Not nearly enough attention is being paid to a social phenomenon that is sweeping through Europe and the US. Great swaths of the population are becoming, or more accurately have already become totally alienated from the political, economic and social structures of the societies to which they belong. Furthermore, they know whom to blame – namely the political and economic elites of those countries, who they see as being not just part of the problem, but the cause of the problem.
The economic one percent doesn’t want to do anything about it because it benefits from it. And the political elite, even that portion not bought and paid for by the economic elite, has not the slightest clue of what to do about it.
What of Israel? Recently, at a meeting of a discussion group in which I participate, one of the participants asked whether Israel is or might be subject to the same phenomenon of social anomie and estrangement on the part of a substantial portion of Israeli society.
The answer, in my view, is that it is unlikely, as long as the economic situation is strong. Unlike Europe and the US, Israel passed through the Great Recession starting in 2008 without a scratch. Unemployment is at a record low and median per capita income at a record high. Markets being lost because of economic stagnation in Europe are being successfully replaced, particularly by new markets in Asia. Development of natural gas reserves is adding significantly to national wealth. Certain segments of the population of Israel are alienated, but those segments have always been alienated, and in fact, their alienation is steadily, if slowly, declining.
So no, unless the economic situation deteriorates significantly, and there is no reason why it should in the immediate future, the “rage, fear, envy and resentment” phenomenon should not take hold in Israel. Nevertheless, its spread elsewhere cannot be ignored, if only because it is likely to increase the already growing anti-Israel sentiment, often a cover for antisemitism, in the West.
Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Professor of Economics and National Security, The National Security Studies Center, University of Haifa, and Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft, The Institute of World Politics, Washington, DC. He was formerly with the US National Security Council and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
* Published by Globes [online], on September 15, 2016