CAN A law be both ridiculous and dangerous?
It certainly can. Witness the ongoing initiative of our government to enact a law that would define the State of Israel as "The Nation-State of the Jewish People."
Ridiculous 1 -- because what and who are the "Jewish people"? The Jews of the world are a mixed lot. Their only official definition in Israel is religious. In Israel, you are a Jew if your mother was a Jewess. This is a purely religious definition. In Jewish religion, your father does not count for this purpose (it is said, only half in jest, that you cannot ever be sure who your father is.) If a non-Jew wants to join the Jewish people in Israel, he or she has to convert to Judaism in a religious ceremony. Under Israeli law, one ceases to be a Jew if one adopts another religion. All these are purely religious definitions. Nothing national about it.
Ridiculous 2 -- The Jews around the world belong to other nations. They are not being asked by the promoters of this law whether they want to belong to a people represented by the State of Israel. They are automatically adopted by a foreign state. In a way, this is another form of attempted annexation.
It is dangerous for several reasons. First of all, because it excludes the citizens of Israel who are not Jews -- a million and a half Muslim and Christian Arabs and about 400 thousand immigrants from the former Soviet Union who were allowed in because they are somehow related to Jews. Recently, when the army Chief of Staff laid little flags (instead of flowers) on the graves of fallen soldiers, he skipped the grave of one such non-Jewish soldier who gave his life for Israel.
Even more dangerous are the possibilities this law opens for the future. It is only a further short step from there to a law that would confer automatic citizenship on all Jews in the world, thus tripling the number of Jewish citizens of Greater Israel and creating a huge Jewish majority in an apartheid state between the sea and the river. The Jews in question will not be asked.
From there, another short step would be to deprive all non-Jews in Israel of their citizenship.
The (Jewish) sky is the limit.
BUT ON this occasion I would like to dwell on another aspect of the proposed law: the term "Nation-State."
The nation-state is an invention of recent centuries. We tend to believe that it is the natural form of political structure and that it has always been so. That is quite wrong. Even in Western culture, it was preceded by several other models, such as feudal states, dynastic states and so on.
New social forms are created when new economic, technological and ideological developments demand them. A form that was possible when the average European never travelled more than a few kilometers from his place of birth became impossible when roads and railways dramatically changed the movement of people and goods. New technologies created immense industrial capabilities.
For societies to compete, they had to create structures that were big enough to sustain a large domestic market and to maintain a military force strong enough to defend it (and, if possible, to grab territories from their neighbors). A new ideology, called nationalism, cemented the new states. Smaller peoples were subdued and incorporated in the new big national societies. Presto: the Nation-State.
This process needed a century or two to become general. Zionism was one of the last European national movements. As in other aspects -- such as colonialism and imperialism - it was a late-comer. When Israel was founded, the European nation-states were already on the verge of becoming obsolete.
WORLD WAR II hastened the demise of the nation-state for all practical purposes. Huge economic units like the USA and the Soviet Union made countries like Spain and Italy, and even like Germany and France, much too small to compete. The European Common Market came into being. Large economic federations supplanted most of the old nation-states.
New technologies hastened the process. Change became more and more rapid. While the new regional structures were being formed, they too were already becoming obsolete. Globalization is an irreversible process. No nation or combination of nations can solve the apocalyptic problems of mankind.
Climate change is a world problem that urgently needs world-wide cooperation. So is the danger created by nuclear weapons that will soon be acquired by violent non-state groups. A photo taken in Timbuktu is immediately seen in Kamchatka. A hacker in Australia can silence entire industries in America. Bloody dictators can be brought before world justice in The Hague. An American youngster can revolutionize the lives of people in Zimbabwe. Deadly pandemics can travel within hours from Ethiopia to Sweden.
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