After explaining why Israel must defend its southwestern border from the combination of attempted infiltration and assault from Gaza, Liel Leibovitz asks why this is so difficult for so many in the West, and some even in Israel, to comprehend. To answer that question, he points to an underlying difference of attitude toward nationalism and the nation-state:
If, like me and like most Israelis, you believe that humanity could hardly do better than to arrange itself by nation-state, you shouldn’t have much difficulty understanding why a border is among the key emblems of national sovereignty, and why violating it brazenly and violently is going to be met with the harshest response imaginable. But what if you believe otherwise? What if you believe, like so many on the progressive left these days, that nation-states aren’t efficient guardians of individual liberties and serviceable embodiments of our collective values but, rather, a remnant from bygone, benighted times? . . .
How to resolve this conflict? Sadly, you cannot, because the disagreement here is ontological, not political. And it is not limited to Israel alone: in America, for example, the proponents of immigration reform too often speak of an American citizenship as if it were a basic human right, not a precious privilege, and of considerations of national capacities and priorities as largely irrelevant to the question at hand. Why not, if nationalism strikes you as useless and frightening, open wide the gate and let the wide world in? . . .
The skirmishes in Gaza, tragically, are likely to continue, as are the quibbles between the two groups that the British journalist David Goodhart helpfully labeled the Somewheres and the Anywheres, the former rooted in a specific nation with specific borders and specific interests and traditions, the latter feeling no gravitational pull save for that of the world at large. We see these battles everywhere from ballots to bookshelves. They’re the ones that will shape the future for us and our children, so we may as well get the reasons for fighting right.
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