Thursday, December 3, 2015

Six Theses in reply to Eric Schliesser on Zionism

Eric asked me for a response to On Herzl's Critique of Liberalism; the enduring Jewish Problem. So here it is:

1. To call the Arabs "natives" is already to beg important questions concerning the justice of Zionism.
2. The Zionism that triumphed in 1948 does not rest its claim on the fact that the Jews were persecuted, as you state in an earlier post, but on the fact that the Jews are a people distinct from all others with the same claim as others to self-determination, and that have inalienable rights in the land of Israel (see the first few paragraphs of Israel’s Declaration of Independence).
3. One cannot, on secular liberal principles, persuade people to risk their lives for the rights of others, even their fellow citizens.. This, and not residual antisemitism, is why the Fifth French Republic has failed to protect French Jews, just as the Fourth Republic failed to protect Algerian Jews and Algerian secularized Muslims (and the Third Republic failed to defend France in 1940). Secular liberal selfishness did in the dream of “cosmopolitan, law-governed multi-ethnic empires” you refer to in that earlier post. No "Dei Gratia Rex Imperator", no cosmopolitan law-governed multi-national empire.
4. One cannot even persuade secular liberals to have enough children to sustain their societies over time -- so even homogeneous secular liberal societies will dwindle and become extinct, or cease to be homogenous and cease to be homogeneously liberal.
5. For the reasons I give under 3 and 4, all realistic political projects, and not just Zionism, are in tension with secular liberalism, or must rest partly on foundations which are not secular and perhaps not liberal.
6. Genuine liberals in Israel are few and far between. The ones I have run into, like Moshe Berent of the Open University, tend to be irredentist on Judea and Samaria, just as French Fourth Republic liberals were irredentist on Algeria: It is not so easy, on liberal principles, to justify handing over a couple of million people to Islamist or semi-Islamist tyranny -- actual Israeli doves are almost all of them Jewish chauvinists like Yossi Beilin or supporters of Palestinian nationalism like Ilan Pappe.