Monday, June 27, 2016
Meander through a shared American and Israeli Exceptionalism
When Americans looked at World War 2 Europe, what they saw was a continent addicted to war where protection from tyranny took a barely material second place to what was clearly a wholly discredited nationalism. When Americans tried to understand why war was second nature to Europeans they concluded that Europe was fatally flawed by its inability to move past its narrowly regimented ethnocentric national interest. And so the Marshall Plan (before it became overtaken by the Cold War) was the first volley fired in the war on the bellicosity of European chauvinism and towards the creation of a supranational union that would bind all the old enemies into one united super-state.
It has been observed that Europeans and those people of the ‘old world’ viewed strategic decision making based on their history. It was backward facing and unsuited to resolving its own issues without recourse to violence. The USA had a mere few hundreds of years of history to proclaim, so it made its own future, based on imagination and idealism. It is here that its entrepreneurial spirit was nurtured.
This forward looking approach is the reason that Israelis and Americans are usually vilified in the same breath. Both nations are representatives of the ‘new world’ - implicit in the name is a rejection of the old ways and its tainted history.
Both nations have been forced into defensive or offensive positions by their ideological enemies. Both are yet to come to terms with the ‘old world’ reality which is an intellectual incapacity to learn from history. The question is not whether a clash of civilizations can be appeased (because it cannot) but how and whether, mutually exclusive ambitions are capable of reconciliation?
If the over-arching principle that drives the USA is safeguarding its national political institutions, the subsequent failure to protect human rights is a fundamental failure of strategic understanding. It should be noted that Britain is similarly deluded in its approach to tyranny. Without a philosophical commitment to freedom for all, political liberty may be used as the means by which tyranny spreads and infects the body of the nation. Like a microbial infestation, fascism, which is the application of tyranny, honors no borders. Universal human rights can only be possible if they are equally understood and crucially, applied equally. Without certain fundamental rules of engagement (see next paragraph), political liberty is little more than a vehicle used to expedite fascism which in this case signifies both a pretense to equal human rights and a particular bias against equal protection before the law. That final conditional inequality undermines society.
The fundamental rules of engagement are the most simple to apply. All people are welcome to take shelter under the cultural umbrella that defines the society into which they have sought refuge, as long as they do not cherry pick what they are willing to accept. Democratic nations are united by the consensus they live out and not by the selective tolerance they provide to people who reject any accommodation with them. Similarly, the so called ‘nanny state’ is created, not by being too caring but by failing to inculcate in everyone a narrative of personal responsibility both towards each other and towards the society they share.
According to Michael B. Oren the refusal to accept responsibility is the largest single obstacle to fostering democracy and forging peaceful co-existence between peoples of different backgrounds. (‘New Essays on Zionism’ 2006)
Zionism is the Jewish right to self-determination. Its failure was that in its wider utopian Universalist naivety it did not appreciate the opposing Muslim theological narrative of religious triumphalism and an Arab conquest narrative that was (and remains to this day) inextricably intertwined with Islamic identity, revanchism and a need to sow discord among its competitors and ideological enemies. Again, Michael Oren expresses this well when he says: “Islam developed during a period when Muslims ruled most of the civilized world” therefore “Islam harbors no misgivings regarding power – the attainment of power is incumbent on every individual Muslim. Arab Muslims thus have a problem with a palpably powerful Jewish State.” – ibid
Zionism’s failure to understand the hegemonic nature of Islamic society should have served as a lesson for Europe’s enthusiastic proponents of integration and unity. In Britain, the head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (Trevor Phillips OBE) publicly decried multiculturalism claiming it was out of date and legitimized what divided communities rather than encouraging what united them.
Israel does need to fight harder against the coercive, voluntary segregation of culturally disparate (Arab and ultra-orthodox) communities. Michael Oren proposes that we flag-waivers for Zionism bear a weighty responsibility “to prove to ourselves, and the world that the phrase ‘Jewish State’ is not in fact a contradiction in terms……(to shoulder) the responsibilities of reconciling our heritage with our sovereignty, our strength with our compassion, and our will to survive with our desire to inspire others.” – ibid
Put another way, Zionism must show its equal benefits to all its communities so that the compulsion to embrace it becomes not just 9 till 5 but 24-7.
For the USA it is free markets and open borders, where liberal values are a means to an end (social and economic comfort). People who are comfortable do not go out of their way to kill each other (unless they are political or theological sociopaths). Prosperity should be the end result of a free market economy. However, like all absolutes, theory and reality are dependent on the strength of human laws to hold back the darker ambitions of human nature: greed, peoples’ blind passion for being right all of the time (which inevitably means that they are wrong most of the time) and peoples hunger for exercising power over others.
Neither restraint nor intellectual pluralism is the modus operandi of a missionary faith or of a zealous political ideology. Communism is a political ideology with many of the attributes of an embryonic religious faith. ‘Progressives’ and others on the extreme left of the political spectrum inevitably share aspects of fascism. They include intolerance (they will mask it as ‘zeal’) for any world-view that has not been sanctioned by their political bible, vigorous attempts to ostracize those people who disagree with them and their tactics, and, proscription for any counter-narrative. The gauleiter of the secular Inquisition thus ensures the right to free speech is no more than a delusion, a basic right that is only enjoyed by his or her followers.
American and Israeli Exceptionalism have at their (separate but connected) heart and soul a Universalism that has the potential to benefit all of humankind. It is only through intelligent engagement and careful language that their shared idealism can be demonstrably proven correct, serving as a light unto the nations of the world.