Devotees of the Liberal Order—Unlike Its Founders—Underestimated the Importance of Nationalism and Religion

The year 1948, writes Yehudah Mirsky, saw the birth of the basic elements of what came to be known—perhaps misleadingly—as the “liberal international order.” These included the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Genocide Convention, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and the creation of Israel with the imprimatur of the United Nations. Mirsky argues that some of the failures of this order stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of those committed to defending it:

[Many] thought human rights and nationalism were antithetical, and that promoting the former meant pushing back on the latter. The architects of the world of 1948 understood better. As the historian James Loeffler has shown in his remarkable new book, Rooted Cosmopolitans, so many key figures in the human-rights revolution of mid-century were not only Jews but Zionists. For them, an international regime of protecting individual human rights as well as nation-states for persecuted minorities were necessary to overcome the Holocaust’s ghastly trauma of statelessness. The deep structural suspicion of the idea of state sovereignty woven into the human-rights framework, it seems, has unwittingly fostered the legalistic abstraction and airy disregard for political realities that has made that framework such a supple tool in the hands of dictators who couldn’t care less. . . .

[Moreover, many] underestimated the role of religion not only in people’s lives but in human rights and liberalism’s own foundations. Religion is about the search for the absolute and how that ultimate truth shapes what it means fully to be human. Liberalism and human rights are understood by many people in different ways, but there is no denying they make serious claims about the ultimacy of human dignity, so ultimate that there are certain things that no state, or collective body of any kind, can do to harm human dignity.

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More about: History & Ideas, Human Rights, Nationalism, Religion and politics, United Nations, Zionism

Why Israel Pretends That Hamas Fired Rockets by Accident

March 21 2019

Israeli military and political officials have repeated Hamas’s dubious claim that the launching of two rockets at Tel Aviv last week was inadvertent. To Smadar Perry, accepting Hamas’s story rather than engaging in further retaliation is but a convenient, and perhaps necessary, way of aiding Egyptian efforts to broker a deal with the terrorist group. But even if these efforts succeed, the results will be mixed:

The [Israeli] security cabinet has met in Tel Aviv and decided that they would continue indirect negotiations with Gaza. A message was sent to Egypt, whose delegation is going back to Gaza to pass on the Israeli demands for calm. The Egyptians also have to deal with the demands from Hamas, which include, among other things, an increase in aid from $15 million to $30 million per month and an increase in the supply of electricity.

The requests are reasonable, but they do leave a sour taste in the mouth. Israel must ensure that this financial aid does not end up in the pockets of Hamas and its associates. [Israel] also knows that if it says “no” to everything, the Iranians will step in, with the help of their Gazan friends in Islamic Jihad. They are just waiting for the opportunity.

Hamas also must deal with the fallout from a series of massive handouts from Qatar. For when the citizens of the Gaza Strip saw that the money was going to the Hamas leadership, who were also enjoying a fine supply of electricity to their own houses, they took to the streets in protest—and this time it was not Israel that was the focus of their anger. . .

[But] here is the irony. With Egyptian help, Israel can reach understandings for calm with Gaza, despite the lack of a direct channel. . . . In the West Bank, where the purportedly friendlier Fatah is in charge, it is more complicated, at least until the eighty-three-year-old Mahmoud Abbas is replaced.

As evidence for that last statement, consider the murder of two Israelis in the West Bank on Sunday, and the Palestinians who threw explosives at Israeli soldiers at Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem yesterday.

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More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, West Bank