From an article by British diplomat Alastair Crooke, Israel in the Middle East — A Civilisational and Metaphysical War. Crooke essentially links the recent Trump “Deal of the Century” Peace Plan to the historical visions of both American “manifest destiny” and Israeli Zionism.
Jewish Zionism, as expressed by Netanyahu this week*, though ostensibly secular, is not just a political construct: It is, too, as it were, an Old Testament project. Laurent Guyénot observes [link is to Zionism, Crypto-Judaism, and the Biblical Hoax by author of From Yahweh to Zion], that when it is asserted that Zionism is biblical, that doesn’t necessarily mean it to be religious. It can, and does, serve as key leitmotiv for secular Jews too. For secular Zionists, the Bible is on the one hand, a ‘national narrative’, but on the other, a particular civilizational vision, bound around a modern state (Israel).
Ben-Gurion was not religious; he never went to the synagogue, and ate pork for breakfast, yet he could declare: “I believe in our moral and intellectual superiority, in our capacity to serve as a model for the redemption of the human race”. Dan Kurzman, in his biography (Ben-Gurion, Prophet of Fire, 1983) writes that “[Ben Gurion] was, in a modern sense, Moses, Joshua, Isaiah, a messiah, who felt he was destined to create an exemplary Jewish state, a ‘light unto the nations’ that would help to redeem all mankind”. This is the inner Universalist vision (tied to a state). These backstage, half acknowledged, convictions – of being ‘elect’, as an example – clearly do condition political actions, (such as disregarding legal norms).
If you don’t have a subscription to Haaretz (your library may have an online subscription) you may not be able to read what Alastair Crooke means by “disregarding legal norms”. I’ll quote pieces from the Haaretz link. It is an opinion piece by Gideon Levy discussing the recent Trump-Netanyahu “peace plan”. Levy begins with “the good news”: the plan puts a decisive end to any hopes for a two-state solution. That was never a serious option, Levy writes, it was never going to be allowed by Israel. Levy calls this “good news” because it forces the world to acknowledge that the only positive option available is to work towards a single democratic state “between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.” That, of course, also implies the end of the “Jewish state”. The alternative is the acceptance of a new apartheid state.
Disregarding legal norms
So Levy writes of what the “peace plan” means for legal norms:
With the Jordan Valley and most of the West Bank settlements under Israeli sovereignty, the Palestinians are guaranteed not to have a state, half-state, city government or neighborhood. Nothing but a penal colony. With the Jordan Valley and most of the settlements annexed, Donald Trump makes official the establishment of the apartheid state to be known as the State of Israel. What Herzl began in Basel, Trump finished in Washington. . . . Trump’s news and the world’s capitulation, however, is much more portentous. Trump is creating not only a new Israel, but a new world. A world without international law, without honoring international resolutions, without even the appearance of justice. A world in which the U.S. president’s son-in-law is more powerful than the UN General Assembly. If the settlements are permitted, everything is permitted.
Levy, Gideon. 2020. “Opinion One Person, One Vote for Israel-Palestine.” Haaretz, January 26, 2020. (Highlighting is my own in all quotations)
Ben-Gurion was not a special case
Continuing Crooke’s article:
Ben-Gurion was in no way a special case. His immersion in the Bible was shared by almost every Zionist leader of his generation, and the next. And the Israel of today, is no longer as secular as it once was, but rather, is in transit back towards Yahweyism — which is to say, away from the law of a secular state founded by the Zionists, towards traditional Hebraic law as revealed in the Tanakh (the Old Testament of the Christians). Netanyahu implicitly reverts to Hebraic tradition (from secular norms), when he states flatly that as ‘leader’, he should not be removed from power. In other words, Israel is becoming more, not less, ‘biblical’.
Securing “Israel’s destiny” … as outlined in the Bible
So, back to last Tuesday, when an Israeli leader speaks of Trump having secured Israel’s destiny, he is not just resorting to flowery flattery for the US President. The emphasis on ‘destiny’ is flagging something lurking in the background: “Zionism cannot be a nationalist movement like others”, Guyénot writes, “because it resonates with the destiny of Israel as outlined in the Bible … Israel is a very special nation indeed. And everyone can see that it has no intention of being an ordinary nation. Israel is destined to be an empire”.
Crooke points to the biblical mandate as found in Isaiah and channelled through Zionist ideology as we can read in Zionist Idea : a Historical Analysis and Reader. Isaiah speaks of a Pax Judaica.
An ‘empire’ – as in Isaiah, which describes the messianic times as a Pax Judaica, when “all the nations” will pay tribute “to the mountain of Yahweh, to the house of the god of Jacob”; when “the Law will issue from Zion and the word of Yahweh from Jerusalem,” so that Yahweh will “judge between the nations and arbitrate between many peoples.”
Further on in the same book, we read:
“The riches of the sea will flow to you, the wealth of the nations come to you” (60:5);
“For the nation and kingdom that will not serve you will perish, and the nations will be utterly destroyed” (60:12);
“You will suck the milk of nations, you will suck the wealth of kings” (60:16);
“You will feed on the wealth of nations, you will supplant them in their glory” (61:5-6).
Pretty clear: this is not just run of the mill nationalism.
Large numbers of Israelis and Americans believe these prophecies. Trump’s Evangelical base believe them literally.
They [Evangelicals] see the actualisation of Israel’s destiny as an eschatological necessity: It was they who insisted on the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem; they supported the Trump’s assertion of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan; they support the annexation of Israeli settlements; and they were behind the demand that the US scrap the JCPOA. . . .
The Evangelicals were, of course, very happy with Tuesday’s outcome. Israel’s civilisational imperium is, they believe, now assured – at least between the west bank of the River Jordan and the sea. The actualisation of these prophesies has the effect of hastening the arrival of the Redeemer (for these Christian Zionists).
Civilizational destiny of the USA and Israel
It has been argued [link is to review of Fighting Identity: Sacred War and World Change], by at least one US historian, that the U.S. is no ordinary nation-state, but should be understood as a system leader, a ‘civilizational power’ – like Rome, Byzantium, and the Ottoman Empire. The ‘system leader’, historically, has always sought to embed its particular civilizational vision onto those distant ‘lands’ that serve, or abut, its empire: which is to say that the universalistic vision may be bound to one state, but is forcefully unfurled across the globe, as ‘our’ inevitable destiny.
I’m reminded of the slogan “Gold, God and Glory” that was said to sum up the age of imperialism. In those days, in the boats with the merchants came the missionaries.
It is not hard to see what we are talking about when it refers to America: politically it is liberal markets, liberal capitalism, individualism and laissez-faire politics – and the metaphysics of Judeo-Christianity, too, if you like. For most Americans, their victory in the Cold War spectacularly affirmed the superiority of their civilizational vision, through the defeat and implosion of communism. It was not just a political defeat for the USSR, more significantly, it represented a triumph for America’s full cultural paradigm: It was a Civilisational ‘win’.
In various forms “we” have inherited the idea of a Judeo-Christian civilization. We have reached a point where both much of the Israeli and American populations share a common vision:
The Israeli civilisational vision may not be exactly the same as America’s, but America’s archetypal cultural stories – Abraham commanded to sacrifice his son – come from the Hebrew Bible. In short, the American exercise of power has never been more ‘Frankish’, as it were*. And the exercise of it, increasingly is justified in terms of Israeli language – viz the targeted assassination of Qasem Soleimani.
It’s not only Evangelicals, either. The Far Right, White Supremacist groups, have taken it upon themselves to “defend” the West’s “Judeo-Christian heritage”.
When those on the American Right (such as Steve Bannon) speak incessantly of the need to sustain America’s Judeo-Christian heritage, they almost certainly would see an Israeli project to spread its Pax Judaica right across the Middle East as a clear civilisational ‘win’ for America too. Trump may not be prepared to go to war for Israel, but others in the US Establishment view America ‘winning again’ in the wider civilisational war, as an existential issue for America.
Crooke, Alastair. 2020. “Israel in the Middle East — A Civilisational and Metaphysical War.” Strategic Culture Foundation (blog). February 3, 2020.
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