Why Should Israel Be a Nation-State at All?

March 13 2015

The proposal by the Netanyahu government to enshrine Israel’s status legally as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” has met with much controversy. Placing the proposed legislation in its philosophical and historical context, Yehudah Mirsky argues that nationalism and the nation-state do much more good than is often assumed, and are preferable to universalism:

Universalism comes in many forms, not all of them benign. This is so not only in the Middle East. To take a malign example, much of Western anti-Semitism rests on a kind of exclusionary universalism—as does radical Islam—in which rights are denied to those who do not accept “our” version of what is good for them and humanity. These exclusions, whether they derive from Athens, Saint Paul, or [the Muslim-Brotherhood theoretician] Sayyid Qutb, have no room for Jews. . . .

[I]n order for statehood to survive, to be able to bring forth the bonds of solidarity and collective responsibility without which even the most solitary life is at the end unlivable, and to endure via anything more than mere brutality and fear, it must speak to some meaningful forms of belonging, managing the necessary ties and nearly inevitable contradictions of the primordial bonds, civic associations, shared pursuits, and ultimate values that together shape the lived experience of our lives. Political, social, and even legal institutions are answers not only to instrumental needs but to existential questions. . . .

The human person, the figure at the center of the very idea of human rights, is not a person-in-general but a concrete figure, embedded in time and place and yet . . . able to see in the people of other times and places a reflection of ourselves. The dynamic tension of the particular and the universal is woven into the very fabric of being human. Living and working that tension to the fullest is the burden, and blessing, of the Jews.

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Read more at Marginalia

More about: Anti-Semitism, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israel's Basic Law, Nationalism, Universalism

While Pursuing a Thaw with Israel, Saudi Arabia Foments Anti-Semitism at Home

July 18 2018

For the better part of this century, Jerusalem and Riyadh have cooperated clandestinely to contain Iran’s growing power. The kingdom has also increasingly aimed its diplomatic and propaganda efforts against Qatar, whose funding of Islamist groups—including Hamas—has damaged both Saudi Arabia and Israel. But, writes Edy Cohen, there’s a dark side to Riyadh’s efforts against the enemies of the Jewish state:

The [Saudi cyberwarfare agency’s] Twitter account tweets daily, mostly against Qatar and Iran. It uses anti-Semitic terminology, referring to Qatar as “Qatariel,” a portmanteau of Qatar and Israel, and claiming the [Qatar-sponsored] Al Jazeera network “belongs to the Israeli Mossad.”

“‘The deal of the century’ is a Qatari scheme to sell Palestine to the Zionist entity,’” one tweet reads, while another alleges that the “Zionist” Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the father of [Qatar’s ruler] Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, is scheming to divide the Arab states to fulfill the dreams of the “Zionist entity” and Iran. Yet another tweet alleges that Qatar is “trying to destroy the Arab world to serve the enemies of the Muslim world: Israel and Iran.” These statements penetrate deep into the Arab consciousness and increase existing hatred toward Jews and Israel.

The Saudis, then, are playing a double game. Behind the scenes, they send the Israelis the message that Iran is a common enemy and goad them to fight Iran and Hizballah. At home, however, they say the enemy is first and foremost the state of Israel, followed by Iran. Their formula is clear: covert ties with Israel coupled with overt hostility to the Jewish state to satisfy the people, a majority of whom hate Israel.

The Saudi double game is reminiscent of the Egyptian model under President Gamal Abdel Nasser in that dozens of anti-Semitic articles are published daily, while the Israeli populace is not exposed to the phenomenon and the politicians close their ears. Following the signing of the 1994 Oslo Accords, the Palestinians asked Israel for permission to incite “moderately” against the Jewish state for “domestic needs.” This incitement turned deadly and was used as live ammunition for the boycott, sanctions, and divestment movement (BDS). We must not give in and accept the incitement against us, and that is also true when Saudi Arabia is concerned. Incitement translates into action, and that action comes at a price.

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Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iran, Israel & Zionism, Qatar, Saudi Arabia