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Opinion

Ignore the losers

Israel is an immensely successful country and we should celebrate that rather than concentrate on the haters.

A Ryanair airliner arrives in Eilat, Nov. 9, 2015. Credit: Flash90.
A Ryanair airliner arrives in Eilat, Nov. 9, 2015. Credit: Flash90.
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski is a senior educator at numerous educational institutions. The author of three books, he teaches Torah, Zionism and Israel studies around the world.

Unless the announcement informs passengers of a flight delay, cancellation or God forbid an imminent crash, airline passengers rarely get upset over a flight attendant’s announcement mid-flight.

On a recent Ryanair flight from Italy to Israel, however, an announcement upset plenty of Israelis. As the passengers on the plane reported, a flight attendant repeatedly, in Italian and English, announced the plane’s destination as “Palestine,” not Israel.

Passengers asked for a correction, but were rebuffed. One passenger was even threatened with arrest when he tried photographing the flight attendant responsible.

Mistaken destination announcements are comical and when filmed often go viral. But “Palestine” hasn’t existed as a destination since the founding of Israel and Jordan’s occupation of Judea and Samaria in 1948. The Ryanair flight attendant wasn’t making a mistake. They were making a despicable political statement akin to erasing Israel from the map.

Once the plane landed, the story spread and the media picked it up. It wasn’t long before Zionists around the world called for Ryanair to apologize and fire the flight attendant.

When Ryanair wouldn’t immediately apologize, calls to ban the airline from landing in Israel and for Zionists the world over to boycott it began.

The founding chairman and CEO of the Abraham Global Peace Initiative, Avi Abraham Benlolo, tweeted, “We are sickened by Ryanair staff that announced they were landing in ‘Palestine’ instead of Israel. Can you imagine this happening on approach to any other country? It’s nothing short of antisemitic and deserves an apology.”

Coincidentally, at the same time as the Ryanair flight was on the way to Israel, the American House of Representatives was voting on bipartisan legislation that mandated the appointment of a special envoy for the Abraham Accords by the White House. The bill overwhelmingly passed and is expected to do the same in the Senate.

The bill states that the envoy will be expected to strengthen existing agreements between Israel and Muslim-majority countries while coordinating efforts to do so across the U.S. government and with foreign governments, NGOs and other stakeholders.

There were only 13 votes against the bill. One of them came from a representative who later said they made a mistake and intended to vote “yes.” Of the 12 remaining “no” votes, ten came from the usual anti-Israel members of Congress who consistently vote against pro-Israel legislation.

Many in the pro-Israel community chose to focus on the “no” votes rather than the overwhelming pro-Israel votes. But we should remember that it is very rare to have such overwhelming bipartisan support for foreign policy bills. The massive majority of supporters testifies to the strength of congressional support for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.

While it’s prudent for Israel’s supporters to be wary of anti-Israel words and actions from influential and powerful voices, they shouldn’t worry about lone and insignificant voices. A flight attendant or members of Congress with no impact or influence shouldn’t be given the spotlight—especially by the pro-Israel community.

Had the passengers laughed at the announcement and ignored the attendant, no one outside of the plane would ever have known about the incident. Had the pro-Israel community focused its attention on the 413 members who voted for the Abraham Accords legislation instead of the 13 opponents, the world’s attention would be focused on congressional support for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. Instead, the community gave oxygen to an irrelevant hostile minority.

Israel is currently one of the strongest nations in the world. It is, by any measure, a successful country. It is older than half the world’s countries, has a world-class military and economy, and its people are the fourth-happiest in the world. It has faced all its enemies and defeated them.

The Jewish people’s worst enemies during the 20th century—Germany, Egypt and Jordan—have all signed peace treaties with Israel or support it. Several Gulf Arab countries have normalized relations with Israel. The world turns to the Jewish state for water technology, high-tech research and development, and military hardware.

Strong and confident countries ignore those who slander them. After 75 years of success, it is time for Israelis and Zionists the world over to ignore the irrelevant hostile voices and display the self-esteem that becomes a nation as strong as Israel.

We should ignore the losers and celebrate our many victories. Those who won’t jump on Israel’s bandwagon are on the wrong side of history. They will either disappear completely or leave behind a corrupt and shameful legacy. Rather than waste time and energy on them, Zionists should spread the word of Israel’s success around the world.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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