The Clash of Worldviews in Gaza

April 16 2018

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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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Nationalism

The Syrian Civil War May Be Coming to an End, but Three New Wars Are Rising There

March 26 2019

With both Islamic State and the major insurgent forces largely defeated, Syria now stands divided into three parts. Some 60 percent of the country, in the west and south, is in the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his allies. Another 30 percent, in the northeast, is in the hands of the mostly Kurdish, and American-backed, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The final 10 percent, in the northwest, is held by Sunni jihadists, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, under Turkish protection. But, writes Jonathan Spyer, the situation is far from stable. Kurds, likely linked to the SDF, have been waging an insurgency in the Turkish areas, and that’s only one of the problems:

The U.S.- and SDF-controlled area east of the Euphrates is also witnessing the stirrings of internal insurgency directed from outside. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “236 [SDF] fighters, civilians, oil workers, and officials” have been killed since August 2018 in incidents unrelated to the frontline conflict against Islamic State. . . . The SDF blames Turkey for these actions, and for earlier killings such as that of a prominent local Kurdish official. . . . There are other plausible suspects within Syria, however, including the Assad regime (or its Iranian allies) or Islamic State, all of which are enemies of the U.S.-supported Kurds.

The area controlled by the regime is by far the most secure of Syria’s three separate regions. [But, for instance, in] the restive Daraa province in the southwest, [there has been] a renewed small-scale insurgency against the Assad regime. . . .

As Islamic State’s caliphate disappears from Syria’s map, the country is settling into a twilight reality of de-facto division, in which a variety of low-burning insurgencies continue to claim lives. Open warfare in Syria is largely over. Peace, however, will remain a distant hope.

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More about: ISIS, Kurds, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, Turkey