View Single Post
Old 09-03-2010, 12:51 PM
soral soral is offline
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 5
Default Re: Poetaster Edition (Hussein Ibish & Eli Lake)

Originally Posted by Florian View Post
The concept of the state, as it developed in Europe from the 16th century on, is in essence secular, even though it took several centuries for the governing classes to catch up with the theorists (Grotius, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant etc). It is based on the idea that individuals as individuals possess certain "natural" rights and that the state exists to secure these rights, one of the rights being the right to worship (or not to worship) God as one sees fit. Both the American Revolution and the French Revolution, in their very different ways, gave expression to this aspiration.

Religion, cultural identity, heredity (!) do not belong to this tradition. They belong to the German and romantic tradition of "Volk" (=nation, people) worship, which developed in opposition to the French Revolution and ultimately led to the disastrous conflation of state and nation or people. The idea of the "right to self-determination," i.e. the right of every nation, of every "Kulturvolk," to govern itself was one of the main causes of WW I. There is a direct, historical link between Zionism and the German doctrine of Volks-und Blutgemeinschaft (=community of blood).

If I were Jewish, I would be reluctant to base Israel's "right" to exist on such a blood-stained doctrine.
On what values are most states' rights to exist based? Religion, culture, heredity and history may not belong to the enlightenment tradition of the secular state, but they are very widely used as the legitimating bases to draw borders between nations. Self-determination, while acknowledged as a universal right, hardly has a universally agreed-upon definition (

You are absolutely correct regarding the essentially secular nature of the modern European state. However, I don't believe we have a disagreement on that point. Let me reintroduce context. I replied to the following comment:

The entire enterprise of a "Jewish state," no matter how secular it claims to be, is suspect (as are Muslim states). If you're so secular, why call yourself Jewish?"

The point is indeed that a state does not draw its reason for existence from religious justification. I wrote, "Jews are not simply adherents of a religious tradition" to indicate that Jews deserve a state not because of their religious tradition, but because of their collective nationhood, variously defined as the term may be.

This is the point I was making in opposition to Wonderment. Wonderment claimed the right of Israel to exist is inherently suspect due to its Jewish character. He argues that a Jewish state is defined by its religious character and thus invalid, while I countered by stating that a Jewish state is not necessarily defined by its religious character because Jewish identity is comprised of more than just religion, and therefore a Jewish state is a valid undertaking by Wonderment's calculus.

The development of the modern state as it occurred in modern European history notwithstanding, Jewish identity is still comprised of culture, religion and heredity. To reiterate the purposes of that paragraph: a state merely being religious in some partial form does not obviate its right to exist, Jewish identity is multifaceted and extends beyond religiosity, and Jews constitute a nation of people deserving of the same rights as any other nation. I don't think we disagree on any of these points. Do we?

"If I were Jewish, I would be reluctant to base Israel's "right" to exist on such a blood-stained doctrine."

Regarding your point here - if I were choosing an individual identity, I would be reluctant to select such a blood-stained one as "Jew". But I don't have that option, and neither do most of the world's nations have the option to select the ideological origins of their creation. There are indeed few nations on Earth which do not exist as the primary mode of self-determination for a particular ethnic group, nor many nations whose present form was not shaped through a process of intense bloodshed. Living in a pluralistic society such as the U.S., I recognize that it is easy to deplore other nations that do not have this luxury. Easy, but not helpful.

My point here is that Israel's right to exist is the same as that of many other nations. You place this right to exist in quote marks, and I ask you the same question I asked Wonderment: does Israel have a right to exist or not? Rights are by definition non-contingent. Furthermore, the construction "If I were Jewish, I would be reluctant to base Israel's right to exist on _____" is misleading in that it presumes that Jews must put forth the argument for Israel's existence, whereas again, if they have such a right to exist, it does not need to be argued for by Jews but is proven by the existence of other states with similar rights.
Reply With Quote