Israel Through European Eyes

By Yoram Hazony, July 14, 2010 | 163 responses
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Every few months, Israel is publicly pilloried in the international media and on university campuses around the world for some alleged violation of human rights, real or imagined. Last month it was over an Israeli raid on a Turkish ship trying to run the blockade on Gaza, which left nine dead after the ship resisted seizure. A few months from now it will be over something else: Perhaps it will be over Israeli action against the Islamic terror state in Gaza, or against the Hizballah army in South Lebanon and its ever-growing mountain of missiles. Perhaps it will be over an Israeli strike on the Iranian or Syrian nuclear programs. Perhaps it will be over the destruction of an Iranian weapons ship at sea. Perhaps it will be over the revelation of an Israeli covert operation in an Arab country or in Europe or elsewhere. Perhaps it will be over an incident in an Israeli jail or at a roadblock in the West Bank. Perhaps it will be over the visit of an Israeli public figure to the Temple Mount, or the purchase and occupancy by Jews of a building in East Jerusalem. Perhaps it will be over something else.

But whatever the ostensible subject, and regardless of whether Israel’s political leaders and soldiers and spokesmen do their work as they should, we know for certain that the consequence of this future incident, a few months from now, will be another campaign of vilification in the media and on the campuses and in the corridors of power—a smear campaign of a kind that no other nation on earth is subjected to on a regular basis. We know we will again see our nation treated not as a democracy doing its duty to defend its people and its freedom, but as some kind of a scourge. We’ll again see everything that’s precious to us, and everything we consider just, trampled before our eyes. We’ll again have to experience the shame of having former friends turn their backs on us, and of seeing Jewish students running to dissociate themselves from Israel, even from Judaism, in a vain effort to retain the favor of disgusted peers. And we’ll again feel the bite of the rising anti-Semitic tide, returned after its post-World War II hiatus.

All this has happened repeatedly, and we know it will happen again. Indeed, these outbursts have grown more vicious and effective with each passing year for a generation now. And there’s every reason to think this humiliating trend will continue, with next year worse than this one.

As to the reactions of Jews and other friends of Israel to these smear campaigns—as far as I can tell, the reactions haven’t really changed in the last generation either: My friends on the political left always seem to think that a change of Israeli policy could prevent these campaigns of vilification, or at least lessen their reach. My friends on the political right always seem to say that what we need is “better PR”.

No doubt, Israel could always stand to have better policies and better public relations. But my own view is that neither of these otherwise sensible reactions can help improve things, because neither really gets to the heart of what’s been happening to Israel’s legitimacy. Israel’s policies have fluctuated radically over the past 30 or 40 years, being sometimes better, sometimes worse. And the adroitness with which Israel presents its case in the media and through diplomatic channels has, likewise, been sometimes better, sometimes worse. Yet the international efforts to smear Israel, to corner Israel, to delegitimize Israel and drive it from the family of nations, have proceeded and advanced and grown ever more potent despite the many upturns and downturns in Israeli policy and Israeli PR.

Nothing could make this more evident than the Jewish withdrawal from Gaza and the subsequent establishment there of an independent and belligerent Islamic republic 40 miles from downtown Tel Aviv. Israelis and friends of Israel can reasonably be divided on the question of whether this withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, or the parallel withdrawal from the security zone in South Lebanon in 2000, was really in Israel’s interests, and whether the Jewish state is today better off because of them. But one thing about which we can all agree, I think, is that these withdrawals did nothing to stem the tide of hatred and vilification being poured on Israel’s head internationally. Whatever it is that is driving the trend toward the progressive delegitimization of Israel, it is a trend operating more or less without reference to any particular Israeli policy on any given issue.

To put this in slightly different terms, it’s not the maintenance of a security zone in South Lebanon, or Israeli control of the Gaza Strip, or a raid on a Turkish blockade runner’s boat that is responsible for what is happening to Israel’s position on the world stage. These specific instances of Israeli policy are, for our opponents, nothing but symbols of something deeper and more hateful that they see revealed time and again when they look upon the state of Israel and its deeds. And until we understand what this deeper issue with Israel is, I believe we’ll remain powerless to understand the progressive growth of the hatred toward us—and powerless to fight it.

The rest of this letter will be devoted to trying to get at what that underlying objection to Israel is. This won’t be your usual op-ed piece on the subject because I don’t think the answers we want are accessible by looking at surface phenomena. I think we have to go much deeper. After I try to do that, I’ll say a few words about what I see as the only possible course of action if we are interested in ultimately reversing this trend.


In 1962, a Berkeley professor named Thomas Kuhn published a book called The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which went on to become the most influential academic book of the last half century, selling over a million copies in a dozen languages. Kuhn’s book dropped a depth charge under the foundations of academic thinking about the way we search for truth, and about the way we come to believe the things we believe. And although the subject of the book is the way the search for truth works in the physical sciences, it has implications well beyond the sciences.

In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn argues that the traditional picture of science—in which scientists conduct universally replicable experiments to accumulate verified facts, which together make up the body of scientific truths—is without basis in the actual history of science. Instead, scientists are trained to see the world in terms of a certain framework of interrelated concepts, which Kuhn calls a paradigm. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the paradigm not only determines the interpretation that a scientist gives the facts, but even what facts there are to be interpreted: The “facts” that scientists consider admissible for discussion are those that easily conform to the dominant paradigm, or that can be made to conform to it by extending the paradigm or introducing minor repairs into it. Those facts that can’t be made to conform to the reigning paradigm are overlooked entirely or dismissed as unimportant.

Kuhn was famous, of course, for pointing out that things don’t go on like this forever. The history of science is punctuated by shifts in the dominant paradigm, as when Aristotelian physics gave way to Newtonian physics, or when Newton’s science was displaced by Einstein’s. Kuhn calls these shifts in paradigm scientific revolutions, and in the book he discusses tens of such shifts from the history of the physical sciences. Kuhn concludes that while most scientists are reasonable people, what we would usually consider reasonable discussion and argument only takes place among scientists who subscribe to the same paradigm. Nothing like a normal process of persuasion is involved in battles between competing paradigms. Indeed, when scientists representing competing paradigms argue, there is often no way at all that either one will be able to prove his case to the other:

The proponents of competing paradigms are always at least slightly at cross-purposes. Neither side will grant all the non-empirical assumptions that the other needs in order to make its case…. [Thus while] each may hope to convert the other to his way of seeing…, neither may hope to prove his case. The competition between paradigms is not the sort of battle that can be resolved by proofs.[1]

As Kuhn points out, even a mountain of facts will not change the mind of a scientist who has been trained in a different paradigm, because the fundamental framework from which he views the world is different: The facts themselves mean something completely different to him. In fact, very few scientific paradigms, including the most famous and most successful, are able to provide the kind of decisive experimental evidence that can force scientists to give up the old paradigm.

How, then, do scientists come to change their minds? Kuhn says that in many cases, they never change their minds—and that an entire generation has to pass before the scientific community enters a new paradigm:

How, then, are scientists brought to make this transposition? Part of the answer is that they  are very often not. Copernicanism made very few converts for almost a century after Copernicus’ death. Newton’s work was not generally accepted, particularly on the Continent, for more than half a century after the Principia appeared. Priestley never accepted the oxygen theory, nor Lord Kelvin the electromagnetic theory, and so on…. And Max Planck, surveying his own career in his Scientific Autobiography, sadly remarked that “a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” [2]

Kuhn doesn’t go quite as far as endorsing Planck’s claim that paradigms change only when the supporters of the old paradigm die off and a younger generation takes their place. But he comes close, approvingly quoting a passage from The Origin of Species in which Darwin suggests that even the most brilliant scientists will likely be unable to adjust to his theory of natural selection. The prejudices run too deep, Darwin writes, and it will take new generation of scientists to be able to consider the new theory fairly. As he writes:

Although I am fully convinced of the truth of the views given in this volume…, I by no means expect to convince experienced naturalists whose minds are stocked with a multitude of facts all viewed, during a long course of years, from a point of view directly opposite mine…. [B]ut I look with confidence to the future—to young and rising naturalists, who will be able to view both sides of the question with impartiality.[3]


Kuhn’s ideas have had an immense impact on the way the scientific enterprise is understood in the universities. And since most academic disciplines see themselves as “sciences,” few have escaped revision in light of Kuhn’s way of thinking about science. This has been true, for example, in the field of international relations, in which studies applying Kuhn’s ideas have concluded that nations are likewise perceived from within a fixed conceptual framework or paradigm, and that their actions, regardless of how carefully crafted, usually do little more than reinforce pre-existing expectations.[4] The implications of this kind of rethinking for academic research and teaching are vast, and are still unfolding even now.

But as far as I can tell, the revolution in the way scholars think about facts, arguments, and truth has not yet had the slightest impact on the manner in which Jews and friends of Israel think about the progressive delegitimization of the Jewish state in the international arena. Indeed, most of the concerned individuals I speak with are still convinced that if only certain facts were better known–or better presented–Israel’s circumstances could be improved dramatically.

Unfortunately, I don’t think this is right. Media battles such as the one over the Turkish ship off Gaza are necessary for Israel’s short-term defense, and we had better do our best to win them by presenting the facts as best we are able. But I think that Kuhn’s argument makes it clear that the outcomes of these contests won’t have any real impact on the overall trajectory of Israel’s standing among educated people in the West. This standing has been deteriorating for the past generation, not because of this or that set of facts, but because the paradigm through which educated Westerners are looking at Israel has shifted. We’ve been watching the transition from one paradigm to another on everything having to do with Israel’s legitimacy as a sovereign nation. So long as we don’t understand this well, we won’t really understand what’s going on, and we won’t be able to do anything to really improve things.

What’s the old paradigm? And what’s the new one to which the international arena is shifting?

Let’s begin with the old paradigm, which is the one that granted Israel its legitimacy in the first place. The modern state of Israel was founded, both constitutionally and in terms of the understanding of the international community, as a nation-state, the state of the Jewish people. This is to say that it is the offspring of an early modern movement that understood the freedom of peoples as depending on a right to self-protection against the predations of international empires speaking in the name of a presumed higher authority.[5] And while there have always been nation-states—the Jewish kingdom of the Bible was the most important classical example[6]—the modern history of the national state focuses on the rise of nation-states such as England and the Netherlands, and subsequently Richelieu’s France, whose self-understanding as sovereign nations was sharpened and consolidated during the long struggle to liberate their peoples from the pretensions to universal empire of the Austro-Spanish Habsburgs (that is, the “Holy Roman Empire”) beginning in the mid-1500s. What made the defeat of the Spanish “Armada” by Elizabeth in 1588 a turning point in mankind’s history was precisely the fact that in turning away Phillip II’s bid to rule England, she also made solid the freedom (or “self-determination”) of peoples from the Austro-Spanish claim to a right to rule mankind as sole protector of the universal Catholic faith.

The defeat of the universalist ideal in the Thirty Years’ War in 1648 led to the establishment of a new paradigm for European politics—one in which a revitalized concept of the national state held the key to the freedom of peoples throughout Europe. By the late-1800s, this idea of national liberty had been extended to the point that it was conceived not only as a governing principle for Europe, but for the entire world. Progressives such as John Stuart Mill and Woodrow Wilson championed the sovereign nation-state, which would have the right to defend its form of government, laws, religion and language against the tyranny of imperial actors, as the cornerstone of what was ultimately to be a new political order for humanity. Herzl’s Zionist Organization, which proposed a sovereign state for the Jewish people, fit right into this political understanding—and indeed, it was under British sponsorship that the idea of the Jewish state grew to fruition. In 1947, the United Nations voted by a 2/3 majority for the establishment of a “Jewish State” in Palestine. And the birth of Israel was followed by the establishment of dozens of additional independent states throughout the Third World.

But the idea of the nation-state has not flourished in the period since the establishment of Israel. On the contrary, it has pretty much collapsed. With the drive toward European Union, the nations of Europe have established a new paradigm in which the sovereign nation-state is no longer seen as holding the key to the well-being of humanity. On the contrary, the independent nation-state is now seen by many intellectuals and political figures in Europe as a source of incalculable evil, while the multinational empire—the form of government which John Stuart Mill had singled out as the very epitome of despotism—is now being mentioned time and again with fondness as a model for a post-national humanity.[7] Moreover, this new paradigm is aggressively advancing into mainstream political discourse in other nations as well—even in countries such as the United States and Israel.

Why is this happening? How is it that so many French, Germans, English, Dutch and others are now willing to lend a hand in dismantling the states in which they live, and to exchanging them for the rule of an international regime?

To answer these questions, we have to take a brief look at the source of the modern post-national paradigm in European thought. This alternative way of viewing European politics was launched in a 1795 manifesto by Immanuel Kant calledPerpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch. In it, Kant issued a famous and explicit attack on the ideal of the nation-state, comparing national self-determination to the lawless freedom of savages, which, he said, is rightly detested as “barbarism,” and a “brutish debasement of humanity.”  As he wrote:

We look with profound contempt upon the way in which savages cling to their lawless freedom. They would rather engage in incessant strife than to submit to legal constraint…. We regard this as barbarism, coarseness, and brutish debasement of humanity. We might thus expect civilized peoples, each united within itself as a [nation] state, would hasten to abandon so degrading a condition as soon as possible. But instead of doing so, each state sees its own majesty… precisely in not having to submit to any external constraint, and the glory of its ruler consists in his power to order thousands of people to immolate themselves….

For Kant, then, the hallmark of reason in politics is the willingness to give up any kind of right to act on the basis of one’s own political independence. This is true of the individual, when he submits to the lawful order of the political state. And it is true of nations as well, which must in the same way give up any right to independent action and enter into an “international state” that will assume all rights respecting the use of force and the establishment of justice:

There is only one rational way in which states co-existing with other states can emerge from the lawless condition of pure warfare…. They must renounce their savage and lawless freedom, adapt themselves to public coercive laws, and thus form an international state, which would necessarily continue to grow until it embraced all the people of the earth.[8]

In Perpetual Peace, then, Kant argues that the establishment of a universal state, which will “grow until it embraced all the people of the earth,” is the only possible dictate of reason. Human beings who do not agree to the subordination of their national interests to the decisions of such a universal state are seen as opposing the historical march of humanity toward reason. The supporters of the nation-state are seen as supporting a violent egoism on an international scale, which is as much an abdication of morals as the insistence of violent egoism in our personal lives.

For many years, the Kantian paradigm, which imputed an intrinsic immorality to the institution of the national state, found few takers in Europe. In the 19th century, it was embraced by a minuscule number of Communists and utopians, and a handful of Catholic reactionaries. But the 20th century was a different story. The Soviets and Marxists blamed the carnage of the two world wars on the order of nation-states. This was an argument that had little traction in the European mainstream between the wars. But after World War II, when Nazism was added to the list of crimes attributed to the nation-state, the result was very different. Nazism was seen as the rotten fruit of the German nation-state, and Kant looked to have been right all along: For the nations to arm themselves, and to determine for themselves when to use these arms, was now seen as barbarism and a brutish debasement of humanity.

For the record, my own view is that this line of argument is preposterous. The heart of the idea of the nation-state is the political self-determination of peoples. The nation-state is a form of government that limits its political aspirations to the rule of one nation, and to establishing national freedom for this nation. The Nazi state, on the other hand, was precisely the opposite of this: Hitler opposed the idea of the nation-state as an expression of Western effeteness. On his view, the political fate of all nations should be determined by the new German empire that was to arise: Indeed, Hitler saw his Third Reich as an improved incarnation of what he referred to as the First Reich—which was none other than the Holy Roman Empire of the Hapsburgs! The Nazis’ aim was thus diametrically opposed to that of the Western nation-states. Hitler’s dream was precisely to build his empire on their ruin.

Obvious as this seems to me, many Europeans declined to see things this way, accepting the view that Nazism was, more or less, the nation-state taken to its ugly conclusion. In this way, the Soviets’ condemnation of the Western nation-state was joined by a new Western anti-nationalism, which eagerly sought an end to the old order in the name of Kant’s march of reason. As the philosopher Jurgen Habermas, perhaps the leading theoretician of a post-national Europe, pointed out, this transition was particularly easy for Germans—given Germany’s role in World War II and the fact that post-war Germany was in any case under occupation and was no longer a sovereign state.[9] He might have added that unlike the British, French and Dutch, the German-speaking peoples of Europe had historically never lived under a single sovereignty, so that the dream of the nation-state was perhaps in any case somewhat less important to them.

Be this as it may, this post-national vision found takers all over Europe. A mere generation later, in 1992, European leaders signed the Treaty of Maastricht establishing the European Union as an international government, and stripping member states of  many of the powers associated historically with national independence. Of course, there are many in Europe who have not yet accepted this course. And it’s still unclear what the future holds—whether the nation states of Europe will succeed in retaining aspects of their sovereignty, or whether these states, as independent nations, will soon be a mere memory.

But either way, the impact of the new paradigm, which is the engine driving the movement toward European Union, has already been overwhelming. Both in Europe and in North America, we are watching the growth of a generation of young people that, for the first time in 350 years, does not recognize the nation-state as the foundation of our freedoms. Indeed, there is a powerful new paradigm abroad, which sees us doing without such states. And it has unleashed a tidal wave of consequences, for those who embrace it and for those who do not.


I have to admit I’m deeply troubled by the prospect that a nation such as Britain, which has so often been a light to others in politics, philosophy, and science, should some day soon step down from the stage of world history forever. And the same may be said of Holland, France, and others. But my focus in this letter is the Jews and our own state, and I’d like now to try and understand what Israel looks like when seen through European eyes—or rather, through the eyes of the new paradigm that provides the framework for understanding Israel to so many in Europe, and now also to increasing numbers of educated people in America and elsewhere.

Consider the Auschwitz concentration camp. For most Jews, Auschwitz has a very particular meaning: It was not Herzl’s Zionist Organization that succeeded in persuading nearly all Jews the world over that there could be no other way but to establish a sovereign Jewish state. It was Auschwitz and the destruction of the six million at the hands of the Germans and their sympathizers that did this. From the horror and humiliation of Auschwitz, this inescapable lesson emerged: That it was Jewish dependence on the military protection of others that had brought this about. This message was already articulated with perfect clarity by David Ben-Gurion in the National Assembly of the Jews of Palestine in November 1942:

We do not know exactly what goes on in the Nazi valley of death, or how many Jews have already been slaughtered… We do not know whether the victory of democracy and freedom and justice will not find Europe a vast Jewish cemetery in which the bones of our people are scattered…. We are the only people in the world whose blood, as a nation, is allowed to be shed.… Only our children, our women… and our aged are set apart for special treatment, to be buried alive in graves dug by them, to be cremated in crematoriums, to be strangled and to be murdered by machine guns… for but one sin:… Because the Jews have no political standing, no Jewish army, no Jewish independence, and no homeland…. Give us the right to fight and die as Jews.… We demand the right… to a homeland and independence. What has happened to us in Poland, what God forbid, will happen to us in the future, all our innocent victims, all the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, and perhaps millions… are the sacrifices of a people without a homeland…. We demand… a homeland and independence….[10]

In these words, the tie between the Holocaust and what Ben-Gurion calls the “sin” of Jewish powerlessness is powerfully in evidence. The meaning of Auschwitz is that the Jews failed in their efforts find a way to defend their children. They depended on others, decent men in power in America or Britain, who, when the time came, did virtually nothing to save European Jewry. Today, most Jews continue to believe that the only thing that has really changed since those millions of our people perished—the only thing that stands as a bulwark against the repetition of this chapter in the world’s history—is Israel.[11]

It is a little-discussed fact that the Jews are not the only ones for whom Auschwitz has become an important political symbol. Many Europeans, too, see Auschwitz as being at the heart of the lesson of World War II. But the conclusions they draw are precisely the opposite of those drawn by Jews. Following Kant, they see Auschwitz as the ultimate expression of that barbarism, that brutal debasement of humanity, which is national particularism. On this view, the death camps provide the ultimate proof of the evil that results from permitting nations to decide for themselves how to dispose of the military power in their possession. The obvious conclusion is that it was wrong to give the German nation this power of life and death. If such evil is to be prevented from happening again and again, the answer must be in the dismantling of Germany and the other national states of Europe, and the yoking together of all the European peoples under a single international government. Eliminate the national state once and for all—Ecrasez l’infame!—and you have sealed off that dark road to Auschwitz.

Notice that according to this view, it is not Israel that is the answer to Auschwitz, but the European Union: A united Europe will make it impossible for Germany, or any other European nation, to rise up and persecute others once again. In this sense, it is European Union that stands as the guarantor of the future peace of the Jews, and indeed, of all humanity.

So here you have two competing paradigms concerning the meaning of Auschwitz. In a sense, they’re each looking at the same facts: Both paradigms take it as a given that millions were murdered in Auschwitz by the Germans and their collaborators, that the deeds done there were utterly evil, and that Jews and others who died there were the helpless victims of this evil. But at this point, agreement ends. From here, precisely as Kuhn suggests, individuals looking at the same facts through different paradigms see utterly different things:

Paradigm A: Auschwitz represents the unspeakable horror of Jewish women and men standing empty-handed and naked, watching their children die for want of a rifle with which to protect them.

Paradigm B: Auschwitz represents the unspeakable horror of German soldiers using force against others, backed by nothing but their own government’s views as to their national rights and interests.

It’s important to see that these two views, which at first don’t even seem to be talking about the same thing, are actually describing points of view that are almost perfectly irreconcilable. In the one, it’s the agency of the murderers that is seen as the source of the evil; in the other, the powerlessness of the victims—a seemingly subtle difference in perspective that opens up into a chasm when we turn these competing paradigms in another direction and look at Israel through their eyes.

Here are the same two paradigms, now with their attention turned to Israel and what it represents:

Paradigm A: Israel represents Jewish women and men standing rifle in hand, watching over their own children and all other Jewish children and protecting them. Israel is the opposite of Auschwitz.

Paradigm B: Israel represents the unspeakable horror of Jewish soldiers using force against others, backed by nothing but their own government’s views as to their national rights and interests. Israel is Auschwitz.

In both paradigms, the fact of Israel takes on an extraordinary significance because of the identity of the Jews as the victims of the Shoah. For Israel’s founders, the fact that the survivors of the death camps and their children could be given weapons and permitted to train as soldiers under a Jewish flag seemed a decisive movement of the world toward what was just and right. It could in no sense make up for what had happened. But it was just nonetheless, granting the survivors precisely that empowerment that, had it come a few years earlier, would have saved their loved ones from death and worse. In this sense, Israel is the opposite of Auschwitz. But Israel takes on extraordinary significance in the new European paradigm as well. For in Israel, the survivors and their children took up arms and set themselves on a course of determining their own fate. That is, this people, so close to the Kantian ideal of perfect self-renunciation only a few decades ago, have instead chosen what is now seen as the path of Hitler—the path of national self-determination. It is this which lies beneath the nearly boundless disgust so many feel towards Israel, and especially toward anything having to do with Israel’s attempts to defend itself, regardless of whether these operations are successful or unsuccessful, irreproachable or morally flawed. For in taking up arms in the name of their own national state and their own self determination, the Jews, as many Europeans and others now see it, have simply taken up the same evil that led Germany to build the camps. The details may differ, but the principle, in their eyes, is the same: Israel is Auschwitz.

Try to see this through European eyes: Try imagining being a proud Dutchman, whose nation was the first to light the torch of liberty in that hopeless uprising against Catholic Spain in a war of independence that lasted eighty years. “Yet I am willing to give this up,” he says to himself, “to sacrifice this heritage with its dreams of past glory, and to say goodbye to the country of my forefathers, for the sake of something higher: I will make this painful sacrifice for the sake of an international political union that will ultimately embrace all humanity. Yes, I will do it for humanity.” Yet who is it who stands against him? Who, among the civilized peoples, would dare turn their backs on this effort, blessed by morality and reason, to attain at last the salvation of mankind? Imagine his shock: “The Jews! Those Jews, who should have been the first to welcome the coming of the new order, the first to welcome the coming of mankind’s salvation, instead establish themselves as its opponents, building up their own selfish little state, at war with the world. How dare they? Must they not make the same sacrifices as I in the name of reason and good? Are they so debased they cannot remember their own parents in Auschwitz? No, they cannot remember—for they’ve been seduced and perverted by the same evil that had previously seized our neighbors in Germany. They have gone over to the side of Auschwitz.”

Thus it is not just by some fluke that we constantly hear Israel and its soldiers (by which we mean the sons and daughters of most of the Jewish families in Israel) constantly being compared to the Nazis. We aren’t talking about just any old smear, chosen arbitrarily or for its rhetorical value alone. In Europe and wherever else the new paradigm has spread, the comparison with Nazism, sickening and absurd though it may be, is as natural and inevitable as mud after rain.

And this, I think, gives us the answer to the question with which we started. We want to know how it can be that at some very fundamental level, the facts don’t seem to matter any more: How it can be that even where Israel is undoubtedly in the right—not to mention the inevitable cases in which Israeli leaders or soldiers have performed poorly—the country can be pilloried in campaigns of vilification that bite deeper and hit harder with every passing year. How it can be that after the destruction of the Israeli security zone in South Lebanon, and after Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the hatred of Israel only grows more full-throated? The answer is that while hatred for Israel may, at a given moment, be focused quite sincerely on certain facts about the security zone or the Gaza Strip or the Turkish blockade runners, the trajectory of international disgust or hatred for Israel is just not driven by any of these facts. It is driven by the rapid advance of a new paradigm that understands Israel, and especially the independent Israeli use of force to defend itself, as illegitimate down to its foundations. If you believe that Israel is, in some important sense, a variant on Nazism, then you just aren’t going to be very impressed by “improvements” in Israeli policies or PR. An improved Auschwitz is still Auschwitz.

Perhaps you are asking yourself the following: If this is right, and the comparison between Israel and the most odious political movement in European history is hard-wired into the new paradigm of international politics that is quickly advancing upon us, then isn’t it the case that people who subscribe to this paradigm are going to be coming to the conclusion that Israel has no right to exist and should be dismantled?

To which I say: Of course this comparison leads to the conclusion that Israel has no right to exist and should be dismantled. And why not? If Germany and France have no right to exist as independent states, why should Israel? And if everyone is prepared to remain dry-eyed on the day the United Kingdom and the Netherlands are finally gone, why should anyone feel differently about Israel? On the contrary, while Jews and their friends continue to speak in dread of “Israel’s destruction,” this phrase is no longer feared among new-paradigmers of various stripes—some of whom are already permitting themselves to fantasize in public about political arrangements that will permit the Jewish state to cease to exist.[12]


Israel continues to be threatened militarily, first and foremost by Iran. But if Israel falls, it will not be by way of Iranian missiles. It will be by way of words, as the Soviet Union fell. Jews and non-Jews will simply cease to understand why such a state should exist—and then one day, with awesome speed, the independent Jewish state will be no more.

Those who are concerned to defend Israel on the battlefield are well aware that this involves a never-ending reassessment of the sources of danger and the means needed to meet new threats as they arise. On the battlefield of ideas, the state of Israel is today in danger as never before. But the danger isn’t coming from Israel’s traditional enemies and it can’t be fought using the traditional means. You can’t fight a paradigm with facts—because pretty much any facts you’ve got are either dismissed as irrelevant or absorbed into the new paradigm and reinterpreted in a way that only reinforces it. You can only fight a paradigm with a competing paradigm. And the paradigm that gave birth to Israel and which held it firm, both domestically and internationally, is today in tatters.

What can be done? A good start would be to read Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions—or to read it again if you read it in college. If you’re used to academic books, it’s an easy read. And if not, it’s a bit of an effort, but worth it. No book will give you a clearer insight into what’s happening to Israel today in the international arena, on the campuses, and even, to some extent, in Israel’s universities.

After that, we have to begin talking about what it takes to establish a new paradigm, or to rebuild an old one that has collapsed. There’s much to be said about this, and it’s not for now. But I’ll leave you with just this thought as a start on it: Paradigm shifts aren’t like an election campaign or a struggle over some aspect of policy, much less a short-term media battle like the one over the Turkish flotilla, which can be resolved one way or another in matter of weeks or months, if not days. Paradigm shifts are unusual in the lives of individuals. And when they happen, they often take years to work themselves out. For this reason, clashes between political paradigms tend to play themselves out over a generation or more. By the same token, the relevant media in which these clashes are played out aren’t the newspapers or television or the internet. By the time we’re reading the newspapers or watching CNN, we’ve already got our paradigm in place—just like the reporters we’re watching, who just keep reporting from within their own set paradigm, over and over again. When it comes to shifts of political paradigm, these take place principally through books, which expose people to an idea at length and in depth; and in schools, where such books are studied and discussed, especially universities. If we are interested in the reconstruction of the paradigm that has served as the foundation for Israel’s existence, that’s where the work is going to have to be done.


[1] Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996 [1962]), p. 148. 
[2] Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, pp. 150-151. The quote is from Max Planck, Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers, F. Gaynor, trans. (New York: Philosophical Library, 1968 [1949]), pp. 33-34. 
[3] Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species (New York, 1889), vol. II, pp. 295-296. Quoted in Kuhn, p. 151. 
[4] An early study that successfully applied Kuhn’s ideas to the international arena is Robert Jervis, Perception and Misperception in International Politics (Princeton: Princeton, 1976). 
[5] For a more extensive discussion of the nation-state as a means of freeing mankind from empire, see my essay, “Empire and Anarchy,” which is the first of my trilogy of essays on the nation-state. Yoram Hazony, “On the National State, Part 1: Empire and Anarchy,” Azure 12 (Winter 2002), pp. 27-70. 
[6] On the Jewish state of antiquity as a national states, see Adrian Hastings, The Construction of Nationhood: Ethnicity, Religion and Nationalism (New York: Cambridge, 1997); Steven Grosby, Biblical Ideas of Nationality: Ancient and Modern (Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 2002); Yoram Hazony, “On the National State, Part 1: Empire and Anarchy,” Azure 12 (Winter 2002), pp. 34-35, 39; Daniel Gordis, “The Tower of Babel and the Birth of Nationhood,” Azure 40 (Spring 2010). 
[7] See, for example, Jurgen Habermas, “The European Nation-State: On the Past and Future of Sovereignty and Citizenship,” Ciarin Cronin and Pablo De Greiff, eds., The Inclusion of the Other: Studies in Political Theory (Cambridge: MIT, 1998), pp. 117-119, 160-161; Yael Tamir, Liberal Nationalism (Princeton: Princeton, 1993), pp. 151f, 170 n. 7. One scholar who recognized that these beliefs are leading to the reemergence of the Hapsburg empire as the institutional structure of Europe is Adrian Hastings, The Construction of Nationhood, pp. 121-122, 200. 
[8] Immanuel Kant, “Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch,” in Hans Reiss, ed., H. B. Nisbet, trans., Kant’s Political Writings(Cambridge: Cambridge, 1970), pp. 102-105. 
[9] Jurgen Habermas, “The European Nation-State,” p. 118. 
[10] Speech by Ben-Gurion before a special session of the National Assembly, November 30, 1942. Central Zionist Archives, J/1366. 
[11] For discussion of Israel’s role as the guardian of the Jewish people, see Yoram Hazony, “On the National State, Part 2: The Guardian of the Jews,” Azure 13 (Summer 2003), pp. 133-165. 
[12] See, for example, Tony Judt, “Israel: The Alternative,” The New York Review of Books, October 23, 2003. An impressive Zionist response is Leon Wieseltier “Israel, Palestine, and the Return of the Bi-National Fantasy: What is Not to be Done,” The New Republic, October 27, 2003.

163 Responses to "Israel Through European Eyes"
Andrew Ingram
December 16, 2011
Rubbish. I've just wasted half an hour of my time.
Mori Glaser
July 20, 2011
When I was a feminist peace activist in the UK in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, we used exactly this model - Kuhn’s paradigm - to analyze the self-justification of patriarchal thinking, especially the nuclear approach to diplomacy, which
Jack Golbert
July 17, 2011
Is this an accurate depiction of political thought in Europe? It is ironically myopic and historically ignorant to expect the Jewish people to be "the first to welcome the coming of the new order, the first to welcome the coming
Levi Sokolic
February 6, 2011
I was very impressed with what you said and think there is a great deal of truth in it. I first came across Kuhn when I was at university, and his ideas were then new. I was impressed then and
Heinrich von Mettenheim
February 2, 2011
Mettenheim Gronstedt Meyding
Bellow my comments in the form of a three brief thesis statements relating to your opposition of the nation state versus supranational paradigms:

1. The fact that Hitler has gained the power to pursue his attempt to impose Third Reich phantasmagories
Richard D. Wilkins
December 19, 2010
Gemini Stats
There is much to be said for your thesis postulating the overweening importance of the reigning European paradigm regarding the evils of nationalism on the poisoning of elite attitudes, there and elsewhere, towards Israel. In particular, it helps explain why
Samuel D. Kahnowitz
December 15, 2010
New Jersey Medical School
The essay is very informative,and I certainly can appreciate the idea of paradigms as a construct with which to analyze the present crisis.

I wonder if the shift in paradigms comes from a mis-reading of 19th century European history by
Arnold Kaufman
November 15, 2010
Woodhill Supply Inc
What a wonderful analysis that really goes a long way to clarify the situation. However, I disagree with your suggestion at conclusion. The universities and their professors also buy into to the European paradigm and will not accept the ideas
Anne Marie Healy
November 14, 2010
I enjoyed your article. I might go so far as to say it is brilliant. It explains a lot. I need to go read Kant’s book, and then I can possibly add more, but at this point
Nuno Wahnon Martins
November 14, 2010
European Friends of Israel
This is one of the best essays I've ever read on the subject.

As the European Affairs Officer I will be delighted to have you with us in Brussels debating with some High-Level people.

In any case, your letters
Chalom Schirman
October 20, 2010
I have read with great interest your paper on Israel through European eyes.

As a lecturer in Geopolitics (who is a former Israeli diplomat), I have to confront the dangerous theses disseminated by post -modernists who seem to dominate the fields
Eric Sommer
October 18, 2010
I finally got a chance to finish reading your article. It made great sense to me, confirming a feeling that I've had for a long time, but was unable to articulate the way you did.

I'd love to hear your
Barry Werner
September 20, 2010
IDC Herzliya
You speak of two competing paradigms in European thought, the ideal nation state and the ideal super-national state. Since the mid 17'th Century until just recently the ideal nation state was the preferred paradigm (as you say, the idea had
James A. Donald
September 9, 2010
Your view is too Jew centric: You need to look at other peaceful peoples that suffer massacre and persecution, while the world enthusiastically backed the murderers against the victims, for example the overseas Chinese, the Ibo, the Tutsi, the
Bill Meisler
September 7, 2010
I am a descendant of Jews from Central Europe. All my life I have been a lover of European culture. I have frequently traveled to Europe, am fluent in German and Italian, play classical European
Terry Levine
September 6, 2010
Thank you for your wonderful post. Very thought provoking.

I'm by no means a political science but I've read quite a lot on Israel and the Middle East. Here are my thoughts, for what they're worth...

The main thought I had
Yakir Plessner
September 6, 2010
Hebrew University
I dare think that I have something useful to add.
But first disclaimers: I am an economist, and am neither a moral nor a political philosopher. I have never read Kant and probably never will, but I have read quite a
Janice Senatra
August 30, 2010
I read Kuhn years ago, and believe his theses holds true for the sciences (less so for other fields, particularly those which tend to be far less "fact-driven" or rely on "interpretations").

CNN the other day (unfortunately, I don't have
Ian Solomon
August 29, 2010
Re the above article, I have seen this thesis in various forms before but I find it unconvincing. It does not explain why those same Europeans who supposedly reject Israel due to their “post-national” perspective are almost all fervently
Richard L Rubenstein
August 29, 2010
University of Bridgeport
I found your fifth letter enormously helpful. The thirteen and fourteenth chapters of the Leviathan contain arguably one of the oldest defenses of the sovereignty of the nation-state. Hobbes argues that people avert the state of nature by conferring “all
David Sommer
August 28, 2010
I was very interested in the article that you wrote concerning Israel and its many many trials, opposition, hatred that it has had to face during its almost 3,000 years now since the division of the kingdom under king Rehoboam,
Brad Fleisher
August 27, 2010
Lexbridge DC / Wm. H. Murphy & Co., Inc.
Your article is brilliant. It created three action items for me:

(1) To reread Kuhn’s book;
(2) To subscribe to Jerusalem Letters and eagerly await your next article on this topic, which hopefully will address your point “ . . . we have to
Joel Farber
August 27, 2010
Duke University
I was very stimulated by your piece applying Kuhn to Israel, and I was convinced--up to a point. The point that stumped me is this: why are the Europeans and other anti-nation-state critics of Israel so eager to embrace a
Steven M. Levy
August 27, 2010
Kamber Management Company LLC
Thank you for your insightful article. I have shared it with my boys. They are college age and Zionists. I agree with your conclusion. The extent of the intellectual paradigm shift in the U.S. is illustrated
Yehuda Poch
August 25, 2010
OneFamily Fund
I am very impressed with the breadth and depth of your thoughts in your Jerusalem Letters articles.
I find that there is one view of the world's increasing apathy toward Israel that you left out of your article.
That view is continued
Zita Rainer
August 25, 2010
I've just read your Jerusalem letter of July 14 titled 'Israel Through European Eyes'.

You argue that "national self-determination... lies beneath the nearly boundless disgust so many feel towards Israel..."

How do you explain that the same people (and
Michal Horneman
August 24, 2010
I read your article with fascination. It definitely provides interesting insights. Concerning your main proposition, however, that hatred of Israel stems from the changing of the paradigm from nation-state to universalist sovereignty, there is an enormous flaw in the logic,
Peter Lupu
August 23, 2010
My name is Peter Lupu and I am an Israeli who lives for several decades in US. I just read your paper "Israel Through European Eyes" and I found it very novel and insightful. Since my background is philosophy I
Motty Perel
August 22, 2010
I just read your July 14, 2010 letter Israel Through European Eyes.
I cannot argue against it. It agitates my intellect. It creates a storm in my heart. It sounds true to me.
Is it going to turn my general direction from
Diana Pinto
August 22, 2010
I stumbled on your article via an AJC link concerning Ben Cohen's article in the "Propagandist'. While I found his critiques not up to par, except for the fact that he rightly comments that Kant can also be
Eitan Ingall
August 21, 2010
University of Michigan
I wanted to write to you a quick note simply to thank you for this brilliant essay. "Israel Though European Eyes" is honest and shows a keen awareness of the evolution of paradigms of not only European Christians, but also
Stanley Cohen
August 20, 2010
I just read your article on this intelectual shift that you indenify in the west.

This is a shift in the making, it is far from complete and can thus be opposed
and defeated. It is largly leftist, elitist and not
David Hecht
August 20, 2010
Vanderbilt University
I read your article on Israel Through European Eyes and found this argument very fascinating. There are certainly parallels between Kuhn's explanation of science and international relations. However, I find one major difference between science and politics, and it
Al Pilver
August 20, 2010
I believe my view of what is happening in the USA fits the ideas of your essay. As the population make-up in the USA evolves to a greater percentage of minorities, such as Hispanics and blacks, support of Israel will
Chalom Schirman
August 20, 2010
I read with great interest your recent article on the (very dangerous indeed) new post-modernist paradigm.

Still, one point keeps bothereing me: post-modernism and other similar non-sense is shared only by Western elite (?) members, Europeans and Americans a small minority
David Zarmi
August 20, 2010
I have been a big fan of your work since your book on Esther and the State of the Jews. Shalem is unique in Israel (and the world, despite at least analogous think tanks in the States).
I understand your
Amir Weitmann
August 19, 2010
I just read your Jerusalem Letter on the Israel Through European Eyes and I loved it. Thanks.

I just wanted to share with you something that happened close to a decade ago. It was probably in 2001 or 2002 and suicide
Michael Reynolds
August 19, 2010
Yes, there is something in what you say. But there's more to it than that. These same 'former nations' now part of the European union, turn a blind eye to nationalism in their own back yard: where is there any
Brian Driscoll
August 19, 2010
Your essay, Israel Through European Eyes, is a seminal contribution to the ongoing debate. But I believe you needlessly, and perhaps fatally, circumscribe the issue by limiting your options to building a new, or rebuilding an old, paradigm with which
Andrew Berman
August 19, 2010
After reading your essay, I better understand the European argument that, not only are Israelis the new Nazis, but also that the Palestinians are the new Jews. After all, the Palestinians are perceived as being without a homeland, thus
Andrew Kennard
August 19, 2010
I read your essay "Israel Through European Eyes" with great interest however I wonder whether the paradigm you refer to has a much wider origin.
To me, there seems to be withing the West a certain self rejection. So rather that
David DeMello
August 18, 2010
i read your argument of paradigm and have come to the conclusion that it is incomplete because it ignores the newly recognized danger festering from within the European sphere. i speak of the strong identity of the self segregating
Carl Tessler
August 18, 2010
Carl H. Tessler, P.C.
I read your article with great interest and I suspect that there is more than a little truth to your thesis that the Western world’s growing antagonism toward Israel is the product of a paradigm shift away from the concept
Steve Brody
August 18, 2010
Your article was fascinating to read. I am also sure my following question is one you have heard many times before. If a shift in the ending of the nation-state paradigm is driving European hate for Israel, why
Andy Konermann
August 18, 2010
Thank you Yoram for sharing your insight, I often am at a loss for words with those I encounter who seem to possess this inexplicable predisposition to being vehemently opposed to anything Israel does – your logic goes a long
Melvyn Huff
August 18, 2010
I just read your excellent article but I wonder how those supporting the new paradigm deal with
the possibility that their supernational state could become an oppressor in the same way that
germany was and if it were a world state there
Barney Wainer
August 18, 2010
I read your article with great interest and enjoyed its academic clarity. Your reference to education at a young age as a (likely?) solution brings me to the subject of anti-Semitic/Isareli indoctrination in Arab and Muslim and Palestinian schools
Daniel Jacobson
August 18, 2010
University of Michigan
I'm writing to express my admiration -- though that word seems too weak -- for your magnificent essay, "Israel Through European Eyes," which I just discovered. It is brilliant, and the best thing I have ever read on this perplexing
Ronald A. Factor
August 18, 2010
Just read your article, with great interest. One thought however continues to puzzle me. Subsequent to the 67 war Israel seemed to enjoy unprecedented popularity in the west. Granted, it was seen as the underdog, unlikely to survive so powerful
Steven Dickstein
August 18, 2010
I was linked to your essay through Daniel Pipes’ site, and I congratulate you on a well-written and well-reasoned piece. I’ve shared it with others, and I look forward to reading your thoughts in the future.
I’m no academician,
Paul Freeman
August 18, 2010
Thank you for this fine essay which goes a long way to explaining Israel’s predicament. I would like to disagree with one point.
Paradigm shifts, which are by nature painful, are born of necessity. They occur when
Monique Schwarz
August 18, 2010
Amber Films Pty.Ltd.
Thank you for your most instructive and inspiring approach in articulating the position of Israel in the world as part of a larger paradigm to do with the nation state.

I have a question. How is it that the Syria, Iran,
Peter Skurkiss
August 18, 2010
An absolutely excellent analysis. Very insightful.

And by extension, I can imagine the inner feelings the Euro-elite have towards the U.S., where nationalism is very strong among the people.

However, it is one thing for neutered Europe to
Sol Shalit
August 18, 2010
Hebrew University
THIS is the break-through we've all been waiting for. You did it. Kudos!

Yishar Koach!
Henry Solomon
August 18, 2010
I found your discussion of the paradigms and the European view as arising from the world government political ideals of Immanuel Kant to be very insightful. My understanding of Kant's views is that his duty bound morality, his perverted
Dionysis Theodorou
August 18, 2010
I enjoyed your article very much. It has helped me understand why it seems that I am talking to a brick wall most of the time.

I will take your advice and read The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.
Daniel Greenberg
August 18, 2010
Pepperdine University
Hi, my name's Daniel, and I’m a first year international law student at Pepperdine with a focus on Jewish rights. I’m writing in response to your letter “Israel through European Eyes”. Your thinking was very accurate, and I found it
Thomas L Moore
August 18, 2010
Fascinating essay. Referencing Kuhn, the term "paradigm shift" has been used to loosely describe all sorts of aberrant behavior (investment strategies during stock market bubbles for example).
These turned out to be more fad than lasting revolution.
Daniel Frank
August 18, 2010
McGill University
Thank you for such a thoughtful and intelligent analysis. As support for your idea, I will add the following set of speculations. The modern, anti-nation state paradigm was formed in large part out of Western guilt over the Holocaust and
Harry Sterling
August 18, 2010
If, as you state, paradigm shifts are seen by many, especially in the European Union, as the key elements in the evolution of humanity, then two more paradigm shifts would seem inevitable: First, the breakdown through mixed marriages of
Douglas S. Rabin
August 18, 2010
I read your letter with interest and can comment that the paradigm that matters most is that of the Torah and the recognition, as described in yesterday's daf Yomi, that we are in the throes of the Gog and Magog
Wolfgang Graßmann
August 18, 2010
Israel Through European Eyes

Thats laughable!

Its israel through the eyes of those european leftist, who deliver our fredom to the muslims and islam.
Gregory Rodban
August 18, 2010
You have written a brilliant essay. I agree with you wholeheartedly.
Now the question is what should be the policy responses to this paradigm that threatens the very existence of the Jewish state.
More that 6 years ago I published an opinion
Barry Alexander
August 17, 2010
Mr. Hazony: I'm inclined to agree with your hypothesis on the rejection of Israel. But I do believe there are exceptions.
In the US, there is a large group of conservatives who are firm (even rabid) believers in the nation-state, and
Anne Julienne
August 16, 2010
I am writing to you as a friend of Israel, a non-Jew living in Australia. I receive the newsletter of AIJAC - The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council - which recently included a link to your letter with this description:
Stephen Amsel
August 15, 2010
I read your article and review of Kuhn's work and found it to be highly enlightening. Thank you.

There are, however, two points which either you missed or dismissed for reasons which are not immediately apparent to me. Between 1939 and
Abraham Berkowitz and Tom A. Milstein
August 15, 2010
Yoram Hazony’s essay, has had a substantial impact on Jewish political opinion both in and out of Israel. Hazony certainly deserves credit for presenting a significantly original perspective on the so-called Delegitimation crisis now facing Israel. It deserves the widest
Richard Gumpert
August 15, 2010
Very interesting theory, and although I do not see all the European nation-states going entirely the way of the EU (indeed, the recent financial troubles may further delay the trend and cause some rethinking), I agree with you whole-heartedly –
Thomas Rid
August 15, 2010
University of Constance
I read this today between the meetings I had. And I think there are a few points where I actually do not agree. I think the nation state in Europe, contrary to the way you line it out, is alive
Jonathan Colvin
August 14, 2010
As a Kuhnian myself (in terms of philosophy of science), it's an interesting analysis, but essentially IMO a fallacious one. Fallacious not in its identification of Kuhnian processes in international relations, but fallacious in its identification of the paradigms involved;
Sara Eisen
August 11, 2010
I believe your ‘paradigm of paradigms ‘ tells a very significant part of the story, and I thank you for a lucid and convincing presentation. I do believe you got it right on Israel.
But it is, after all, not all
Eric Danis
August 11, 2010
I enjoyed your interesting article about Israel's delegitimization. There was one issue that I thought the article failed to address, however: if modern man is so opposed to nationalism and the nation-state, why is there such widespread support for the
Jan Morup
August 11, 2010
I just read your article.
You address the issue of legitimacy for Israel as viewed from Europe. As a Danish citizen who is neither anti-Semitic nor questions Israel's right to exist I would like to point out what I consider
Orit Arfa
August 6, 2010
I very much enjoyed your article! It gave me inspiration to move ahead with my novel. Books are the way, I agree.

Incidentally, The Dawn had a great influence on my novel, since it's a modernization of the Book of
Brandon Honeycutt
August 5, 2010
Very interesting and enlightening piece. Unfortunately for Israel this paradigm of a new world order that might include descriptions as you have laid out was largely put into place (funded in New York and taught by elitest universities) by
Dov Green
August 1, 2010
I think that your argument has the following weakness: Why are the folks who are arguing for post-nationalism when it comes to Israel the very same folks who are championing the need for a Palestinian State? I don’t recall seeing
G. Murphy Donovan
July 31, 2010
Your 14 July analysis was sobering indeed. On this side of the pond we have often thought of Israel as the "canary in the coal mine." That metaphor may have to be changed to "sacrificial" lamb. The convergence of the
Amos Levitan
July 31, 2010
תודה על מאמרך, הוא חשוב. לדעתי כוחו של הרעיון הקנטניאני בדבר"השלום העולמי", כמו הרעיון הקומוניסטי "לכל אחד לפי צרכיו, מכל אחד לפי יכולתו" הוא במראיתם המוסרית המושלמת. רק הפרקטיקה ההיסטורית מוכיחה, לפחות במקרה הקומוניסטי, כי הפורמולה המושלמת איננה עובדת. אבל
Jim Corwin
July 30, 2010
Solidworks Corp
This article seems to me to be looking at things, in certain respects, in extremist terms, as either all white or all black, thereby missing important subtleties. Either one supports independent nation-states or one wants the complete dissolution of nation-states.
Michael Rosenberg
July 29, 2010
I understand what you write about the paradigm shift, but am confused about what new or different political prescriptions would then necessarily ensue from such a shift.

Jewish national self-determination as manifested by a Jewish state is bad, therefore,
Adina Kutnicki
July 28, 2010
Having been surrounded most of my life by the uber liberal left of the upper east and west sides of NYC-until my aliyah in 2008-I am very familiar with the chattering classes and their contempt for Jewish nationalism. While their
Pedro Jose Izquierdo
July 27, 2010
I have just had the chance to read this excellent essay. I have many many questions and objections and comments about it, but I don't have much time to write them all out. I will only try to point out
David Corwin
July 27, 2010
Thank you very much for your letter. I'm very aware of the common disagreement between left and right about how Israel can improve its image in the world, and I think you've made a very interesting addition to this debate.

Michael Miller
July 27, 2010
I want to begin by thanking you for your excellent analysis of the post-nationalist paradigm (and, while I'm at it, for your outstanding book The Jewish State). The presentation and explanation of the shift are exceptionally clear, probably better
Bernard Baars
July 27, 2010
Dear friends,

I'm a scientist, an amateur historian of science, and intimately familiar with the Thomas Kuhn book, which puts me under the triple disadvantage of actually knowing what I'm talking about.

The Yoram Hazoni analogy to Kuhnian paradigms is unmitigated
Jonathan Rynhold
July 26, 2010
Bar-Ilan University
I read your Jerusalem letter on deligitimization and paradigm shift with interest.

As a veteran of dealing with deligitimization, esp. in the UK viz the academic boycott I have some comments to make that you might find valuable.

1. In
David Hornik
July 25, 2010
I've long been skeptical about claims that better Israeli hasbara could make such a difference. This profound discussion illuminates for me some of the basis for my skepticism.
Anubhav Singh
July 23, 2010
In a crude sense pan-islamism is a similar structure. Are we saying that this could be the underlying reasons for EU turning islamic? That this will happen, I am 100% sure, not sure how and why it will happen.
Avraham Keslinger
July 23, 2010
Israel Center
Rav Kook says (Ain Ayah on Masechet Shabbat 2,6) that in every generation some foreign ideology becomes popular and draws to it weak Jews (whom he calls "necheshalim"). It is the job of Tora scholars to show them how this
Ian B. Lane
July 22, 2010
Leiden University
I am not prepared to offer any detailed commentary on your article at this point since I have just finished it and wish to digest its contents for a while, but I do want to say that in the many
Nadine Carroll
July 22, 2010
Buchanan St Antiques
Thank you for this important essay. But revulsion against nationalism is only half the story, in my opinion: the other half is the profound myopia of multi-culturalism. The post-nationalist EU-niks do not despise nationalism for everybody; they have no argument
Ellen Smith
July 22, 2010
Because people have hated Jews in the New Testament (never mind that Jesus and the disciples were Jewish) Israel is "different" to the world. Jews are "different" and they always will be.

Thank G-d, Israel has many friends: The Israel
David Rose
July 21, 2010
My son, Damon Rose, of the Jewish Agency, emailed your article to me because as ex machal who recalls hearing Hitler's rantings on the BBC against 'De Englische Juden' , I am aware we Jews are once again being set
Roger Wilkinson
July 21, 2010
I was directed to your article from Daniel Pipes website, and found it most interesting and helpful. I had previously thought that likening Israel to Nazism was merely another shocking example of intemperate violent provocative language....

One thing I think
Sherman Frager
July 21, 2010
What about all the Arab nation states, especially Palestinian Gaza and West Bank? How come the EU isn't bent out of shape because of their "nationalism"? Doesn't Israel's Jewishness, i.e. anti-semitism have something to do with it? Or is it
Richard A. Ross
July 21, 2010
I just wanted to let you know that I found your article most thought-provoking (it was forwarded to me by a friend). While I have no doubt that it is definitely a component of the present attitude in Europe,
Germain Lucas
July 21, 2010
First, I must make this precision: contrarily to most French Canadian (to my biggest regrets) I am strongly pro-Israeli (I much more prefer this expression than pro-Zionist). I see Israel as an ally (or another prey of the same predator)
Gerald M. Rosmarin
July 21, 2010
I read your interesting essay and agree with a good part of it. What is not mentioned is the age old inbred antisemitism that trumps almost all else. Additionally, you never mention the new paradigm of the Islamization
David Bensimon
July 21, 2010
I read with great interest your insightful paper. Living in Paris, I very much agree with your analysis. Indeed for most of Europe Intelligentsia nationalism is anathema and identified with "National socialism".
I was however disappointed by the lack of a
Yonatan Horovitz
July 21, 2010
Midreshet HaRova
I found this piece fascinating. However, it left me very concerned as to how we will ever create the paradigm shift that you believe is necessary in order to change the view of Israel in Europe and the Western world.
Alon Ardenboim
July 20, 2010
Tel-Aviv University
My name is Alon and I'm an MSc student in the field of computer science in Tel Aviv University.
I stumbled across your article when one of my friends posted a link to it on facebook (who would have thought that
David Schlussel
July 20, 2010
An interesting read with much to it but a great many facts seem to rest outside of your theory. Such as:

1. Why Israel of all the dozens of States formed in the 20th century, many of which are at war
Michael J. Broyde
July 19, 2010
Emory University School of Law
Thank you for sending the article "Israel Through European Eyes" of Dr Hazony to me. I read it closely, and in truth I think Yoram Hazony is wrong in this case. [I do not say that lightly, as Dr. Hazony
Pesach Goodley
July 19, 2010
Lots to digest, and I can't follow the conclusion because the world is larger than an EU that is failing. Wherever the world wishes to examine, there are wars of potential extinction or at least conquest. Darfur, Tibet, the Russian
Roslyn Weiss
July 19, 2010
Lehigh University
I read with great interest and appreciation your recent article, "Israel through European Eyes." Although I would like to accept the thesis of your article, I find myself doubting that Europe would react similarly to a Palestinian state. Doesn't Europe
Sammy Wechsler
July 19, 2010
Enjoyed your recent article. It was very thought provoking. My question though is why Israel? What about all the other nation states like Iran and North Korea which have much more aggressive agendas than Israel? Why doesn't Europe have a
Abraham Davidson
July 19, 2010
South Wales Jewish Community
I have read with great interest what you had to say in your Jerusalem Letter "Israel through European eyes".

The establishment of a new Paradigm you describe in your letter, will take a great amount of effort, a serious and
Pearl Luber Siegel
July 19, 2010
I enjoyed reading your article about how the Europeans view Israel. I think your proposal to change the paradigm will have to involve radically changing the Israeli establishment. The secular modern state of Israel seems to worship dealth and the
Curt M. Biren
July 19, 2010
Kayne Anderson Rudnick
Great letter on the need for a paradigm shift! (It brings back memories from college when I read Kuhn’s book.)

Do you also think that there is a double standard – denying nationhood for Israel while at the same
Pat Lotfinia
July 19, 2010
It is always a pleasure to have you bump me into thinking with your twists and turns. WOW! I like it. Since I am not Jewish, European, and haven't your background I accept your position as valid.
Dan Simon
July 19, 2010
I’m afraid no single, overarching explanation, such as philosophical objections to the concept of the nation-state, can account for the extraordinary strength and uniformity of Europe’s hostility to Israel. It doesn’t explain, for example, why the anti-Israel movement happily embraces
Richard Propp
July 18, 2010
Bnai Sholom Reform Congregation, Albany, NY
As we say, fascinating, deep, and scary.
I will read Kuhn's book.
Rafi Marom
July 18, 2010
My mother (z"l) told me that I should never complain and never explain. Your friends don't need it and your enemies wouldn't believe you. So, as to your concern that Israel might be "delegitimized" by its opponents, I can only
Avraham Etzion
July 18, 2010
Your arguments seem very convincing.However
1)There has been a move all over the world to revert to national states-breakup of Yugoslavia into 3 states'breakup of Cyprus'breakdown of the big block of Ussr
the Kurds''the rebels in Spain'the Walloons in Belgium'the French Canadians.Due
Mordechai Ben-Menachem
July 18, 2010
Yaroke Group Clean Energy Systems Ltd.
I congratulate you on a well-written and well-argued piece. As usual, it was indeed a pleasure to read and delve into your arguments and methods. Unfortunately, despite the excellence of the rhetoric, it is fatally flawed.
Ealon Joelson
July 18, 2010
I truly enjoyed your insightful essay. Your thinking on the non-specificity of “facts” mirrors conclusions I drew on the subject over 15 years ago while a pro-Israel activist at UC Berkeley.
But I would expand upon your argument in
Luis Tellez
July 17, 2010
I found your letter below riveting; I had never thought of Israel and the Jews in these terms; and you make a very compelling argument. Many thanks for sharing it. Since the world around us does not provide a framework
Moshe Polon
July 17, 2010
Kollel Yechiel Yehuda
Regarding your essay, two comments:
1. The Ben Gurion quotation supports the notion that Israel's exists as a political or national entity, the same way (as you point out) that England or France exists or existed. Viewed only as a
Michael D. University of Washington
July 17, 2010
I agree with much of what you stated in your article and have recently thought that how we are framing the argument about Israel is not working. As I have looked at the world after 9/11, the paradigm I have
Roberta E. Dzubow
July 16, 2010
A friend, sent me your essay. I read it very, very carefully. I think it is a brilliant assessment and your explanations leave me enormously upset. Just to illustrate how deeply shaken I am, I have made several spelling errors
Zeev Maghen
July 16, 2010
Shalem Center
Awesome and true, Yoram. This is a HUGE contribution.
Josef Joffe
July 16, 2010
Die Zeit
A very fine and learned piece, but, I am afraid, not fully on target. If Kantianism as counter-paradigm to Westphalia were the critical independent variable, then ALL nation-states would be delegitimized, not just Israel. But it ain’t so. Nobody questions
Hugh Lefcort
July 16, 2010
Gonzaga University
As a scientist I particularly enjoyed your article. I have made two discoveries in my career and I tried to bury both of them until reviewers forced me to see. You add another argument to the ideas represented in OF
Yacov Porat
July 16, 2010
בן דוד מקנדה העביר לי המאמר...
התאמצתי לקרוא את רובו, מעניין ומהפכני ללא ספק.
אתה מדבר על "דוגמה" חדשה ישנה ואפילו לא מנסה לרמז על כיוון, למה?
אם יש לך אז נשמע את התזה שלך שאולי תהיה בסיס לאחרים!
אבל.....הרי אתה יודע, למי זה
Ann Bardacke
July 16, 2010
First, thank you for reminding me of Thomas Kuhn's book- I read it as a graduate student in the Sociology Department at UC Berkeley, and if I recall (this was almost 40 years ago), I wrote a paper on it
Alan Barton
July 16, 2010
Thank you for your most recent letter, which I find most thought provoking. While I appreciate your shifting paradigm thesis in the world of physical science, I question it's application to something so intangible that it is more akin
Damon Rose
July 16, 2010
The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI)
התרשמתי מאוד מטענותיך על הפרדיגמות השונות ואני מסכים לחלוטין אם טענתך על מדינת הלאום מול הפרדיגמה העל- לאומית שנראה שחוזרת.
אך עדיין נותרות מס' לא מועט של שאלות:
גם הפלסטינים נלחמים על מדינת לאום משלהם - וזהו לאום שמבחינה היסטורית לא היה
Yoram Shifftan
July 16, 2010
Planet Earth
This is an excellent essay. I like in particular the placing in the context of Kuhn's approach. I would add that superimposed on what you wrote there is the Jewish particularism: who are those Jews that they of all people
Sally F. Zerker
July 15, 2010
York University
I find the use of Kuhn very instructive, but I'm not convinced by your designation of the current European paradigm. In the first place, there is still plenty of doubt that the EU will hang together now that Germany has
Ruth Gavizon
July 15, 2010
קראתי בעניין ובהנאה את המאמר שלך על ישראל בעיניים אירופיות. מצאתי אותו חד ומעורר מחשבה ונכון באופן עמוק.
גם לגבי הזיהוי של הבעיה וגם לגבי מה נחוץ לעשות.
David Riceman
July 15, 2010
I read and enjoyed your article. I have one basic critique: Why then do the Europeans support an independent Palestine?
Roar Sørensen
July 15, 2010
Thank you so much for this very enlightening article. I have pondered the question why facts seem to be irrelevant when it comes to Israel and not reached a satisfactory answer. Your article is very helpful.
Cathy L Felix
July 15, 2010
Brilliant article on the new paradigm of the West and Israel! I enjoyed it very much.
Thank you.
Rabbi Dr. Avraham Walfish
July 15, 2010
An interesting thesis, and I learned a lot from your letter about the history of attitudes towards the nation state. However, it seems to me that - as usual - the opposition to the idea of the nation state is
Josiah Rotenberg
July 15, 2010
Monarch Alternative Capital Israel LTD
I was about to write that I enjoyed your most recent essay in Jerusalem Letters, but given the content, that is not the correct way to express myself. Perhaps it would be better to say I appreciate your insightful and
Gil Weinreich
July 15, 2010
Your insight about the internationalist paradigm shift is clearly correct. Many a skilled pro-Israel advocate has been frustrated by the inability to successfully marshal history, facts and law to defend Israel. Yes, Israel is the lawful power in its territory
David Seodman
July 15, 2010
Northwestern University
This is the clearest and most insightful discussion I have read about Israel’s current situation in a very long time.
As a scientist I know well how difficult it is for a scientist to move very far from the paradigm’s he
Gideon Rappaport
July 15, 2010
I received your piece called "Israel Through European Eyes" and found it impressive. Its introduction is quite correct. However, there are several important elements missing in the rest of the discussion, which, however, has much to recommend it.

1. The
Fred Ehrman
July 15, 2010
BMI Capital
A terrific read and an interesting thesis. The two paradigms that are presented, the nation-state versus a conglomeration of peoples (the EU), is offered as the answer to why Israel is viewed so negatively by much of the continent to
Yaakov Arram
July 15, 2010
Firstly, you deserve to be congratulated on (yet another) excellent piece of analysis. I think you're totally correct in thinking that the paradigm is central, and not the "facts".
There was always something flawed in Zionism that merely sought to be
Bob Horenstein
July 15, 2010
Jewish Federation of Greater Portland
This is an incredibly thought-provoking essay and you are to be commended for its brilliance. But I do have one simple question: If this European paradigm includes the belief that the nation-state is intrinsically immoral, then why does the European
Christopher Sanderson
July 15, 2010
Yale University
As much as I loved the research, learned much, and enjoyed a lot of the thought in the Letter I have to tell you: if you and I had been given this letter in High School, we’d have stomped on
Stanley B. Stern
July 15, 2010
Oppenheimer & Co. Inc.
What the article does not address (I believe) is why the same Europeans embrace Islam and Islamic groups who also appear to be the anthesis of a universalistic culture to a much greater degree than Israel/jews and do so in
Doug Altabef
July 15, 2010
Thanks for the insightful article.

Your piece rings true, but as my friend Mitch Lubart (to whom I forwarded it, and who sent you a reply) comments, also incomplete.

At Marty Peretz's suggestion somewhere, I am slogging through Pascal Bruckner's The
Malcolm Lowe
July 15, 2010
Ecumenical Research Fraternity
Some comments to your excellent discussion of the paradigms within which Israel is viewed by contemporary intellectuals.

1. Kuhn's book has to be read not in the original edition of 1962 but in the second edition of 1970. In the latter's
Menachem Zupnik
July 15, 2010
This letter was particularly brilliant. The new paradigm that you suggest is the basic view of Israel before anything happens is very convincing. However the double standard still exists independent of this analysis. It would seem that the Palestinians, who
J.Marvin Spiegelman
July 14, 2010
Private Psychoanalytic Practice
Many thanks for this insightful analysis of an obviously absurd world situation. I have had something similar going on in my own thoughts, based on a kind of diagram that Jung once used to describe differences among people, nations, etc.
Michael Phillips
July 14, 2010
Pro Commerce
Yoram Hazony, a brilliant Israeli intellectual, whom I fully respect, has made the claim that the intractable hatred of Israel (Jew-hate) that is found extensively on the Left and throughout Europe is subject to two intellectual forces.

One, is Kant's
Jacques Roumani
July 14, 2010
With pleasure and great interest I read your latest Jerusalem letter (Israel through European eyes) and here are my reactions :

While appreciating the emergence and influence of the "European paradigm", it should be pointed out that it is
Ronnie Haffner
July 14, 2010
A few brief points in response to your letter.

1) I think that Israel's current situation in the public arena, which you described very well, may well be an inevitable outcome of Israel's strength and of the peace process. The
Mitchell Lubart
July 14, 2010
First, thank you for your article.

Second, allow me to restate what I believe your conclusions are in my own words (and forgive me if I botch it):

•The conceptual framework through which much of the world views Israel/Zionism
Joshua Berman
July 14, 2010
Bar-Ilan University
Very thought provoking, but I'd like to raise two points in contention:
1) Nobody seems to object too strenuously to other nation-states making their own decisions about how to sue force to defend themselves. According to your argument, the objection to
Steve Ekstein
July 14, 2010
I read your article and I think it has an interesting premise, but I'm not sure I agree with you, for two reasons.

1) Those who normally malign Israel are usually the same ones who are AGAINST globalization - your thesis
Paul Socken
July 14, 2010
University of Waterloo
I think your perspective on Israel through Europe's eyes is novel and insightful. It is an important document. However, you overlook the rise of Islamism and Europe's guilt over its colonial past which makes Europe more prone to accepting the
Michael Stein
July 14, 2010
I enjoyed your letter about Israel's problems as a nation-state in the face of a post-nation-state zeitgeist.
I find your argument reasonably compelling, but perhaps overly simplistic.

Surely, the vilification of Israel is a multi-faceted problem, and in addition to the factors
Edward W. Kerson
July 14, 2010
Law Office of Edward W. Kerson
First, yasher koach on a job superbly done.

Second, your piece conjures up memories of a seminar about 40 years ago on early modern European intellectual history at Yale taught by Jack Hexter, in which I was privileged to participate. One
Eli Greenbaum
July 14, 2010
Yigal Arnon & Co., Law Offices
Your recent email regarding how modern Europe sees Israel was insightful.

However, it is not correct that Europeans see ALL modern nation states as opposed to human rights. For example – the cases of Tibet, East Timor and Bosnia are all
Gerald Levin
July 14, 2010
Johns Hopkins University
Fascinating article. But does not the quarrel with nationalism tend to be focused in Western Europe? In 1945 the United Nations had c.50 members, now nearly 200. Much of this is due to colonial freedom, but also because of the
Jeremiah Unterman
July 14, 2010
Association of Modern Orthodox Day Schools and Yeshiva High Schools
Wow! Great article! I learned a lot, thank you. I pray that you are wrong, but I fear that you are right.
Question: And yet, patriotism still exists in England, France, Italy, Spain, etc. These countries still believe in maintaining their
Shimshon Young
July 14, 2010
I have some issues with your article, here they are:

1) From a "marketing" point of view, in my humble opinion this article is way too long. Almost no one wants to read a 59-paragraph email. That means people
Herb Rude
July 14, 2010
West End Synagogue
You kind of lost me with the continued mentioning of "paradigms" but this 77 year old Upper West Side Jew thinks that you have made a terrific start towards solving a terrible existing problem,namely, how do we bring young
Fred Moncharsh
July 14, 2010
Pease explain how then The European Union views the Arab countries who also seek a sovereign nation-state. Why are they not villified
to the same extent as Israel. I do not see them looking to be part of some International body
Rob Crutchfield
July 7, 2010
I am deeply moved to find such penetrating thought, so clearly and reasonably expressed, on this painful and difficult matter. Your essay goes the extra mile to understand the other side's point of view--going beyond the important but insufficient explanation
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