Emmanuel Todd on Israel & the USA

This is an argument both sinister and persuasive. In essence, he says that Israel once attracted the Left because of its egalitarian ideals. Now it is attractive to the right precisely because it seems to have become a militarist, aggressive and deeply stratified society.

It’s hard to dismiss this entirely. There was a piece that Tim Garton Ash wrote almost immediately after 9/11 which said that America had a choice between a liberal and a Likudnik response, and mentioned the unpleasant attraction that the rhetoric, and the methods of the Likud have to a certain kind of Republican. They like the bully. They like the swagger.

The key quote may be this:

bq. The recent general fixation of the United States on Israel does not seem to have much to do with this original religious affinity,a love for the Bible, or with a positive and optimistic identification with the chosen people of Israel. I am convinced that if republican or Catholic France were still at war with Algeria — repressing, interning, and killing Arabs as the state of Israel is doing in Palestine –today’s United States, differentialist, inegalitarian, and wracked by its own bad conscience–would side with this colonial France that had abandoned its universalism. There is nothing more reassuring for those who have given up on justice than to see others behaving unjustly.

But there is a lot of detailed argument, which I will stick below the fold. To understand it, you must know that Todd makes a huge distinction, based partly on traditional family structures, between universalist and hierarchical societies. The Anglo-Saxons, he thinks, are somewhere in the middle. They believe that there are some fully human beings, with equal rights, surrounded by a periphery of others. In an American context, the definition of “fully human” fluctuates; and they are always defined with reference to an outgroup. Thus, Catholics, and later Jews, both of whom were once clearly dangerous aliens, could eventually be assimilated because they were not, i the last analysis, Black. %(sane)”The hypothesis of a general ebbing of universalism in America would explain the persistence of Jewish anxiety — _What if my integration is revoked?”_ %

In this context, would Todd be judged in America as fully human (he is Jewish) or not (he is French)? You decide.


bq.. Another new and original type of support for Israel originates on the Republican right, which projects onto the context of the Middle East the preference for inequality that characterizes America today. It is not impossible to prefer inequality and injustice after all.

Universalist ideologies proclaim the equivalence of all peoples. This “just” attitude makes those who hold to it also believe it to be necessary for the creation of alliances between peoples. One can, however, form an attachment with someone without any appeal to a notion of equality. During the Peloponnesian War, Athens, the champion of democracies, of course supported the democrats throughout Greece whenever it could. But Sparta, the champion of oligarchies, set up an oligarchical regime when

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