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Israel politics

israel politics middle east philosophy liberal left rightWhat are the philosophical motivations behind international delegitimization campaigns against the state of Israel? And does philosophy provide alternative paradigms to help defend the legitimacy of the Jewish State?  How does resurgent antisemitism corrupt discussion in political and activist circles? Ben Cohen’s four-part series examines these questions. His starting point is a sympathetic critique of Israeli scholar Yoram Hazony’s essay, Israel Through European Eyes.

Hazony's explanation of the intellectual origins of Israel's current, woeful predicament robustly counters the typical platitudes one encounters in discussions of how Israel should respond.

"Change your policy," insists the left. "Engage in better PR," advises the right.

There is some superficial truth in both of these observations, but neither deals with either the cause of delegitimization nor its terrifying persistence....More >>

israel politics left right liberal intellectual antisemitism zionist conspiracyIt is precisely this phenomenon of "Jews Behaving Normally," as my friend and co-writer Eamonn McDonagh describes it, that so excises Israel's enemies.

Why they think this way is a complex matter. But I would reiterate that the liberal, post-national, European Union-friendly paradigm which Judt used to horsewhip Israel is not the principal explanation.

I would venture elsewhere, firstly into the legacy of New Left thinking about colonialism.

These disparate factions were beautifully parodied in a Dissent essay by Irving Howe as "sometimes looking like kamikaze radicalism, sometimes like white Malcolmism, sometimes like black Maoism." The net result was a separation of the world into allies and enemies, with the identity and social position of a group determining which camp it belonged to.

Increasingly after 1967, Israel - seen as a creature of western colonialism, demonized in countless Soviet pamphlets as the twin of South Africa's apartheid regime - was placed in the enemy camp. But that didn't stop the New Left from celebrating the idea of national resistance. Indeed, rather than opposing state-building projects, the New Left actively...More >>

Israel politics Middle East philosophy sovereignty Arab PalestinianThere is a paradigm that puts Israel on the right side of history. It is Immanuel Kant's conception of international politics.

Kant’s paradigm is decidedly liberal. By "liberal", I mean a framework of accountable government in which individual rights are paramount. This is something broadly compatible with democratic currents from social democracy to modern conservatism.

To begin with, Kant's thought does not wholly militate against nationalism, even if he does serve as an early example of cosmopolitanism. The great scholar of the Middle East, Elie Kedourie, regarded Kant's idea of self-determination, his signal contribution to the philosphy of the Enlightenment, as central to the intellectual development of nationalism.

Kedourie was not hugely enamored of Kant. But its worth noting that when Kant's followers turn their attention to international affairs, what bothers them is not so much the existence of nation-states as the widespread absence of lawfully-constituted states.

With Kant, everything flows from the "categorical imperative," the most fundamental of all principles.

Since human beings possess reason, they are, as the philosopher Thomas Donaldson puts it in an essay on Kant...More >>


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