To Today’s Cosmopolitan and “Oikophobic” Left, Israel Can Never Be Acceptable

August 23, 2019 | Wiliam Voegeli
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On the day the Knesset passed its nation-state law last year, Benjamin Netanyahu proclaimed, “This is our state—the Jewish state. . . . This is our nation, language, and flag.” This declaration, argues Wiliam Voegeli, points precisely to what the American left finds so unpalatable about Israel:

As political scientist Joseph Cropsey discerned more than 50 years ago, liberals (in the modern, American, left-of-center sense of the term) have always viewed “the dividedness of men grouped according to their nations” as arbitrary and pernicious. Those committed to equality as the highest political good believe that the groups divided in this way can never be mutually respectful for long. Instead, us-and-them distinctions necessarily become invidious, leading to competition, strife, and conquest.

Ultimately, of course, a world cleansed of other-ing must also renounce us-ing. Whether it’s a softball team or a nation, a human grouping to which everyone does or can belong is one to which nobody belongs in any way that matters or makes sense. No group can have an inside unless it also has an outside. The meaning and importance of being inside will, inevitably, turn on how those who are inside define and defend the boundaries that distinguish them from others.

[The result is] “oikophobia,” philosopher Roger Scruton’s term to describe xenophobia’s opposite: fear and loathing of the close and familiar in favor of that which is unlike oneself.

Combine this with another key belief favored by the segment of the left that terms itself “woke”—namely, the inclination to divide the world between the privileged and the oppressed and to organize the latter in a hierarchy of victimization—and the consequent attitudes toward Israel are predictable:

In the belief that Palestinians have, as a rule, darker complexions than Israel’s Ashkenazim, the woke apply the implicit rule of their privilege hierarchy, which holds that melanin is the most reliable proxy for moral worth. . . .

The future of Israel, America, and other nations will be shaped by the contest between the Great Awokening and “Somewhereism” [i.e., the sense of rooted belonging]. If the latter prevails, it will be because national majorities around the world come to feel that “this is our nation, language, and flag,” is not just a legitimate thing for an Israeli prime minister to say, but also for patriotic citizens of any decent country to believe.

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