Chris Van Es

The Vision and the Fantasy

Israel, an audacious vision that came true, is now celebrating its 65th anniversary with a sense of well-deserved satisfaction at its extraordinary domestic achievements. In its relations with the outside world, however, the Jewish state still has a long way to go.

JERUSALEM – Israel, an audacious vision that came true, is now celebrating its 65th anniversary with a sense of well-deserved satisfaction at its extraordinary domestic achievements. In its relations with the outside world, however, the Jewish state still has a long way to go.

Historically, the Jewish experience in international relations has not been particularly edifying. A Jewish state has existed for only short periods in Judaism’s history, and it twice committed political suicide. The reasons were always the same: politico-religious fanaticism and the blunder of challenging the prevailing world powers – hence modern Zionism’s obsessive quest for a binding alliance with a superpower.

Ethnocentrism is bound to distort a people’s relations with the rest of the world, and Israel’s doctrine of power was drawn from the depths of Jewish experience, particularly the eternal, unforgiving hostility of a Gentile world. The role of the Holocaust as the constituent myth of the Zionist meta-narrative reinforced Israel’s tendency to face “the world,” an amorphous but imposing construct with which the Jews wage a dispute that cannot be resolved through the traditional tools of international relations.

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