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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 5/26/13

The State of Whom?

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For all practical purposes, the world is now one. But human consciousness is far, far slower than technology. While the nation-state has become anachronistic, nationalism is still alive and killing.

HOW TO bridge the gap? The European Union is an instructive example.

At the end of World War II, thinking people realized that World War III could mean the end of Europe, if not the end of the world. Europe had to be united, but nationalism was rampant. In the end, the compromise model proposed by Charles de Gaulle was adopted: the nation-states would remain, but some real power would be transferred to a kind of confederation.

This made sense. The common market was born and steadily enlarged, a common currency was adopted. And now an economic earthquake threatens to bring the whole edifice down.

Why? Not because of the surplus of concentration, but because of the lack of it.

I am not an economist. Indeed, no renowned professor ever taught me the science of economics (or anything else). I just try to apply common sense to this problem as to all others.

Common sense told me right from the beginning that a common currency could not exist without common economic governance. It cannot possibly function when every little "nation-state" within the currency-zone has its own state budget and economic policy.

The founding fathers of the United States were faced with this problem and decided upon a federation and not a confederation -- in other words, a strong central government. Thanks to that wise decision, when Nebraska has a problem, Illinois can spring in. The economy of all 50 states is practically run by Washington DC. The common currency does not just mean the same greenbacks, but the same powerful central bank.

Now Europe is faced with the same choice. It will either break apart -- an unthinkable disaster -- or abandon the Gaullist recipe. The diverse nation-states, from Malta to Sweden, must give up a huge chunk of their independence and sovereignty and transfer it to the hated bureaucrats in Brussels. One budget for all.

If this happens -- a big "if" -- what will remain of the nation state? There will be national soccer teams, with all the nationalist and racist hullabaloo. France may still invade Mali, with the consent of its main European partners. Greeks can still be proud of their ancient past. Belgium will still be plagued by its bi-national troubles. But the nation-state will be more or less an empty shell.

I predict, as I did before, that by the end of this century (when some of us will not be around anymore) there will be some kind of world governance in place. It will probably be called by some other name, but the major problems facing humankind will be managed by strong and effectual international bodies. There will be new problems (there always are): how to maintain democracy in such a global structure, how to sustain human values, how to channel aggressive emotion, now released in wars, into harmless activities.

In this brave new world, what about the nation-state? I believe that it will still be there as a cultural and nostalgic phenomenon, with certain local functions, like today's municipalities. Probably there will be even more nation-states. When the states are stripped of most of their functions, they may well split into their component parts. Bretons and Corsicans, who were forced by nationalism to join the larger unit called France, may want to live in states of their own within a unified world.

LEAVING THE realm of wild speculation and returning to our own little world: what about this "Nation-State of the Jewish People"?

As long as the world consists of nation-states, we shall have our own. And by the same logic, the Palestinian people will have one, too.

Our state cannot be a nation-state of a non-existent nation. Israel must and will be the nation-state of the Israeli nation, belonging to all Israeli citizens living in Israel, Arabs and other non-Jews included. And to nobody else.

Israeli Jews who feel a strong attachment to the Jews around the world, and Jews around the world who feel a strong attachment to Israel, can certainly maintain and even strengthen their attachment. Similarly, Arab citizens can maintain their attachment to the Palestinian nation and the Arab world at large. And the non-Jewish Russians to their Russian heritage. By all means. But that does not concern the state as such.

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Uri Avnery is a longtime Israeli peace activist. Since 1948 has advocated the setting up of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In 1974, Uri Avnery was the first Israeli to establish contact with PLO leadership. In 1982 he was the first Israeli ever to meet Yassir Arafat, after crossing the lines in besieged Beirut. He served three terms in the (more...)
 

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