Commentary Magazine


Contentions

That Particular State

George Will shines a light on the essence of much of the left’s revulsion — and it is certainly that — over the Jewish state. It’s the “Jewish” part — that is, a nation-state born of a 3,000-year history and dedicated to the survival of a particular people — that gnaws at what passes for the leftist intelligentsia. Will explains:

Israel, with its deep sense of nationhood, is beyond unintelligible to such Europeans; it is a stench in their nostrils. Transnational progressivism is, as much as welfare state social democracy, an element of European politics that American progressives will emulate as much as American politics will permit. It is perverse that the European Union, a semi-fictional political entity, serves — with the United States, the reliably anti-Israel United Nations and Russia — as part of the “quartet” that supposedly will broker peace in our time between Israel and the Palestinians. …

No one is less a transnational progressive, less a post-nationalist, than Binyamin Netanyahu, whose first name is that of a son of Jacob, who lived perhaps 4,000 years ago. Netanyahu, whom no one ever called cuddly, once said to a U.S. diplomat 10 words that should warn U.S. policymakers who hope to make Netanyahu malleable: “You live in Chevy Chase. Don’t play with our future.”

But it’s not simply Netanyahu who provokes the left’s queasiness over nationalism. It is the entire Zionist undertaking, the Jewish state. Some months ago, Elliott Abrams dismantled Peter Beinart, explaining: “Jewish liberals have a problem with particularism, nationalism, Zionism, and they always have. And it isn’t due to anything that is going on in Israel, it’s due to things that are going on inside their heads. They need to grow up and realize that Israel has a right to defend itself.” But the left (its Jews and non-Jews) has no intention of growing up, any more than Israelis have any intention of committing national suicide.

Obama has desperately tried to avoid — by cajoling, threatening, and his platitudinous speechifying — choosing between his and his ideological soul mates’ internationalist, multilateral vision and America’s democratic ally in the Middle East. The conflict reappears in various incarnations (settlements, the flotilla, etc.), but the fundamentals are the same. This is a circle that can’t be squared. He’s either going to stand in the face of a howling international community bolstered by the anti-Israel left or he’s not. He’s either going to cede American leadership of the Free World or not. No wonder Obama displays such animus toward the Jewish state; it refuses to knuckle under to his demands. And it forces Obama to confront the unworkability of his own dream of a world in which nation-states (and America in particular) recede in favor of an “international community.”