Israel of the 19th century

The way that the state of Israel conducts itself would be perfectly reasonable, for the year 1910.

Israel was formed by people who shared enough of a language, culture, and religion to see themselves as a nation even though they were a diaspora, or an ethnic group living in imperial lands. They revived or manufactured a national ideal on dubious claims of historical continuity. They created their state through sheer determination and no small amount of treachery and underground support. They defended and grew their state against destruction using ardent, incontestable violence.

That’s how every other nation state in the old world came to be. Greece did exactly the same things in the 1820s, as did the Balkan countries. The nation states of Europe had formed in similarly violent ways, justified on similarly new and artificial national identities, only a century earlier. This behaviour was thought normal of nations until the 1920s. If Israel had been formed in the 1840s, say, and it was still extinguishing its Arab minority in 1910 by interning them and blockading their supplies, no-one would protest. That’s what nations did, back then.

Unfortunately the world’s experiments with ethically pure nation states are over. This idea burned with the houses of Dresden and Tokyo, and in two large explosions over Japan. By the time the war was over it was clear to all technically advanced societies that another round of tribal warfare between nation states would negate them, if not all life on the planet. In a world of six billion people, half of them commanding nuclear arms, the unfettered nation state is practically untenable.

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