Zionism has always been about the national “us” – not very popular among the world’s opinion leaders and policymakers in the past few decades, as cosmopolitanism has reigned supreme . Then with the 2008-09 Great Recession and ensuing populist uprisings (MAGA Trump, Victor Orban, Brexit) the trend to globalism seemed to go into reverse. Lots of handwringing ensued – not to mention glee among Israel’s right-wing government’s supporters. Populist Nationalism was on the rebound…
Not so fast. The victory of Joe Biden and Britain’s post-Brexit woes were merely the appetizer. Appearing on the world scene were two 800-pound gorillas, already around for quite some time but “suddenly” very threatening. Globalism has come roaring back.
It’s hard to say which of the two “gorillas” is more problematic: pandemics or climate change. I’ll start with the former as it has been around (sporadically) for thousands of years. We are nearing the end of Corona’s second year, and there is little relief in sight for the world as a whole (or if you want some black humor: the world in a hole). Yes, a few billion people have been vaccinated, but what is now becoming clear is that without universal vaccination i.e., all countries getting the vaccine, those lucky (and rich) enough to have reached “herd immunity” are living under false pretenses: viral variants emerge and breed precisely in those places where people are not being vaccinated – and then spread to the rest of the world. For now, the vaccines have offered relative immunity against such variants, but that will not last long if Corona is allowed to continue mutating unhindered among non-vaccinated nations. In short, other than completely and hermetically closing one’s national borders (“hyper-nationalism,” something that Israel and the U.S. cannot countenance) we are all reliant on the entire world’s population getting the vaccine. Ergo, we’re back to globalism as the only practical solution.
Regarding climate change, of which the latest U.N. report is a ringing warning that doomsday is right around the corner, as if the latest international news doesn’t make that clear: massive forest fires in California, Greece and Turkey – not to mention unprecedented flooding and heat waves striking in different places around the world. So not much has to be added about the threat we all face. The emphasis here is on “all”: not only the vulnerability of each country to global heating (forget about moderate “warming”) but the need for each to do something about it. The Earth is a Noahide boat: when a leak springs, we all are endangered – and we all have to pitch in to close the gaping hole.
Of course, the way forward is the same as it has been over the past several decades: global agreements. And they work! As a result of international treaties, sometimes bilateral and most multilateral: we’ve had no nuclear wars (START treaties); we’ve managed to heal the ozone layer; we’ve wiped out the greatest pandemic scourge in history (smallpox) by international collaboration through the World Health Organization; world trade has skyrocketed (WTO), lifting over two billion people out of dire poverty; and the list goes on.
None of this means that “Nationalism is Dead.” The emotion that the feeling of “nationhood” engenders is still strong and will continue to be felt for decades. However, nationalism and globalism are not necessarily antithetical concepts; one can accept both, just as each of us feel strong ties to our family – and also identify (sometimes passionately) with a larger group (religious, ethnic, racial, sports! etc.).
This is called Glocalism – the mutual interaction of the local and the global. It entails giving up some measure of national “sovereignty” to global institutions for the betterment of our nation AND the world in general (which we can’t escape being part of). On a micro-level, we do this all the time: the young adult concedes some personal autonomy when entering marriage, but such concession (usually) leads to a win-win situation for the person, the couple, and the larger society (children).
Nationalism is here to stay. But so is globalism, with increasing strength whether we like it or not. Zionism has never stood for a Jewish State apart from all the others, but rather one that takes its honorable place among the nations of the world and humanity in general. After all, Israelis (and Americans, Canadians, etc.) are part of the human race and the “family of nations.” That’s one relationship from which none of us can divorce ourselves.