"When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals.
We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues"

( JM Keynes, "Economic Possibilities for our Granchildren" 1930 )

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Should Israel be the Western enclave in the Mid East ?

The uniqueness of Israel when compared to its Mid East neighbors became an important instrument in the hands of the official Israeli propaganda . The emphasis on the “Only Democracy in the Mid East” status is aimed to grant a moral dimension to the Israeli foreign affairs, especially with Western countries : Real Politik out, common values in .

Below you will find a few quotes for illustration :

“Israel and the EU share common moral principles, heritage and tradition,values of Democracy, the respect of Human Rights and the Rule of Law.” ( Jerusalem, December 11, 2006Address by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni)

or something less official though still representative :

“….. Offering Israel a status akin to that of Finland and Sweden ( in NATO )could underscore its sense of belonging to the Western democratic world, its natural habitat. ….. ....an upgraded Israeli role in NATO could launch a strategic European-Israeli partnership....... It could offer Europe and Israel a new narrative, based on shared values and interests”.(Tommy Schneider , Haaretz 9/2009)

Israel and Sweden in the same category?

Although the range of expressions goes from a pseudo philosophical “moral shared values “ up to the more mundane and biological “Natural Habitat”, the message is similar and pointing to the close ties of a Mid Eastern country to the “Civilized World”. Since those ties must be viewed in a wider international perspective, it is inevitable to associate these expressions to the ongoing modern “Clash of Cultures“ : After all if a country needs support and special ties someone seems to be under some threat. Thus beyond the nice semantic wrap, the basic idea is that Israel as a Western society in an hostile habitat should be supported for its task as counterbalance, obstacle or outpost against Non Democratic ( Islamic?) aspirations.

Paradoxically, that kind of argumentation, i.e. the association between Western interests and Israel is a very old and common anti Zionist propsition. Whoever considers the West as Israel´s “normal habitat” cannot ignore the logical deduction that the “the Zionist Entity” might be not more than as a colonialist and “ unnatural” enterprise in the Mid East . The irony of history is that the countries which supposedly “share values and heritage” with Israel are, and by far, among the countries with the worst antisemitic heritage, much above any atrocity the Islamic or the Eastern World have ever perpetuated to Jews. Whoever claims that history doesn´t matter in that context should explain us about the extreme sensibility regarding the status of , for example, Jerusalem. Sorry, but apparently history DOES matter, though the amnesia is sometimes too selective.

I will not go very deep into history, but Zionist movement did not consider itself as a mere instrument of Western colonialism. Just to remind two examples : The 7th Zionist Congress (1905) rejected a British proposal to settle a Russian Jews in Uganda ; from the other political extreme, Stalin´s initiative of establishing a Jewish autonomy in Far East USSR never got an enthusiastic response from Soviet Jewish masses.

The return to Zion was never seen as colonialism per se : Zionism is more than everything the aspiration to gather Jews at the historical homeland combined with a the 19th century European concept of national self determination. The Jewish history of persecutions added another aspect of the need to have a physical refuge for Jews and aspect which became dominant after the Shoah.

Anyhow, in its deepest sense , Zionism is a reaction to emancipation from Jews anxious to maintain a Jewish identity in a secular and open world. If there was any ex- Jewish ideological component in the Zionist project it was embedded in the concept “Light of the Nations”: i.e. the formation of an model society , worthy of imitation for the whole human race through the example, but never as a spearhead of other nation, but as part of a comprehensive ideal of progress for everyone. Eventually, it is important to recognize that the creation of the State of Israel turned to be tragedy for the Palestinian people and the pretension to bring progress to the region did not succeed to break the wall of hatred and cultural gap.

After dealing with the past and clarifying some of the ideological implications of placing Israel as a spearhead of whatever, the most intriguing questions are those which try to draw a line in a cloudy future. The vision of Israel as an outpost of the West turns the nature of the conflict from a local issue into something much bigger and more difficult to resolve. Instead of dealing with concrete and specific questions a “cultural clash” conflict involves other interests and dimensions which augment the number of constraints. And we all know that adding up constraints to a problem does ensure only one thing : that the new solution will not as good as could be the solution without the constraint. Coming back to reality, the best service outsiders can do to both sides is promoting a balanced support for a reasonable and human solution for the mid east conflict, after all Israel would not like to end as previous “western outposts” in Mid East ended ( crusades and others) . It should not ,but a positive perspective cannot be based upon Western winds , which can turn abruptly as history teaches us constantly.

No comments: