Jonathan Cook: the Blog from Nazareth -

Israelis may not be as happy as they think

I find something intriguing about these surveys showing Israelis among the happiest people in the developed world. The latest, from the OECD, ranks Israel in 8th place out of 36 countries on this scale.

Strangely the same surveys, including this latest one, also show Israelis have many reasons for high levels of dissatisfaction: Israel is almost unmatched in the levels of inequality, most Israelis have little disposable income, the cost of living is very high, the education system is poor etc.

In material terms, the only good thing to say about Israel is that its inhabitants are among the healthiest, even though Israel spends relatively little on health care (all those years of army reserve duty training keeping them fit?)

Haaretz quotes Itzhak Harpaz of Haifa University offering the following explanation: “Life expectancy in Israel is high, health is good, and we’re proud of the country’s accomplishments in science and high-tech. All of these affect how Israelis view their lives.”

There may be something to this, but maybe not in quite the way Harpaz means it. Israelis seem to be able to subsume their own sense of happiness in the superior value of a collective / national pride in their country and the perceived achievements of Zionism. So when Israelis are asked about their individual level happiness, they may be answering about something rather different: their Zionist pride in their country. Most Israeli Jews are strongly Zionist, so it makes sense that levels of this kind of happiness would be high.

Another possible explanation is that this is all about hasbara. Unlike the citizens of most (all?) other countries, Israeli Jews see it as their national duty to make their country look good, even if it involves lying. It’s perceived as hugely disloyal to tell outsiders (non-Jews) bad things about the country.

In other words, I suspect a fair bit of this can be ascribed to simple deception, of themselves or more likely the pollsters.

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