web analytics
November 25, 2014 / 3 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘world view’

In Praise of Nationalism

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Recently, I wrote about universalizing the Holocaust and how it obscures an important lesson for the Jewish people: that we cannot place the responsibility for our defense in other hands.

A reader has pointed me to another piece which made a similar point, but expressed in in more general terms. Daniel Greenfield (‘Sultan Knish’) wrote this (but read the whole article):

The Jewish response to the Holocaust fell into these two categories. Never Again and Teach Tolerance. And the two responses were segmented by population. Never Again became the credo of Israel and Teach Tolerance became the credo of the Western Diaspora.

There were many Israelis who believed in teaching tolerance and many Western Jews who believed in self-defense, but for the most part the responses were structural because the divide between Nationalists and Universalists predated the Holocaust. …

Never Again made the Holocaust a teachable moment for Jews. Teach Tolerance made it a teachable moment for all mankind. The Nationalist and the Universalist draw two opposite lessons from the Holocaust. The Nationalists focus on resistance while the Universalists focus on persecution. The Nationalist aspires to be a ghetto fighter while the Universalist aspires to be a good German. …

The Holocaust did not heal the divide between the Universalists and the Nationalists; it deepened it. The Universalists still insisted that a better world was coming and that the Holocaust made it more urgent for us to work toward it, while the Nationalists saw the world as a cycle of civilizations that had to be survived, with no respite, except for the religious who awaited a final transformation of the world and everything in it.

The nationalist/universalist distinction is a good one, much more illuminating of today’s war between the Jews than the more usual ones of Right vs. Left or Conservative vs. Liberal.

As Greenfield notes, the universalist believes in progress — he sees human society as perfectible, and indeed, moving in the direction of a better, more humane world. He often believes that the main obstacles to progress are barriers to communication; all humans are at bottom similar with similar wants and needs (mostly economic), and if we only understood each other we could work together for the common good. He prefers to avoid making moral judgments on other cultures.

The nationalist understands several things that the universalist does not:

  1. Cultures may have very different ideas of what a desirable world looks like — it isn’t just a communications problem.
  2. It’s irrational to make unilateral concessions to an adversary with opposing objectives (the universalist doesn’t believe that others really have opposing objectives)
  3. History tends to be cyclical. The idea of continuous progress is a myth.
  4. It’s hard enough to perfect one’s own society; it’s foolhardy to try to do it for the rest of the world.

If we compare Western and Islamic cultures, we find that universalist attitudes are common in the former and rare in the latter. But of course there are plenty of nationalists among westerners. Compare the nationalist Benjamin Netanyahu with the universalist Shimon Peres.

I think this distinction is more fundamental than the right/left divide. It is also very firmly ensconced in our psyches, and it is not easy to change. How else can you explain the so-called “architects of Oslo” who — after several wars and thousands of lives lost to terrorism — continue to think that a two-state agreement with the PLO will bring peace? Or the 100 American Jewish “leaders” who signed a recent letter calling for Israel to make ‘painful’ concessions?

Other things being equal, a struggle between universalists and nationalists will favor the nationalists, because they understand that their goals are different from those of their adversaries. Israel’s enemies are ‘nationalists’ in this sense, even if they are Islamists. They are happy to pocket concessions, give back nothing, and make further demands.

The universalist is easy prey to doubts. After all, he thinks, if the other side believes in its position so strongly, maybe there’s something to it? So Israeli journalist Noam Sheizaf comments on Amira Hass’ controversial article which applauds Arab stone-throwers with one of the most craven statements I’ve heard in a long time:

…it’s not for Israelis to set the rules for the ways Palestinians should challenge our oppression, especially at times when Israeli society clearly lacks any interest in changing the status quo. Our role is to end the occupation.[my emphasis]

A perfect example of a universalist trying so hard to ‘understand’ that he more or less accepts his enemies’ ‘right’ to bash his brains out!

Explaining Obama’s Fixation with Israel

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Why does Barack Obama focus so much on Israel and its struggle with the Arabs?

It’s not just that he’s spending days in Israel this week, but his disproportionate four-year search to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict. His first full day as president in 2009 saw him appointing George Mitchell as special envoy for the Middle East and also telephoning the leaders of Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority. The White House press secretary justified this surprising emphasis by saying that Obama used his first day in office “to communicate his commitment to active engagement in pursuit of Arab-Israeli peace from the beginning of his term.” A few days later, Obama granted his first formal interview as president to Al-Arabiya television channel.

Nor did he subsequently let up. In June 2009, Obama announced that “The moment is now for us to act” to ease tensions between Israel and its neighbors and declared “I want to have a sense of movement and progress. … I’m confident that if we stick with it, having started early, that we can make some serious progress this year.” In May 2011 he announced impatience with regard to Arab-Israeli diplomacy: “we can’t afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades to achieve peace.” The new secretary of state, John Kerry, repeated these sentiments in his Jan. 2013 confirmation hearing: “We need to try to find a way forward.”

Why this fixation on the Arab-Israeli conflict, which ranks only 49th in fatalities since World War II? Because of a strange belief on the Left, rarely stated overtly, that this issue is key not just to the Middle East but to world problems.

For an unusually frank statement of this viewpoint, note the spontaneous, awkward comments of James L. Jones, then Obama’s national security adviser, in Oct. 2009. Addressing J Street, he mentioned “pursuing peace between Israel and her neighbors” and continued:

Of all the problems the administration faces globally, that if there was one problem that I would recommend to the president that if he could do anything he wanted to solve one problem, this would be it. Finding a solution to this problem has ripples that echo, that would run globally and affect many other problems that we face elsewhere in the globe. The reverse is not true. This is the epicenter, and this is where we should focus our efforts. And I am delighted that this administration is doing so with such enthusiasm and commitment.

Although delivered a year before the Arab uprising, this statement is worth parsing because it provides an important insight into the White House worldview.

Solving the Arab-Israeli conflict would “affect many other problems that we face elsewhere in the globe.” Jones implies that the conflict’s continuation exacerbates those problems. In one sense, his point is trite: of course, ending any conflict improves the overall atmosphere. But it staggers the imagination to think that the White House awaits resolution on Jerusalem and Palestine refugees to handle Kurdish restlessness, Islamist assaults, Syrian civil insurrection, Iranian nuclear ambitions, Egyptian economic travails, and Yemeni anarchy.

The reverse is not true.” Why would solving other problems not ameliorate the Arab-Israeli conflict? No proof backs up this blithe, illogical drivel. Defeating Islamism, obviously, would indeed help resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, as would deflecting the Iranian bomb.

This is the epicenter.” In 2009, the Islamist surge had already riven the Middle East into Iranian- and Saudi-led cold war blocs: Israel and the Palestinians were not then or now the regional center. Arguably, Iran, Turkey or Saudi Arabia is.

This is where we should focus our efforts.” Here we get to the nub: Jones wants a focus on housing in Jerusalem and electricity grids in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria -ed.] rather than on stopping the Iranian nuclear program, assuring oil and gas supplies, dealing with the pattern of dictatorships vs. Islamist insurgencies, or dealing with the increasingly rogue government of Turkey.

At least Jones did not make the outlandish and borderline antisemitic claim that Israel is responsible for all problems in the Middle East; but his milder version of this canard is no less bone-headed. His analysis, sadly, neatly fits the anti-Zionist mentality that increasingly pervades the left wing of the Democratic party.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/explaining-obamas-fixation-with-israel/2013/03/20/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: