OPINION

‘Why is Greece not Israel?’

why-is-greece-not-israel

‘A question emerged in a recent conversation, asking, “Why do Greeks not operate like Jewish people? Why is Greece not Israel?” The answer is not simple. Maybe it is because, despite the many similarities, the differences are also stark.

We are two peoples with a long history, who both see ourselves as brotherless nations. We both have powerhouse diasporas that excel the world over with their notable achievements in the sciences, academia, art,and business. Both Israel and Greece are small countries that despite their size have a prominent global standing, strategic importance, and wield influence much greater than their size would attest to. 

This is about the point where the similarities end and the differences begin to become apparent. The Jewish diaspora has organized itself uniquely and is capable of efficiently intervening at critical moments, both in the United States and elsewhere. This is a far cry from the Greek diaspora, with only a few exceptions, unfortunately. Israel has also integrated security and defense not only in its daily life, but its business culture. Again, this is nothing like Greece. Israel used its diaspora to create one of the most innovative and dynamic startup communities. Greece still severely lags in this sector. 

The question is why? We are no less intelligent, creative, or proud. Neither can one believe that there is some component in Jewish DNA that is so different to ours. I considered whether the answer might lie in the fact that we never truly felt the threat of extinction as a nation. When you do feel it, you obviously evolve as a nation and adapt your behavior, you go about setting up your state differently. You get serious, you prioritize the important issues over the less important ones, you set goals, you become an ambitious nation. Throughout our history we have faced many such challenges and rose to the occasion, the triumphs followed on from disasters, as Stathis Kalyvas would argue.

The last time we faced a real threat was 1974. However, instead of getting down to business, we grew complacent. The notion of synergy between the armed forces and universities became anathema. The diaspora mobilized and then we forgot about it or viewed it as part of party politics. The rot of political favors and the omnipresent politicization gnawed away at the fundamental cohesion of the state. Many careers were built on grand words, and occasionally on bribes too. We did not give off the impression of a nation or state that truly felt threatened.

We are now becoming more serious. That is a very positive development, even if it is belated and even if we have a long way to go to become more like our fellow brotherless nation.