Posts tagged Exceptionalism

more musings on israel

I read an interesting article about self-deception and what is and has been happening in Israel since its inception. The article asks why it is that Israel (the nation state, not the people) believes that they can fight terror by killing terrorists, and that not showing restraint and allowing civilian casualties will contribute to an end of Palestinian terrorism. How is it that they don’t understand that by killing civilians they are creating more terrorists?

I was watching democracy now the other day and a guy was interviewing different jews in two different protests in new york. One protest was in support of Israel and their campaign in Gaza. One woman said that Palestinians hate jews and that Israel wont be safe until they get rid of all those arabs. The interviewer asked how she felt about civilian deaths, and she said something about the 6 million civilian deaths during the Holocaust. Ok the interviewer says, but the Palestinians didn’t have anything to do with the Holocaust, yes the woman says, but they are continuing it, ok says the interviewer, but what about Palestinian children, they surely are innocent here, and the woman said we have to kill those children in order to protect ours.

WHAT?!? ( i had tears in my eyes)


Another girl, younger than me, was interviewed and said that Jews fight back now, you can’t fuck with Jews, they (?) are persecuting Jews for the trillionth time, it won’t stop until we stop it.  ”we have to wipe them all out” “those who are dying are suffering the wrath of god” 







However, there was also a protest of American Jews who abhor what Israel is doing and are against the occupation. This was relieving to see.  One man, at the protest, a playwright, called out the incomprehensible and tragically misguided policy of Israel, and stated that as a Jew and as an American he wanted an immediate ceasefire an end to the occupation and real peace talks. I agree. But according to some I guess they would not be considered either real Jews or real Americans.

How sad is this? People do not get angry at Israel and their tactics for dealing with conflict with their neighbors because of their religion. They get angry because they do not show any restraint when it comes to killing innocent civilians.

The Geneva convention states the international law when it comes to the treatment of civilians during a time of war. Israel has said that this law does not pertain to the situation in Palestine.  The international court of justice ruled in 2004 that the building of the partitioning wall was illegal. Time and time again, Israel has held itself above international law and the Geneva Conventions, that were hosted in most part to address the atrocities of the Holocaust and the massive amounts of civilian deaths during World War II.

It seems that Israeli exceptionalism is a force not easily swayed. Israel and America have this in common, these nation states do not believe that they have to play by the international rules that other countries do.

American Exceptionalism was a concept authored by Alexis de Toqueville in his book Democracy in America. He argued that America was different than other nations in the way it originated and that part of the American psyche is the belief that Americans differ than other nationalities because they are from all different places and come together as Americans on ideals and ideas rather than region. Israel is like this also. The creation of Israel was on an idea, Zionism, that Jews from all over the world should have their own nation. Israel and America both were created on ideas that were in their views so great and so important that it allowed them to disregard the human life already existing in the lands in which they chose to place their nations. In the earliest years, Americans disregarded the indigenous peoples already living in the land, and then the manifest destiny of the 1840s led them to believe they could disregard the Mexicans already living in the land, and went to  war to steal the land. Israel likewise believed their mission to have a great Jewish Nation was so important that it outshone the self determination of the people already living in the land, in this case the arab Palestinians.

Israel and America have much in common. The smugness in which these two countries go to war to get what they want or to serve their interest in what they think is right is toxic to a world with international laws and international respect for humanity.

Until we have a world that does not tacitly support the doctrine that allows these two countries to view themselves as exceptions to international law, there will be no peace on earth.

I, an American citizen, do not think America is exceptional. And likewise there are many Israelis who do not think their country is exceptional either. But the sum is greater than the parts unfortunately in this case and a profound change in ideology has to come in order for America and Israel to see themselves as right sized, as nations among nations, and not superior to the international laws that we hold other nations accountable to.

Comments (6) »