IMMANUEL KANT VERSUS ISRAEL
By Dr. Daniel Pipes
Why, for example, does the United States of America, which has done so much for human welfare, inspire such hostility? And why does tiny Israel, the symbol of rejuvenation for a perpetually oppressed people, incur such passionate hatred that otherwise decent people desire to eliminate this state?
Yoram Hazony, of the Shalem Center, Jerusalem:
Yoram Hazony, of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, offers an explanation for this antagonism in a profound and implication-rich essay, "Israel Through European Eyes."
He begins with the notion of "paradigm shift" developed by Thomas Kuhn in his 1962 study, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. This influential concept holds that scientists see their subject from within a specific framework, a "paradigm." Paradigms are frameworks that underpin an understanding of reality. Facts that do not fit the paradigm are overlooked or dismissed. Kuhn reviews the history of science and shows how, in a series of scientific revolutions, paradigms shifted, as from Aristotelian to Newtonian to Einsteinian physics.
Paradigms also frame politics, and Hazony applies this theory to Israel's delegitimization in the West. Israel's standing has deteriorated for decades, he argues, "not because of this or that set of facts, but because the paradigm through which educated Westerners are looking at Israel has shifted." Responding to the vilification of Israel by offering corrective facts – about Israel's military morality or its medical breakthroughs – "won't have any real impact on the overall trajectory of Israel's standing among educated people in the West." Instead, the latest paradigm must be recognized and fought.
The fading paradigm sees nation-states as legitimate and positive, a means of protecting peoples and allowing them to flourish. The Treaty of Westphalia (1648) was the key moment in which the sovereignty of nations was recognized. John Stuart Mill and Woodrow Wilson endowed the nation-state ideal with global reach.
That paradigm, however, "has pretty much collapsed," Hazony asserts. The nation-state no longer appeals; many intellectuals and political figures in Europe see it "as a source of incalculable evil," a view that is fast spreading.
Immanuel Kant, the German Philosopher, Having Lived From 1724 to 1804:
The new paradigm, based ultimately on Immanuel Kant's 1795 treatise, Perpetual Peace, advocates the abolition of nation-states and the establishment of international government, or world government. Supra-national institutions such as the United Nations and the European Union represent its ideals and models.
Jews and the Holocaust play a strangely central role in the paradigm shift from nation-state to multinational state. The millennial persecution of Jews, culminating in the Nazi genocide, endowed Israel with special purpose and legitimacy, according to the old paradigm. From the perspective of the new paradigm, however, the Holocaust represents the excesses of a nation-state, the German one, gone mad.
Under the old nation-state paradigm, the lesson of Auschwitz was "Never again," meaning that a strong Israel was needed to protect Jews. The new paradigm leads to a very different "Never again," one which insists that no government should have the means potentially to replicate the Nazi outrages. According to it, Israel isn't the answer to Auschwitz. The European Union is. That the old-style "Never again" inspires Israelis to pursue the Western world's most unabashed policy of self-defense makes their actions particularly appalling to New Paradigmers.
Need one point out the error of ascribing Nazi outrages to the nation-state? The Nazis wanted to eliminate nation-states. No less than Kant, they dreamed of a universal state. New Paradigmers mangle history.
Israelis themselves are not immune to the new paradigm, as the case of Avraham Burg suggests. A former speaker of Israel's parliament, the Knesset, and a former candidate for Prime Minister, Burg switched paradigms and wrote a book on the legacy of the Holocaust that compares Israel to Nazi Germany. He now wants Israelis to give up on Israel as defender of the Jewish people. No one, Burg's sad example suggests, is immune from the new paradigm disease.
Hazony's essay does not offer policy responses, but, in a letter to me, he sketched three areas to address: building awareness of the new paradigm's existence, finding anomalies to invalidate it, and revitalizing the old paradigm by bringing it up to date.
His insights are profound and his counsel timely.
August 17, 2010, Update:
(1) I have gnawed away at the mystery of the political and cultural Left over the past decade, writing on such varied topics as structural differences between the United States and Europe, poor Atlantic relations, opposed European and American "super-systems," the intensity of European guilt, the fear of a mythological "Empire," the mind-bending phenomenon of Liberal Fascism, the infatuation with international institutions, the legacy of World War I, the impact of President Kennedy's assassination, and the bias of university press publications. I have also published a small avalanche of analyses about the Left's soft spot for Islamism.
(2) Note that the new paradigm applies exclusively to Western states. Syria and Iran, to take prominent examples, get a free pass; it's quite fine for them to pursue national interests in as bellicose a fashion as possible, without invoking the Left's wrath.
©2010 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.
Originally Published in National Review Online, August 17, 2010
Republished with the Permission of Daniel Pipes
Reprinted from the Daniel Pipes Mailing List, August 17, 2010
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Author or co-author of eighteen books, Dr. Pipes is a regular columnist for National Review Online, Front Page Magazine, the New York Sun, and the Jerusalem Post. His analyses of world trends and of forces and developments in the Middle East have appeared in numerous North American newspapers, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. He frequently appears on American network television, as well as at universities and think tanks, to discuss the Middle East, Islam, and the Islamist threat to the U.S.A. and the West. He also has appeared on BBC and Al Jazeera, and has lectured in approximately twenty-five countries.
Dr. Pipes is a Polish-American Jew whose parents fled Poland in 1939, immigrated to the U.S.A., and assimilated well into
American society and culture. His father is Richard Pipes, an American historian specializing in Russian and Soviet history
and serving as Professor of History at Harvard University from 1950 until his retirement in 1996. During the Cold War, the
worldview of Richard Pipes was strongly anti-Soviet and anti-Communist.
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