Twenty years ago Dr.Gerstenfeld interviewed Dan Segre, reading it today shows his great analytical capabilities. This was published in three parts on Israel National News, this is part two (Part one is available here), published here with the author’s consent.
This is the second part of an interview which was published in Manfred Gerstenfeld’s book,Israel’s New Future, in 1994. The book was republished in 2013 by RVP press under the new title, Israel’s New Future- Revisited).
As far as European nationalism goes, Segre says that Jews have been both its promoters and its victims. For those familiar with the history of modern Italy, it is striking that between 1835 and 1870 the Jews were a considerable factor in the Italian Risorgimento – the fight for Italian unity – despite their small numbers.
People who demonstrate, through no fault of their own, the failure of the ideas of others are unlikely to be loved by those whose ideological balloons they have deflated. Segre says that Israel continues the Jew’s traditional role as test case for the failure of European ideas.
Israel is effectively dealing with many problems Europe has difficulty facing, let alone solving. So, for instance, Israel is confronting the challenge of integrating immigrants with reasonable success. Proportionately, it has absorbed more Third World immigrants into a Western-style society than any other country. Europe has a lot of good and bad experience in dealing with immigrants, Segre notes, but it lacks an adequate approach to the integration of non-Europeans.
It is subconsciously difficult for many Europeans to accept that Israel is dealing in a realistic way with the return of the “sacred” into politics, in the ongoing struggle between theocracy and democracy. This is an issue of vital importance for contemporary international society.
The element of the “sacred”, which the French Revolution expelled from European politics, is returning in various ways with a vengeance in Europe. One example is Bosnia, which was part of a territorial national state and now is divided into religious enclaves. Segre expects other examples to follow in due course.
In this respect, Israel is the only country in the Middle East in which democracy and theocracy coexist, so far, without brutal confrontation between them. Yet it seems difficult for the Europeans to appreciate the universal value of an experience, which no Third World country has been able to develop peacefully.
“Even worse,” he adds, “Israel has shown in the 45 years of its history how an underdeveloped country can modernize, whereas many of the former European colonies are collapsing. This is another irritant for European leaders, though this is never explicitly said.”
During its first years of independence, Israel embodied the only viable messianic socialist state in history, based on solidarity and voluntarism, Segre says. There are many examples in European history where attempts to establish such states failed. Among them, Bavaria and Hungary after World War One, and the republican regime in Spain.
“You cannot be liked by the leaders of Europe’s leftist parties while rubbing in their faces successes in fields where they have failed miserably,” he says with a note of irony.
Israel may even solve another problem Europeans are having major problems confronting: the crisis between state and nation. The Italian nation today is experiencing difficulties maintaining an Italian state. The Basque countries do not want to be part of the Spanish nation. We are seeing an ongoing breakdown of the Belgian nation. The United Kingdom is in the process of becoming disunited. The disintegration of Yugoslavia is the worst example, he says, especially considering that the European Community has encouraged its breakup.
“While most European countries cannot solve this kind of problem, in Israel the state may create a nation from what is still a society made up of Jewish tribes,” Segre says. “These ‘tribes’, despite what many like to believe, have little common language or historical experience. Their language, Hebrew, started out mainly as an Esperanto.
“Still, these ‘tribes’ have created a state which most likely is creating an Israeli nation. Paradoxically, much of the credit goes to the Arabs. They have forced Israeli society to maintain unity in the face of hostility. Other societies have experienced external pressure, but they have not been able to translate this into creative internal unity. The case of European states faced by Soviet danger is a case in point. If Israel is not a miraculous example, it is at least spectacular.”
To make matters continuously worse in the eyes of the Europeans, Segre says, Israel is a modern victorious state, whereas they would have been defeated in World War Two by an ideology of darkness had it not been for the military efforts of two nations that the Europeans regard as rather uncivilized – the Americans and the Russians. Modern European historians have begun to realize that the two world wars were, in fact, European wars, which Europeans spread to the rest of the world.
According to a certain type of European historical determinism, a state like Israel, created by Zionism, the only national movement ever branded by the United Nations as racist, should lose wars against the Third World Arabs the same way the Europeans lost their colonies. No Western power has been able to withstand wars of liberation, as the Indian, Indonesian, Algerian and Vietnamese examples seem to prove. In the case of Israel, many Europeans – obviously not all of them – who start with such a false premise are very disappointed if this does not lead to the expected false conclusion.
The prostration of the Europeans before the Arabs – and their oil wealth – in the 1970s and 1980s has blinded them to the dangers of justifying terrorism, mainly of Arab origin. Despite the facts, Israel was blamed for many of the West’s major problems.
The United Nations, in one of its many perverse statements, declared Israel the main danger to world peace and the Middle East conflict the most serious one at the end of the century, Segre recounts. Israel was also blamed by its Western detractors for the entrance of Russian influence in the Middle East and Chinese influence into Africa to balance the success of Israeli cooperation policies.
“Nowadays the castle of mixed European, Arab, communist and United Nations lies has collapsed in an embarrassing way, resulting in a paradox,” Segre says. “Israel, which was accused of threatening peace, is there, for everybody to see, as a major ally in the world fight against Moslem terrorism, a pluralist democracy in the midst of authoritarian, non-democratic, violent regimes.
“The Palestinian problem is certainly a severe test of Israel’s moral and political values,” Segre says. “It has caused many distortions to Jewish ethics and democratic behavior, for which Israel deserves criticism from both friends and foes. But this does not justify those critics who demand that Israel behave as a democracy in peace and not, for example, as a Western democracy at war. Furthermore, European foreign policy is far from ethical, and it is not inspired by purely progressive democratic principles.”
He points to Europe’s ongoing commercial ties with Iran as prime evidence that European governments have not learned much from the past. Although they could easily bring the Iranians to reason by cutting purchases of their oil – and thus strengthening their Arab allies – Segre says, the Europeans have made no such moves.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld’s upcoming book The War of a Million Cuts analyzes how Israel and Jews are delegitimized and how to fight this. He is a former Chairman (2000-2012) of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.