By Melanie Philips—
While countries around the world struggle to get on top of the Covid-19 crisis, Israel’s achievement so far has been remarkable.
Its mortality rate from the virus has been vastly smaller, in proportion to its population, than the rate in countries such as Britain, Sweden or the United States. That’s largely because it tackled the virus with the kind of bold, strategic approach with which it defends itself against its physical foes.
This week, with new cases reduced to a few dozen, it started to lift a wide range of restrictions on public activity. Many are fearful, however, that the country’s exit from lockdown is too fast and incoherent, and may send the infection rate soaring again out of control.
That said, Israel’s defense against this invisible enemy has also highlighted something positive that previously wasn’t fully appreciated.
Thousands of Israeli Arab health-care professionals have been putting their own lives on the line by treating virus patients alongside their Jewish colleagues.
There could scarcely have been a more graphic demonstration of equality and indispensability, and it will have been noticed by Israel’s Jews and Arabs alike. It vividly illustrated the prominence of Israeli Arabs in the country’s health system, in which they make up 17 percent of its doctors, 24 percent of its nurses and 48 percent of its pharmacists.
This may have profound political consequences in a society where the status of Israeli Arabs, who form some 20 percent of the population, is a sensitive source of mutual suspicion, exaggeration and denial.
Israel’s stellar experience so far with the coronavirus may have a global impact, too. Earlier this week, the country’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, pledged a donation of $60 million at an international conference raising funds to fight the virus around the world.
Boasting of Israel’s cutting-edge expertise in science, research and innovation, he declared: “We hope to work with other countries to leverage our unique capabilities to find solutions for the benefit of all.”
In making this pitch, Netanyahu was also attempting to “leverage” Israel’s record in fighting the virus in order to diminish global hostility to Israel.
There can be little doubt that even relatively unfriendly countries will be greedily eyeing Israel’s achievements. This week, its defense ministry announced that the Israel Institute for Biological Research had completed a groundbreaking scientific development in identifying an antibody that neutralizes Covid-19.
Whether or not this turns out to be a global life-saver, few can doubt that Israel is in the forefront of the world’s scientific effort to develop a vaccine, antidotes and tests to combat the virus.
However, the hope that such achievements will transmute anti-Israel hostility into friendship may be stretching optimism too far. Continue Reading…