If you read only the cover of this week’s Time, you would think “Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace.” The actual cover story, though, paints a strikingly different picture. For one thing, it distinguishes between the largely secular and progressive “bubble” of Tel Aviv, “a beach city,” and the rest of Israel, particularly Jerusalem, “where more and more of life is so serious—all that stone.”
For another, as the article correctly reports, if Israelis don’t care about peace, it is because they are realistically pessimistic about the peace process—if you don’t know the causes for pessimism, you haven’t been paying attention—and because Israel’s security strategies, such as the barrier, have been mostly successful at physically shielding Israelis (at least the ones who don’t live in the West Bank) from violence. And so these people in the meantime have built lives of quiet leisure and pleasure and commerce, as anyone would. So, yes, “Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace”—in the sense that many Israelis have figured out ways to be happy in the absence of peace. But to suggest that “Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace”—in the sense that it is indifferent to peace—is, given that the place has universal conscription, and everyone is or was a soldier, and every parent’s children are or were soldiers, self-evidently ludicrous.
So how did Time, maybe the most influential American magazine, get from this scrupulously reported article (which is worth reading, though you need to be a subscriber or purchase the print edition—or the iPad one!) to that sensationalist, inaccurate headline? The cover art—a Star of David made out of white flowers symbolizing peace—tells an interesting story if you think about it enough. It could imply that the Jews of Israel already have a sort of peace—have the ability to live post-historical lives on the beaches and in the cafes and throughout the neighborhoods of Tel Aviv. Which is not to minimize the suffering of the Palestinians in the territories, nor the culpability of some Jews, and the Israeli government, in that suffering. But if many Israelis “don’t care” about peace because in their lives they already have a sort of peace, then who the hell are we to judge them? Anyway, Israelis aren’t about to let their emotional lives be run by Time magazine.
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.