Liberalism, Democracy, and the Jewish State

The future of the state of Israel is once again a topic of heated public debate. For good reasons: The possibility of a nuclear threat from a hostile Iran is one; deadlock in the peace process in the region, and the chance of a gradual shift into chronic civil war between Israelis and Palestinians, is another. But it has become common in some circles to ask not only whether Israel can survive, but also if it has a right to.

Some commentators believe that “the Jewish Question” that has been buzzing around in the West for some three centuries - the question of how this ancient people, the Jews, should fit into a modern political order - should be reopened. National self-determination for Jews in a state of their own, such critics say, can no longer be part of a morally acceptable answer. That is a telling development. As in the past, Western attitudes to the “Jewish Question” are reliable indications of larger political moods and of the shifting meanings of political concepts. (First published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 10, 2007. Read the full piece…)

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