Michael Jackson

Israel and the West     

What is the relationship of Israel to the West?

Is Israel purely a biblical followup, a gift of God to his chosen people?  Morally, this seems a foolish fantasy, given the Holocaust with 6 million Jews murdered, capped by the more recent October 7th atrocity. No one can disabuse the opinion of those who choose to believe that God works in such bloodthirsty ways. Yet the Holocaust and the recent October 7th massacre are fully explicable in terms of human history, politics, and governance. They are also, undeniably, totally unjustifiable.

Let us leave aside the inscrutable heavens and follow the advice of the sage poet, Alexander Pope:

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;

The proper study of mankind is man.

Zionism is the political philosophy that propelled the State of Israel into reality. Zionism is an offshoot of 19th-century nationalism that asserted that each distinct people deserves its state.  This state would represent the unique culture, language, beliefs, and history of each specific people. The Romantic reaction against the Enlightenment inspired 19th-century European nationalism. This nascent nationalism brought forth the flowering of national democracies across Europe. At its worst, it brought forth the fascistic nationalism of 20th-century Germany, Italy, and Spain. This European nationalism inspired national unification for Poland, Serbia, Hungary, Slovakia as well as modern political Zionism. The idea of a state for a people without a state inspired Herzl as well as Eastern European Zionists.

Israel adopted a parliamentary democracy, a system implemented in most Western European countries. It also adopted the system of proportional representation, another European political idea. It rejected monarchy and its non-hereditary offspring, presidential democracy.

The West, primarily Western Europe and the US, may regard Israel as a wayward niece who needs restraints placed upon it, even though the naughty niece refuses to follow the wise uncles’ advice. However, Israel’s neighbors, a set of military dictatorships, autocratic monarchies, failed states, and theocratic despotisms are aliens, unrelated to the modern Western family. Israel, through its daughter religion, Christianity, together with ancient Greece formed the philosophical, political, and cultural foundations of Europe.  Thus, the EU admitted Greece when it was geographically and economically very distant from the rest of the EU; whereas Turkey has been in the process of applying for membership for 20 years, but many European leaders regarded it as fundamentally alien.

To borrow Abraham Lincoln’s famous three prepositions, Israel is of the West, by the West, and for the West. Even if Israel should degrade itself to rule by extremist rabbis, racist settlers, and fascistic politicians, the link between Israel and the West will remain.

The grip of evangelical Christianity and the influence of the American Jewish community encourages America to stick with Israel. But as America follows Europe in becoming more secular, these familial ties between the West and Israel are slowly fading. The West will never disown or proscribe Israel the way that it has disowned and proscribed Russia, North Korea, Venezuela, and Iran. However, the Israel-Gaza war will weaken the ties between Israel and the West. These bright illuminations of a common culture and set of beliefs are fading. They may take generations to reignite.

About the Author
Born in London in 1949. Studied Maths at Warwick University. Came to Israel (WUJS program at Arad) in 1971. I became a citizen and served in the army in 1973. Returned to the UK in 1974. Worked in Information Systems. Married an American Orthodox woman in 1977 and moved to America. For a few years I have led a retiree philosophy class.
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