Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu once remarked to a Likud gathering that “Israel is not like other countries”. Oddly enough for him, that time he was telling the truth, and nowhere is that more evident than with Jewish nationalism, whether or not one pins the “Zionist” label on it.
Nationalism in most countries and cultures can have both positive and negative aspects, unifying a people and sometimes leading them against their neighbours. Extremism can emerge, and often has, at least in part in almost every nationalist/independence movement I can recall (e.g. the French nationalist movement had The Terror, Kenya’s had the Mau Mau, etc.).
But whereas extremism in other nationalist movements is an aberration, extremism in Jewish nationalism is the norm, pitting Zionist Jews (secular or observant) against the goyim (everyone else), who are either possible predator or certain prey, if not both sequentially. This does not mean that all Jews or all Israelis feel and act this way, by any means. But it does mean that Israel today is what it cannot avoid being, and what it would be under any electable government (a point I’ll develop in another article).
The differences between Jewish nationalism (Zionism) and that of other countries and cultures here I think are fourfold:
1. Zionism is a real witches’ brew of xenophobia, racism, ultra-nationalism and militarism that places it way outside of a “mere” nationalist context — for example, when I was in Ireland (both parts) I saw no indication whatsoever that the Provisional Irish Republican Army or anyone else pressing for a united Ireland had a shred of design on shoving Protestants into camps or out of the country, although there may well have been a handful who thought that way — and goes far beyond the misery for others professed by the Nazis;
2. Zionism undermines civic loyalty among its adherents in other countries in a way that other nationalist movements (and even ultra-nationalist movements like Nazism) did not — e.g. a large majority of American Jews, including those who are not openly dual citizens, espouse a form of political bigamy called “dual loyalty” (to Israel and the US) that is every bit as dishonest as marital bigamy, attempts to finesse the precedence they give to Israel over the US (lots of Rahm Emanuels out there who served in the Israeli army but NOT in the US armed forces), and has absolutely no parallel in the sense of national or cultural identity espoused by any other definable ethnic or racial group in America — even the Nazi Bund in the US disappeared once Germany and the US went to war, with almost all of its members volunteering for the US armed forces;
3. The “enemy” of normal nationalist movements is the occupying power and perhaps its allies, and once independence is achieved, normal relations with the occupying power are truly the norm, but for Zionism almost everyone out there is an actual or potential enemy, differing only in proximity and placement on its very long list of enemies (which is now America’s target list); and
4. Almost all nationalist movements (including the irredentist and secessionist variants) intend to create an independent state from a population in place or to reunite a separated people (like the Sudeten Germans in the 1930s) — it is very rare for it to include the wholesale displacement of another indigenous population, which is far more common of successful colonialist movements as in the US — and perhaps a reason why most Americans wouldn’t care too much about what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians even if they DID know about it, is because that is no different than what Europeans in North America did to the Indians/Native Americans here in a longer and more low-tech fashion.
The implications of this for Middle East peace prospects, and for other countries in thrall to their domestic Jewish lobbies or not, are chilling. The Book of Deuteronomy come to life in a state with a nuclear arsenal would be enough to give pause to anyone not bought or bribed into submission — which these days encompasses the US government, given Israel’s affinity for throwing crap into the face of the Obama administration and Obama’s visible affinity for accepting it with a smile, Bibi Netanyahu’s own “Uncle Tom” come to Washington.
The late General Moshe Dayan, who — Zionist or not — remains an honoured part of my own Pantheon of military heroes, allegedly observed that Israel’s security depended on its being viewed by others as a mad dog. He may have been correct. But he neglected to note that the preferred response of everyone else is to kill that mad dog before it can decide to go berserk and bite. It is an option worth considering.