Tuesday, 19 June 2007

What Sort Of Country Is Israel?

Is Israel really the standard-bearing Middle Eastern outpost of the West? Is she a Western country at all? Well, as I have already set out:

"Christianity is the recapitulation in Christ of the Old Israel, of Hellenism, and of the Roman Empire, first in the Person of a Jew in what is now recognised to have been a profoundly Hellenised Roman province, and thereafter (i.e., after His Ascension) in His Mystical Body, the Church. The Incarnation culminates, completes and surpasses the providential raising up and interaction of the Old Israel, of Hellenism, and of the Roman Empire.

Judaism is also a product of that interaction (the term "Early Judaism" refers to Judaism, at, only just before, and only just after the time of Jesus, not, say, to David, or even Moses, or even Abraham), but reacted in a strongly Semitic way against the rise of Christianity. Islam is also such a Semitic reaction, just as there were and are Hellenistic, Roman, and Graeco-Roman reactions (A C Grayling, for example, exhibits a strong tendency in this regard)."

The first paragraph describes the West, that of which even the staunchly atheist German philosopher Juergen Habermas recently said, "Christianity, and nothing else, is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights, and democracy, the benchmarks of Western civilisation." And the second paragraph describes those of the challenges to Western civilisation, within and without, which recur constantly in its history.

It is obvious into which category Israel falls. Judaism defined its very Canon of Scripture (indeed, decided to have such a thing at all) specifically in order to expunge works demonstrably likely to lead people into Christianity. The very canonical, textual basis of Judaism is therefore polemically anti-Christian, and would not exist but to that end. And even then, Judaism hardly bothers with the Biblical text itself, just as it hardly bothers with theology as ordinarily understood, rather than with defining subcultural characteristics in endlessly minute detail.

Now, why ever would you think that either of these approaches might be considered necessary? Judaism is fundamentally fixated with Christianity, and would be entirely different (if it existed at all) without the Christian "Other".

Furthermore, Western culture at large would be entirely different without the consequences of this unresolved Messianic hope and expectation at the heart of Judaism, which is the root of, among many other things, Marxism, monetarism, Zionism, Freudianism, neoconservatism, and so forth. That is the answer to the question of why, when there so few Jews, they exercise such vast intellectual influence: indisputably, there is a creative imperative in constantly defining oneself against the prevalent claim to be that for which one most longs.

But those who assent to that prevalent claim, which assent is the foundation of the West, also need to be quite clear in our minds that we can have no truck whatever with any system of thought, such as those listed above, arising out of that rejection of the Messiah. We must be constantly and unflinchingly on our guard against succumbing to any such way of thinking, even in the very slightest degree. Rather, we must be fearless in proclaiming that, how and why Jesus Christ and His Church meet and transcend the need that they all express, in the terms in which each of them expresses it.

So Israel is certainly not a Western country. What, then, is she?

Well, over half the Jews in Israel are now Arabs, so Israel has become a classic Levantine Arab country, with an unusually high number of Jewish Arabs much as Lebanon has an unusually high number of Christian Arabs, and with certain ethnic minorities (notably the Ashkenazim) in much the way that Iraq has Kurds and Turkemen.

Pan-Arabism (which is of Christian origin) now requires the same solidarity with the Muslim, Christian, Druze and Jewish Arab people of the Arab country that is Israel as with, for example, the Muslim, Christian and Druze Arab people of the Arab country that is Lebanon (a much more Westward-looking country, as befits the descendants of the Phoenicians, with her large Christian population, her use of French, her constitutional requirement that the President be a Maronite Catholic, and so forth).

The de facto creation of a Hamas state in the Gaza Strip will re-energise pan-Arabism anyway. And Israel should seize that opportunity, to define herself, wholly accurately in pan-Arab terms, as an Arab country. As much as anything else, why would not the Sephardic Arab majority of Israeli Jews want to do this, since it would provide the perfect excuse to sling out the despised Ashkenazi elite?


  1. David,

    Assertions lacking factual support are nonsense. You are free to believe as you want but, in fact, Jewish cannon is not defined with reference to anything Christian as most of its canonization pre-dates Christianity.

    Further, Judaism does not largely ignore scripture. A week in a Jewish shul will show that your assertion is out of ignorance or prejudice. In fact, what you write is objectively erroneous.

    Like Islam, Judaism places high importance on both scripture, most particularly (for Judaism) Torah, and the bodies of commentaries that attempt to discern its meaning. Such are read as part of the regular service.

    The rest of what you write does not make it past the laugh test. You confuse differences between Jews who lived in Arab countries with Jews who lived in Europe with the fact that both consider themselves to be of the same group - and do not consider themselves Arabs and never have.

    Moreover, in Lebanon, the Maronites are simply not Arabs. They are as distinct from Arabs as are Kurds. In fact, they are more distinct from Arabs than are European Jews, who are genetically somewhat related - albeit not the same - as Arabs.

    The rest of what you write... Who knows? Clearly, not you.

  2. You know absolutely nothing about the Maronites (not Arabs? - try telling that to them!), or about the Sephardim (you don't like people mentioning them, do you?), or about how much more "Western" Lebanon is compared to Israel, or about anything at all really.

    Or, rather, you DO know these things, but are incandescent that anyone might say them out loud.

    Pan-Arabism, holds that anyone who speaks Arabic as the first language is an Arab. This was invented by Levantine Christian Arabs, who remain among its stalwarts. It certainly includes them, and they certainly include the Maronites. And it certainly includes the Sephardim, now the majority of Israeli Jews, much as you might hate this fact.

    Pan-Arabism is bound to revive in reaction to the Hamas coup in Gaza, and it offers security to Israel as she actually is, not least because it will sweep away your Ashkenazi elite there, who certainly show no sign of regarding themseleves and the Sephardim as one people, to say the very least.

    But, of course, they are NOT one people. The Ashkenazim are a people (of Israelite descent only through the male line, a reminder of how definitions of Jewishness can and do change radically), the Sephardim are a people, the Falashas are a people, and so forth. They have various things in common, but that could be said in all sorts of contexts, and many of those things are decidedly distant or tangential anyway.

    There is no single people called "the Jews", and the secular or pretty-much-secular Ashkenazi who have traditionally run Israel, while they might say anything they like, act in such a way as to make it perfectly clear that that is their view as well as being the fact of the matter.

    Well, they should have tried having enough children when compared to the Muslims, the Christians, the Druze, the Sephardim, the ultra-Orthodox and the barely Jewish Russians. But they didn't. So their days are numbered.

  3. David,

    Were it not that my wife's business partner were Maronite and my son's best friends were all Maronites, I might be tended to believe you. But, in fact, I know you are mistaken. Maronites are not Arabs and do not consider themselves Arabs. The consider themselves Maronites or Lebanese.

    As for pan-Arabism, you might read Zeine N. Zeine's seminal study on the origins of the movement. In fact, pan-Arabism, while it was attractive for a while to non-Muslims, originated as an Islamic movement and is, both in principle and practice, largely a Muslim movement, albeit comparatively secular.

    The attraction of pan-Arabism to non-Muslims from the Arab regions is the possibility of being treated as equals - something not possible under traditional Islamic governance. However, as the possibility of equality died and Christians are fleeing the Muslim regions in large numbers, the Christian component of pan-Arabism tends to fade. So, pan-Arabism may arise again but Christians will not likely play much of a role. In due course, they will cease even being a relic of the Middle East. And, those who remain are likely, as Maronites tend to be, to be more sympathetic to Israel.

    Jews will never likely be attracted to a pan-Arab movement. Jews have never considered themselves Arabs. And, whatever attraction there might have been, the expulsion of Jews from Arab lands cast a pale of their relations with Arabs.

    You say that there is no single people called "the Jews." Well, I have not said otherwise. However, the vast, vast majority of Jews are of one genetic stock, as testing has shown. So, while not all Jews are of the same people, the statement that they are is fairly close to the truth. It is closer to the truth than the assertion that the English are one people.

  4. Oh, I forgot, David,

    You asked "What Sort Of Country Is Israel?"

    Answer: A very decent country under very difficult conditions, opposed by bigots and religious fanatics all over the world.

  5. Isreal (in my opinion) is a parasitical country which, came into exsistance at great expense and effort by a handfull of sympathetic nations after the holocaust.

    I have heard jewish people refer to jewish communities as the Isreal`s commonwealth.

    I also watched a stand up comedy show a few years ago and in it was a jewish comedian.
    His joke was "why are there no Jewish waiters? Because that`s what the Gentiles are for".

    The footage i have seen where soldiers are shooting palastinian children, the more recent comment by an official referring to Iraq as Greater Isreal.

    The arrogance.
    I have no wish for any human being to be hurt and i am not racist, i i find Isreal`s actions and reactions upsetting and simply wonder when the people of Isreal will think back to the holocaust when dealing with the people of palestine

  6. To Anonymous,

    Were Israel's policy Nazi-like, there would be more than the about 5,000 Palestinian Arab deaths in the six years since the Intifadah began. What you witnessed was, no doubt, something contrary to Israeli policy. And, that it is contrary to Israeli policy is shown by the low, by world standards, death toll.

    You might consider: every Israeli death, other than that of soldiers, in responding to the Intifadah has been the result of the Palestinian Arab policy of intentionally targeting civilians, as the targets of first choice. In other words, the policy of the Palestinian Arab side is, by definition, a war crime.

    It is also worth considering that the locating of fighters among a civilian population, as is done by Palestinian Arabs, is another war crime - in violation of the Geneva Convention. Such approach to warfare drives up the number of civilians killed, as fighting soldiers among civilians necessarily involves fighting where there are civilians.

    All told and by world standards, the Israelis can, overall, say that they have fought honorably, as is their tradition.

    It is lastly worth noting that the Palestinian Arab side has been known to create fake events, as occurred with the unfortunate Dura child who, in fact, was killed by Palestinian Arab fire. That may, in fact, be the event you had in mind. But, the evidence has shown rather conclusively that it was not Israelis who killed the boy. And, the evidence shows that either the Europeans involved in publicizing the event were duped or were part, likely unwittingly, of the propaganda.

  7. Pan-Arabism is only mostly Muslim because most Arabs are Muslims. It was founded by Christians, and fundamentally expresses Christian principles.

    The Maronites who have shipped up in the US might not consider themselves Arabs, but that's why they've shipped up in the US. Best place for them, I suppose.

    However, as I'll probably do a full post about tomorrow, although people go on about the Israel lobby in America, they're amateurs compared to the one in Britain. So be here in 24 hours time.

  8. David,

    Again, in Zeine N. Zeine's classic book, The Emergence of Arab Nationalism, he shows that Arab nationalism originated as an Islamic movement. I suggest you read the book because his analysis is difficult is cogent.

    Christians, in fact, joined with Muslim pan-Arabists later, as Christians saw it as a path toward greater equality. But, in terms of Arab politics, Christians have never had an upper hand in anything, as Muslims would never have permitted it, any more than they would allow Jews or Hindus to lead an Arab movement.

    I think that most Maronites live in the US, just like most Irish people live in the US. They live in the US because the US is does well by immigrants.

    I might note that the US has a very large and growing Arab Christian community.