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

 

What Israel Can Offer Africa

Last week, the Israeli analyst Yechiel Leiter addressed a group of scholars and diplomats gathered in Addis Ababa to discuss security issues facing the Horn of Africa. Herewith, some excerpts from his speech:

Since the advent of Zionism and the birth of modern Israel, there has been a strong ideological connection between Israel and the African continent. . . . For decades, [however], the notion that the absence of peace in the Middle East was due the absence of Palestinian statehood prevented a full and strategic partnership with African countries. . . . The visits to Africa by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—in 2016 to East Africa and in 2017 to West Africa—reenergized the natural partnership that was initiated by Israel’s Foreign Minister Golda Meir in the 1960s.

There is much we share, many places where our interests converge. And I don’t mean another military base in Djibouti. . . . One such area involves the safety of waterways in and around the Red Sea. Curtailing contraband, drugs, arms smuggling, and other forms of serious corruption are all vital for us. . . . But the one critical area of cooperation I’d like to put the spotlight on is in the realm of food security, or rather food insecurity.

Imagine Ethiopia’s cows producing 30 or 40 liters of milk a day instead of the two or three that they produce today. Imagine an exponential rise in (organic) meat exports to Middle Eastern and even European countries, the result of increased processing, storage, and transportation possibilities. Cows today can have a microscopic chip behind their ears that sends messages to the farmer’s computer or mobile phone that tracks what the cow ate, what its temperature is, and what care it might need. Imagine a dramatic expansion of the wheat yield that can make Ethiopia a net exporter of wheat—to Egypt, perhaps in the context of negotiations over the waters of the Nile.

Israel has proven technology in all of these agricultural areas and we’re here; we’re neighbors. We are linked to Africa, particularly the Horn of Africa, in so many ways.

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Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Africa, Ethiopia, Israel diplomacy, Israeli agriculture, Israeli technology