Living Like Sparta

Physics, Biology and Chemistry are exact sciences. After rigorous testing of hypotheses, scientists can make precise and accurate predictions. The fields of Political Science and International Relations on the other hand, are far from being exact. Just ask Francis Fukuyuma, who in his book “The End of History and the Last Man (1992) argued that the advent of Western liberal democracy may signal the endpoint of humanity’s socio-cultural evolution and the final form of human government. During my studies, Fukuyuma was the example of how prophesying was dangerous and virtually impossible in these two fields.

Have you heard of Hannah Arendt? To those who haven’t, Arendt (1906 – 1975) was a German-American political theorist. Though often described as a philosopher, she rejected that label on the grounds that philosophy is concerned with “man in the singular” and instead described herself as a political theorist because her work centers on the fact that “men, not Man, live on the earth and inhabit the world.” Her works deal with the nature of power, and the subjects of politics, direct democracy, authority, and totalitarianism.

Relevant here, are her insightful writings about Zionism and the future of the Jewish State in the Middle East.  Looking at these writings today, almost thirty years after her death, I can only be impressed by her accurate political forecasting.

In 1948, during Israel’s war for independence and the Palestinian’s Nakba, Arendt wrote about the possible outcome of the war:

And even if the Jews were to win the war, its end would find the unique possibilities and the unique achievements of Zionism in Palestine destroyed. The land that would come into being would be something quite other than the dream of world Jewry, Zionist and non-Zionist. The ‘victorious’ Jews would live surrounded by an entirely hostile Arab population, secluded into ever-threatened borders, absorbed with physical self-defense to a degree that would submerge all other interests and activities. The growth of a Jewish culture would cease to be the concern of the whole people; social experiments would have to be discarded as impractical luxuries; political thought would center around military strategy…. And all this would be the fate of a nation that — no matter how many immigrants it could still absorb and how far it extended its boundaries (the whole of Palestine and Transjordan is the insane Revisionist demand)–would still remain a very small people greatly outnumbered by hostile neighbors.

Under such circumstances… the Palestinian Jews would degenerate into one of those small warrior tribes about whose possibilities and importance history has amply informed us since the days of Sparta. Their relations with world Jewry would become problematical, since their defense interests might clash at any moment with those of other countries where large number of Jews lived. Palestine Jewry would eventually separate itself from the larger body of world Jewry and in its isolation develop into an entirely new people. Thus it becomes plain that at this moment and under present circumstances a Jewish state can only be erected at the price of the Jewish homeland…

Food for thought., especially under the present circumstances.


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