 minutes, the floor was opened for questions from the audience. A young female NYU student, and a member of the AJC, stood up to ask the Consul General about what she sees as indifferent Israeli youth towards politics in Israel, especially compared to the recent mobilization of many young Americans for the latest Presidential Elections.


I found this question particularly surprising. My perception has always been that Israelis are very much involved in politics. During Operation Cast Lead, the recent military action led by the Israeli Defense Force on Hamas in the Gaza strip, I read many comments on Israeli newspapers online posted by Israelis and Jews. Even on the English version of Al Jazeera website, many of the readers’ comments came from Israelis and Jews, all around the world, admirably voicing their opinions and views. There is no doubt in my mind that the majority of these commentators are young. On the website YouTube, videos of demonstrations in Israel for and against the war on Gaza showed large numbers of youth who were not the least bit indifferent. Among my Israeli acquaintances and friends, politics has always been a topic of conversation.  


The Consul General’s response was, “We don’t have a Barack Obama.” His more important point, however, was that some people are fed up with politics in general. Many young people in Israel, he said, are more concerned about selling their internet start-up companies than politics. The bottom line was, people are moving on.


An Israeli friend once told me that Tel Aviv is sometimes referred to as “the bubble,” with people tanning on its sandy beaches as the Lebanon War was in mid-heat in 2006. Hamas and Hezbollah rockets rarely have the parabola or the speed to reach many parts of Israel. I thought about this as I heard this lady’s question. I suppose people can get detached in some parts of the country. “Out of sight, out of mind.”


I wondered if this could be the case for some Palestinian youth. My gut feeling tells me it’s not, but that is another topic of discussion.



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