Israel must choose between Enlightenment and Romanticism

Carlo Strenger and Menachem Lorberbaum write:

Political discourse in Israel is governed by the presumption that Israel needs to decide whether it will be a Western state or a Jewish state. Ostensibly the question is: should Israel be more Jewish or more democratic? And the subtext is that this a choice between a state governed by the language of individual human rights, or by a specifically Jewish language.

This assumption is false. Israel is not about to choose between being Jewish or being democratic but rather which of two European traditions to embrace: that of the Enlightenment with its emphasis on universal individual rights and division of powers, or that of political romanticism with its emphasis on the connection between an entity called ‘the nation’ and land.

Israel’s right wing, to an ever growing extent, tends toward the position that Israel should not approve the language of individual human rights accepted today in international politics, but that it should insist on its right to be a purely ethnic state.

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2 thoughts on “Israel must choose between Enlightenment and Romanticism

  1. pabelmont

    The most notable example, from Israel’s point of view, of a “land” “romantically” joined-at-the-hip with a “people” or “nation” is the example of Nazi Germany, where the land (Germany) was deemed the proper homeland of a so-called Aryan “people”, a people which notably (as every Jew knows) excluded Jews. Israel is (and has been since well before statehood) well on the way toward a similar philosophy whereby Israel is the “land” of the so-called “Jewish people” and not of its citizens, 20% of whom are not accounted as Jews, and especially not of those people (the refugees of 1948 and their progeny) who by every measure of human rights consciousness should have been citizens (and voters, among other things) in whatever nation-state governs the land called Palestine in 1947.

    The activities in the West Bank recently (the “price tag” campaign of the violent settlers), whereby olive groves are cut down or burnt and Palestinians shot at or killed, can only be considered a program of state-sponsored pogroms — state-sponsored because the settlers reside in the West Bank illegally (under international humanitarian law) and the State of Israel should and could remove them (and should never have allowed them to be present in occupied territories in the first place).

    State-sponsored pogroms carries us beyond the pogroms in Poland which were “local” and rises to the level of the state-sponsored anti-Jewish activities of the Nazis. Jews and others should think about all this if they have supposed the occupation to be a ho-hum affair, merely a matter of argument, or whatever. The occupation (as conducted, with the wall and settlements on expropriated land and the settlers, all of this illegal, and the near-starvation-inducing siege of Gaza) is a very serious human rights problem which Americans (and Jews, especially) should learn more about and react to politically.

  2. Rusty Shackleford

    The Israeli govt. is the “abused child” that has become the abuser! Until the persecution of Palestinians ends there will be no peace in Israel.

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