Israel is one of the intellectually freer nations, which helps explain how an Israeli political philosopher, Yoram Hazony, has suddenly established himself as perhaps the most interesting thinker of the post–Merkel’s Mistake era with his spectacular new book, The Virtue of Nationalism.
With Israel being nationalism’s prime success story in recent decades, this Israeli nationalist is well positioned to offer a resounding intellectual justification to his fellow nationalists in America, Britain, and the Netherlands. Israel is one of the rare nation-states where nationalism is not demonized by elites, so its defense attracts more elite talent than in the West. Hazony explains:
“I have been a Jewish nationalist, a Zionist, all my life…. My family came to Jewish Palestine in the 1920s and early 1930s with the aim of establishing an independent Jewish state there. They succeeded, and I have lived most of my life in a country that was established by nationalists, and has been governed largely by nationalists to this day…. Among them, nationalism is not some unfathomable political illness that periodically takes over countries for no good reason and to no good end, as many in America and Britain seem to think these days.”
In contrast, North Atlantic intellectuals have largely been employed in molding minds in support of two vast neo-imperial projects, the European Union and the new world order imposed by the air supremacy of American bombers. Hazony points out that imperialist intellectuals, such as the late neoconservative Charles Krauthammer with his Latin term “pax Americana,” are consciously drawing upon the imperial tradition of their models: Rome, Austro-Hungary, and Westminster.
“…almost all public discussion of these efforts was conducted in a murky newspeak riddled with euphemisms such as “new world order” “ever-closer union,” “openness,” “globalization,” “global governance,” “pooled sovereignty,” “rules-based order,” “universal jurisdiction,” “international community,” “liberal internationalism,” “transnationalism,”…“the right side of history,” “the end of history,” and so on. All of this endured for a generation—until finally the meaning of these phrases began to be clear to a broad public….”
And brought us Brexit and Trump.
Hazony, an American-educated Israeli academic and former Netanyahu aide, is a Modern Orthodox Jew, the Jewish persuasion that perhaps optimally balances social conservatism with intellectual curiosity. (The downside of Modern Orthodoxy is that it’s very expensive.) Hazony has nine children, which may help explain his disdain for the current year’s conventional wisdom.
He has a quotable prose style that reminds me a little of G.K. Chesterton, the unbelievably quick-witted English newspaper philosopher. In a century of trying, nobody has come close to Chesterton’s mastery of paradox, but Hazony sometimes is in the running.
* Hazony is basically a neocon in the mold of David P. Goldman aka “Spengler”, who is also a religious Orthodox Jew critical of more imperial minded neocons like Kristol and Krauthammer. Like Hazony, Goldman is also wary of Catholicism and Islam, as both claim to supersede Old Testament revelation and the Jews’ status as the Chosen People of God, with all the political and social implications this entails for Jewish life in seriously Catholic and Islamic polities.
It is not accurate to say that Hazony is opposed to imperialism and supports nationalism in principle. Post-Cromwellian England, the United Netherlands, and America were expanding empires. Not only their Protestant, pro-Semitic character, but also their imperial and commercial expansion at the time attracted mobile Jewish financiers and migrants. And obviously it’s unlikely that Hazony is a fan of Nazi Germany on account of its nationalism.
It’s equally unlikely that Hazony favors the same sort of nationalism Israel enjoys being allowed for all nations. He would not be a fan of English or Dutch nationalism if it became too stringent or exclusive in his eyes. Hazony, like Goldman, is not so much supportive of nationalism in principle for all peoples, but supportive of nationalism that is not too nationalistic, and imperialism that is not too imperialistic. Nationalism like that of Israel allowed for other nations is obviously not necessarily good for Jews, particularly diaspora Jews. While too much imperialism requires an imperial authority that supersedes all in the realm (like the imperial cult of Rome, the papacy, Islam, etc.) and imperils the privileges of smaller identities and allegiances like that of Judaism, and also includes many more constituents whose interests will not align with those of other minorities.
Hazony and Goldman are more removed from the day to day politics (Hazony is based in Israel, Goldman works in finance) of the West and thus can see that things have moved too much in the imperial direction and are thus bad for their interests. More ordinary neocons like Kristol and Krauthammer are/were too much ensconced in policy that the bigger picture was less visible.
* Israel is one of the most (if not the most) expansionist powers on the planet, whose borders increase in size every day. Not only has it dominated the Palestinians, it has encouraged the subversion of foreign governments, installed its own puppet regimes, and engaged in programs of political intimidation around the world – all forms of subjugation.
If nationalism “inculcates an aversion to the conquest of foreign nations” then Israel is clearly not nationalist.
* Actually, Israel has radically decreased in size since 1967.
* There are plenty of stupid goys who make the same argument just as well. They just aren’t as welcome in these parts.
Civic Nationalists just need a Jewish path to Ethnic Nationalism. It makes them feel cleaner.
But make no mistake, Civic Nationalism – sorry, but the kind that Steve advocates – is a dead-end. It won’t worked. I have no idea what this country will be like in 50 or 100 years, but it won’t be some multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-cultural kumbaya of various tribes rallying around the Constitutional and civic nationalism.
I think the world of Steve and believe that he’s a national (my nation) treasure. God knows that he runs rings around me intellectually, but he’s wrong about Civic Nationalism. Wrong in the way that only someone what wants to believe is wrong.
I don’t care how much propaganda is shoved down the throat of people via TV, movies, university and the internet. Ethnic nationalism will triumph over civic nationalism eventually the same way that I can only hold a chair over my head for so long. It’s nature.
* The laws of political power, and thus of politics, are absolute. True political power can only be cultivated from ethnic nationalism. Everything else is a diversion / delusion. That’s not a wishful statement. That’s a statement that best reflects human social behavior and its real world political result.
* Trump should incorporate Hazony into his speeches – by name. Let the NY Times readership have their heads explode.
* Hazony’s a more respectable/palatable Moldbug.
* For God’s sake, even our best defenses of nationalism are written by Jews.