Israel Palestine Infos
June 8, 2013
DURING THE Spanish civil war of
him right,” people in
Similar things could now be said about the civil war in
The implications of this go well beyond the bloody Syrian struggle. It is a historic revolution, region-wide and perhaps world-wide.
AFTER WORD WAR I, the victorious colonial empires carved up the territories of
European-style nationalism took hold of the new Arab nations. The ancient idea
of the pan-Muslim “Umma” was pushed away. The idea of a pan-Arab super-state,
propagated by the Baath party and
It was a doubtful victory. A typical Syrian nationalist in
This was different in
During the last decades, the victory of local nationalism in the Arab world
seemed assured. After the short-lived
Not any more.
TO UNDERSTAND the immense significance of the present upheaval one has to go back in history.
Two thousand years ago, the modern idea of “nation” was unthinkable. The
prevalent collective structure was the ethnic-religious community. One belonged
to a community that was not territorially defined. A Jewish man in
Under Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman emperors, all these dozens of sects enjoyed a
wide autonomy, ruled by imams, priests and rabbis. This is still partly the case
in most former Ottoman territories, including
The German historian Oswald Spengler, in his monumental “The Decline of the West”, asserted that great cultures were like human beings – they are born, grow up and die of old age within a thousand years. Middle-Eastern culture, according to him, was born around 500 BC and died with the decay of the Muslim Caliphate. Judaism, which was born in the Babylonian exile around 500 BC, was just one sect among many.
Arnold Toynbee, the British historian who espoused a similar theory, claimed that today’s Jews were a “fossil” of this obsolete culture.
What happened later was that European societies went through many stages, the
latest being that of the “nation”. In
When the situation of the nation-less Jews in nationalist
With the founding of the Israeli state, the Zionist doctrine lost its purpose and should have been dismantled, like the scaffolding of a finished building. Everybody expected this to happen in due course – Hebrew Israelis would be a “normal” nation, and their connection with the Jewish world would become secondary.
TODAY WE are witnessing a kind of Jewish counter-revolution. In
The events in
The colonial powers created “artificial” states with no consideration to
ethno-religious realities. In
Now the ethno-religious sects are uniting - against each other. The Syrian civil
war has united the Shiites - from
IN THE Western world, the obsolescent nation-state is being superseded by supra-national regional confederations, like the EU. In our region, we may be reverting to the ethno-religious sects.
It is difficult to foresee how this will work out. The Ottoman millet system
could function because there was the overall imperial rule of the Sultan. But
how could Shiite
Some people believe that the only viable solution for
Lebanon was also a part of Syria, until the French tore them apart in order to set up a Christian state. The French created several such little states, in order to break the back of Syrian nationalism. It did not work.
The difficulty of such a “solution” is illustrated by the situation of the
Druze, who live in two unconnected territories – in South Lebanon and in the
“Druze mountain” area in
The disintegration of the existing states may be accompanied by wholesale
massacres and ethnic cleansing, as happened when
Toynbee, by the way, did not only consider the Jews as a fossil of the past, but also as the harbinger of the future. In an interview he granted my magazine, Haolam Hazeh, he expressed the hope that the nation-state would be superseded by world-wide ideological communities, like the Jewish diaspora. He may have been thinking of the communists, who at the time seemed to be turning into a world-wide supra-national community. That experiment failed, too.
AT PRESENT, a war is raging among Israeli historians. Prof. Shlomo Sand is
maintaining that the Jewish nation was invented (like all nations, only more
so), and that the concept of Eretz
Against these heresies, a whole phalanx of Zionist professors is in full cry.
Since I never even finished elementary school, I wouldn’t dare to stick my head
out and get caught up in the battle of the professors. I will, however, remark
that I, too, object to sliding back into a world-wide Jewish sect and advocate
the recognition of the new Israeli nation in
YES, WE are an Israeli nation, a nation whose existence is bound to the fate of
the State of
This does not mean that those of us who are Jews have to disown our Jewish past, its traditions and values, and our connections with the world-wide ethno-religious Jewish community. But we have reached a new stage in our development.
So, perhaps, have the Arab and other Muslim peoples around us. New forms are in the making.
History shows that human societies are changing all the time, much as a butterfly develops from an egg into a caterpillar, from there to a chrysalis and from there to the beautifully colored adult.
For the butterfly, that is the end. For us, I hope, this is a new beginning.