What do Americans think of Israelis?

The United States and Israel

Since the founding of the state in 1948, little Israel has been undeniably its closest and safest ally in the international relations of the superpower USA, not only in the region, but in general. England may boast of its historical special relationship, but that did not prevent the American government, for example, from demanding an immediate termination of the British Suez intervention in 1956 and also enforcing it: In view of the not only recently disapproved Israeli settlement and, above all, defense policy, leave it as it is American presidents, on the other hand, upon friendly requests - and obviously do nothing if these are simply ignored on the Israeli side. There is nothing comparable in the great power politics of contemporary history - especially since from a purely foreign policy point of view no state, due to its vulnerability and dependence on its protective power, would be so easily pissed off by the US government as Israel.

This cannot be explained with the undoubtedly powerful and influential Jewish lobby in the USA, as well as with American strategic interests in the Middle East - at least today they would be more likely to side with the oil-rich Arab states. The American-Israeli alliance rests on deeper foundations, is obviously based on dimensions, the analysis of which is beyond common sense in foreign policy and its scientific foundation. There are no political communities of modernity that not only have as much in common as these two states, but which also stand out qualitatively from all other states through these similarities. For as long as they have existed, states have come and gone, amalgamated or divided, disappeared into larger units or disintegrated into smaller units. The USA and Israel, however, are something different: They are the only new foundations of modernity that at the same time each realized a historically unheard of, unprecedented project that initially seemed almost utopian to its founding generation from a human historical perspective. Their military-political success in a hostile environment and against the massive resistance of superior opponents surprised them the most. At most, the now dissolved USSR, the "Union of Socialist Council Republics", may also be mentioned as a third project born of violence with the world-historical claim of the historically unprecedented in a global perspective; The French Revolution, which was also aimed at universality, had already been nationalized shortly after its tactical stage victory as a result of the intervention strategies of the Ancien Régimes and thus lost its internationalist claim.

Israel and the USA, on the other hand, survived and with them the political visions they reified. Both are immigration and emigration projects. The Pilgrim Fathers fleeing England hoped to give their religious community a political form in New England - and they did so, as did the equally religiously motivated Quakers in Pennsylvania soon after. Above all, however, it was the upper and middle classes of the English colonies, inspired by the ideals of the Enlightenment, who turned what the European intellectuals could only dream of until the French Revolution into an enforceable political program: the republic. The rightly famous declaration of independence of 1776 with the proud words "all men are created equal" announced - initially against all empirical evidence - the bold, even utopian project of a community of self-governing citizens - a new kind of political figure: "United States" - which then survived a bloody civil war (1860-63) and the civil war-like emancipation movement of its black African minority (1954-1963) in a more than two-hundred-year history - and yet still incomplete, measured by its own standards not by this world and is a great, unredeemed promise. And the state of Israel emerged with a similar nature: The Jews from all over the world, who in spite of all the persecutions and offers of self-denial, firmly clinging to their religion and ethnic togetherness, should finally have a safe home, a state of their own - and not just anywhere, but in the very country from which they were forcibly displaced 2000 years ago. The dream of Theodor Herzl from Vienna, dreamed against all sense of reality, became reality in 1948 - against the background, of course, also of the expulsion and extermination policy of the German Reich, but not only: The emigration to Erez Israel has deeper roots than the escape from the Holocaust . Jerusalem has always remained the secret, sacred, spiritual center of the Diaspora.

More than a state

Both major political and intellectual settlement movements were based on comparable, even related biblical motifs in their early days: The Puritans hoped to build the City Up the Hill in the wilderness of the North American continent - a poetic metaphor for the expectation of a new Jerusalem. Later this religious expectation could be projected politically onto the young republic and gave it theological consecration. The unconditional solidarity of American fundamental Christian groups with today's Israel has its roots there. The Jews, on the other hand, including the secularized Zionists, wanted to go back to the biblical "Land of the Fathers" - there was no other option for them. But both the founding settlers and their rapidly growing successors overlooked - or repressed - all in their own way that the land on which some wanted to rebuild their "Jerusalem" or the others wanted to take back the real thing was not deserted, but rather at best an ownerless, a country merely without organized political rule.

On the North American continent, the initially unsystematic pushing back of the Indian tribes after the founding of the state was followed by their planned evacuation, combined with regular wars and quite a few massacres, which successfully accelerated the brutal expulsion. In the new political community of equals that was to be created, the pre-civilian Indians had no place in the future either: They were locked in reservations. Similarly, in Theodor Herzl's dream of the "Jewish state", people who may be living in Palestine did not appear in a single word: Herzl either knew nothing about them or, much more likely, did not want to know anything - they were a negligible factor. In any case, they became so for the Zionist settlers. The mostly questionable and legal land purchase from the Ottoman landlords gave this psychological repression of the existence of a Palestinian population a clear conscience: it was simply made invisible. Since it was not organized by the state, its gradual resistance to the newcomers (the first Zionists, like the first whites, were by no means hostile by the Indians in North America) was also not perceived politically; their expulsion in 1948 was interpreted as a voluntary escape ( what it was in many cases: fear of Israeli massacres such as Deir Yassin and trust in the promise of return of the Arab governments "after the victory") and the responsibility for it placed on the neighboring Arab states.

The Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir was therefore able to explain in the 1960s what most Israelis probably thought: "There are no Palestinians", there are no Palestinians. To then ironically add with condescending arrogance: "I am a Palestinian myself, I have a Palestinian passport (issued by the British Mandate Authority)." The Palestinians had become so invisible to Israel - but also to the world public interested in the Middle East! - that it took some spectacular airplane hijackings in 1970 and then the first indifada in 1987, that is, the youngsters who had been throwing stones for weeks and months in order to be noticed at all and finally to become political subjects. The heroic war of survival, which the state of Israel, founded against all realpolitical and military reason, but from the spirit and with the power of the utopian, won against an overwhelming superiority - David against Goliath - had its counterpart in the victorious independence war of the 13 North American colonies against the world power England, whose positive outcome only seems historically unstoppable in retrospect: it could have ended in defeat and with the destruction of the project.

This similar experience has implanted a collective self-confidence in both state foundations and both state nations that history - that God - is on their side and thus ultimately also for them and against the rest of the world. For the Jews who have become Israelis this reaches back into incomparably deeper historical layers of memory, but they share the conviction of the "chosen people" with the Americans. And so both state foundations are more and qualitatively something different from the mere state foundations and only states among states in an "international community of states". The United States of America is the realized hope of enlightenment and upright walk, for whose political survival the greatest politician that democracy has produced, Abraham Lincoln, also considered a civil war to be justified: "that the people should rule the people and shall not perish again for the people of this earth ". As if to reflect this peculiarity, the distance from the rest of the world of states, also in linguistic usage, the federal government continues to call itself "administration" to this day: the USA is not a common "state" according to its self-image - States, meanwhile fifty, have united to form this association. America remains the special, the other, and ideally still the great promise of applied enlightenment. The authors of the otherwise politically and morally unspeakable manifesto "What We Fight For" stated quite rightly: "In principle, anyone can become an American" *), regardless of skin color, religion or ethnicity - and in fact there are hundreds of thousands later, yes Millions of non-whites and non-African-Americans too have become. And every Jew, whether of Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Indian or Ethiopian origin, finds his citizenship in the State of Israel as an immigrant - a socially and psychologically most astonishing and not enough admirable political achievement. But just as the integration of non-white American citizens is far from being a social and political reality - the frequent violent clashes, often for minor reasons, make this clear again and again - so Israel is also in fact a compromised one, namely a mere " ethnic democracy "because it achieved full citizenship only for Jews.

No matter how the external relationship to a state of Palestine is resolved - the more than one million Palestinian Israelis are and will remain the thorn in the flesh and the guilty conscience not only of their own constitutional state, but of the entire Israeli project. It is as historically incomplete as the American one - and both societies know it too. As communities chosen by God and history, both stand next to or, of which they are convinced, above the other, the "normal" states, not least because of this unfinished mission: In principle America cannot commit an injustice. Individual governments and presidents may make mistakes, including wrong, bad, and even bad policies - but that does not change the fundamentally good character of American society that supports the democratic redemption of the world. What is good for the USA ultimately also benefits the world, is good for humanity in the long term and historically. Hence the refusal to submit to international law or to recognize a world criminal court over itself and its citizens, so that this state would give up an important part of its identity.

The USA is not only militarily, economically and politically Number One - that was only the result of the two world wars and the Cold War that we won, and it does not go to the heart of our self-image - it is and always has been, above all, morally. The vast majority of Americans are convinced of this, and their governments are sometimes more aggressively and sometimes more cautiously executing this basic conviction; In the political terminology today one speaks of hawks and doves or of uni and multilateralists. Only here could a permanent scientific debate on the analysis of foreign policy arise between "idealists" and "realists" - while, for example, German political intellectual history gets by with a single term, that of "realpolitik". Nobody finds anything in it when the American president - like Bush in January of this year - turns the speech on the state of the nation into a state of the world and announces his country's fight against evil in general, the final victory of which is clearly not in sight, or when the unprecedented modification of the sacrosanct opening formula of the Olympic Games by the same President, which has been sacrosanct for over a hundred years, is applauded as his natural right.

Choseness perversion

Israel, the Israeli political class, has the same self-righteous conscience, even if a reprehensible foreign policy is pursued according to normal criteria. Purely for reasons of state: Whatever serves to secure the daring enterprise Israel - this end justifies every means. That is why the governments of both countries have a long history in common of the systematic and, it must be said, often cynical manipulation of the historical self-image of their people, which they politically represent, as well as of the world public that participates in the political fate of both countries. The Israeli government is building on the fact that there is this global social interest in the success of the great Israel project and that in the last instance it will be defended by a majority from there, primarily, but not only by the USA.

The current government is also compelling its own people through a policy of confrontation with the Palestinians that leaves them no choice but to stand behind every government measure, no matter how counterproductive. The Americans, as far as they have heard of this and it has been reported to them, know very well that the first genuine wave of sympathy and solidarity from all parts of the world after September 11th was spontaneously aimed at that America, which in the historical consciousness of the political world population still has its place as a beacon of hope, as a beacon of hope and democratic thought, as much as it has been obscured and compromised by the real politics of the USA. The American government, however, manipulates and instrumentalizes, in its own way, just like the Israeli one, this international historical-cultural capital by using it to ward off any criticism of its own politics. With the propagandistic memory of the role of the USA in the liberation from fascism, any European criticism is particularly deprived of the moral ground. And with its simplistic declaration of "9/11" "because they envy us freedom", the American government is also manipulating its own people by indulging in the unreflected self-righteousness of what is historically still a great but conscious moral effort the arrogance of power in needy missionary subconscious.

The addition of God was included in the pledge in 1954 as a signal of struggle to the atheistic Soviet Union, justified by President Eisenhower with the words: "Millions of our schoolchildren are born every day, in every city and in every market, in every village and in every state school Proclaim the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty. " Compared to the USA, Israel could almost be called a secular state, since the great Zionist dream that was realized in 1948 was a thoroughly secular and political project. Just as the New World needed to make the European Enlightenment an exemplary political reality, it now seemed to be Israel that made the European dream of a radically new, non-capitalist social order and economy a reality: Not Most recently the fascinating kibbutz movement gave this political figure a very unmistakable profile of redeemed socialist utopia.

Thousands of young volunteers from all over the world became natural ambassadors of Israeli socialism much later, from the 1960s to well into the 1980s. There was initially no mention of Judaism as a religion, even though a strict separation of religion and state was not insisted on, the problem remained in limbo. Only long after the founding of the state, which, as is well known, even took place against Orthodox Judaism, the religious and biblical roots in Erez Israel were, so to speak, territorialized, often literally excavated, so that the project was given back that additional theological dimension that Judaism always had in spite of all secularization had resided. The current political decline of the Labor Party is only a symptom of this. But over and above all religious, political, ethnic and socially antagonistic differences (is there any other nation that can withstand so much internal conflict potential?) There is no question that Israel, this state and its society, represents something historically unique "something bigger than just" to be a state among the states of the world "(Martin Buber) - and for that reason obliged to international solidarity and support: Just like the United States, when it was still young and struggled for its survival, the unconditional ideal, but in some cases Cases also had the material support of European sympathizers for the cause of freedom: just think of Generals Lafayette and von Steuben. But since both state foundations are ideological, to a certain extent "multicultural" political creatures, neither are due to a "natural", power-political or dynastic history, but rather to a great future project, i.e. represent the highest political "works of art", the political-psychological probability and temptation It is great that any criticism of their practice, primarily of their behavior on the international stage, is perceived and denounced by the protagonists as a partial questioning of the Great Draft itself. Any non-American criticism of US politics has always been suspected of being anti-American - even if it is minimal and unspoken, even unconscious. And any non-Israeli criticism of the political leadership of the State of Israel comes under suspicion of anti-Semitism. Comparable things are unimaginable in the case of all other, the old or politically conventional states: There is no anti-Hispanism or anti-Frankism and there cannot be any further "isms" (which psychologically simpler German or French hostilities etc. do not excludes), because such an ideological project presupposes.

Anti-Semitism is one of the oldest European mental illnesses that has taken root in almost all countries and social classes, born out of the spirit of ecclesiastically organized Christianity. It also exists in the USA, but not in this form, which infects all classes and social groups equally. This is not surprising: American society has no Catholic and Protestant state church history to deal with. And then, last but not least, anti-Semitism also contradicts the entrepreneurial spirit and the Enlightenment self-image (and is therefore only relatively strongly developed in the social group that was excluded from it and that is still underprivileged: the Afro-Americans). This is precisely why the massive anti-European campaign by Jewish organizations denouncing cautious European advocacy for the Palestinian cause as an expression of European anti-Semitism is falling on fertile ground in the American public. Conversely, nobody would suspect Israeli criticism of American (foreign) politics or society there as "anti-American": In each other's project, both sides discover their existential mirror image. If and to the extent that Israel and the USA are historical-political "humanity projects", both larger than their territorial-political shape, then this justifies, indeed forces this "humanity", again politically speaking, to actively participate in both fate. Not only their conceivable failure - for the USA once, for Israel today - but their current state of affairs concerns "all of us". And that means critical, empathic sympathy, also and especially from non-Americans and non-Jews. Yes, both projects receive their future viability, which they themselves have always been transcendent, also and especially from such international participation. A historical reminder is of great use to illustrate this: The revolutionary project of the "Union of Socialist Council Republics" had failed long before 1991 - namely from the time when its protagonists not only criticized the internal but also the external criticism of solidarity to the same extent Socialists and communists in all parts of the world persecuted, suppressed, denounced as "anti-communist" and sometimes even physically destroyed them. Internationalism, however, had been the central basis of legitimation for the exemplary socialism to be established in the Soviet Union.

Impending self-destruction

The same applies to the US education project and to Israel as a safe Jewish home in dialogue with Arab neighbors and the Palestinian people. Solidarity-based criticism of America and solidarity-based criticism of Israel are therefore each part of the two projects. Even the resigned or tactically justified renunciation of this by non-Americans and non-Jews contains the germ for the spiritual and political destruction of the world-historical hopes of the USA and Israel, no matter how strong they both are materially as states and are supported by violence tactically enforce. If the American president with Who is not for us, the critical world public is disciplined against us after September 11th, the political classes of all nations are intimidated and every criticism of America is morally criminalized internationally, then he is, so to speak, officially undermining what it is for major educational project since and with its declaration of independence and had also historically proven itself several times.

Even in their failure, Woodrow Wilson's world war perspective "to make the world safe for democracy" and the League of Nations project remain a grand draft, as do Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" and the Atlantic Charter. If Baudrillard, with his astute analysis of the American reaction to September 11th, is right that the apparently unrestrained dismantling of the pillars of the American rule of law (the USA Patriot Act) has begun a process of long-term self-destruction of this historically exemplary open society that is continuing "In the recession of the value system, all ideology of freedom, freedom of movement, everything that makes up the pride of the western world [...] that the idea of ​​freedom, a fairly young idea, is already there, from habits and that People's awareness of disappearing, "then that concerns us all. Put paradoxically: America, the American project is far too important to be left to the Bush administration and the majority of Americans who support it. And the same is true for Israel, not just since, but in a dramatically exaggerated manner after September 11th.

It is the most sensitive and clairvoyant among the minority of Sharon-critical Israelis who see in his aggressive policies the seeds of self-destruction in the great dream of Erez Israel. In a not only hostile, but hate-filled environment of overwhelming Arab majorities, the small country with all its military power and its atomic bombs will not be able to hold out in the long run - unless at the expense of its soul, which once made the project possible. Are there ways out - or are we condemned to helplessly watch these possible, even probable processes of self-destruction if they are not stopped? Then the story would be a "hideous fatalism", as Georg Büchner called it, a pre-determined course that proceeds according to mechanical laws. But the US is not George W. Bush & Co., Israel is not Sharon, and both political societies are not identical to their current governments. In the long term, criticism of America can and will begin with the comparatively greatest chances of success with the memory of the origins, of the revolution, of the great truths of the Enlightenment, of the fact that this society is a role model, a non-executing sheriff, an example, but not a preceptor of worldwide self-determination, So political auto nomy, wanted to be - and should be again, yes, could also be again through historical reflection. Thomas Jefferson, for example, the eminent founding father and third president (the only one among his kind to whom the Indians were not pre-civil primitives), refused to give advice to foreign policy officials to resolve a particular conflict by the tried and tested means of war: "

It is very important to me that we impart another useful lesson to the world by teaching it methods other than war to punish injustices, from which the punisher suffers as much as the punished. "Lessing's famous word about the unread Klopstock modified : The great witnesses of the bold America project, they want less to be obeyed and diligently. Abraham Lincoln, who evoked the Declaration of Independence in the Gettysburg Address, the largest linguistic monument of democracy, and the spirit of the Enlightenment Draft in 1863, which became historical there still valid to this day - this Abraham Lincoln would have to fall from his memorial in Washington if he found out that only barely more than half of the American citizens in their republic are just now voting in their republic. But "tua res agi tur ", also and especially in the USA: what happens there with democracy is replicated in Europe and Germany. Criticism of America by non-Americans is always also their self-criticism.

Success in human history

There were realistic alternatives to founding an exclusively Jewish state of Israel in 1948. One of the greatest masterminds of other possibilities was Martin Buber, religious philosopher, a true sage of Judaism - and at the same time very politically active. His vision of a new Jewish life in Erez Israel was the dialogue - the basic principle of his philosophy and anthropology - between Jews and Arabs or Palestinians, the indispensable prerequisite for a peaceful and mutually fruitful coexistence of both peoples. The formation of a traditional state seemed to him a historical step backwards and a source of greatest dangers for Judaism itself. But when it did exist, he realistically accepted it - in order from now on to devote all of his political power to the Jewish-Palestinian dialogue within the framework of this new state and to dedicate beyond its long-term limits that are only to be secured by this and not militarily. In the refusal of the then young government to even discuss the problem of the return of the unjustly displaced and dispossessed, he saw a creeping poisoning, a "festering wound" of the great project. He was right.

Another point of reference - also for a non-Jewish, solidarity-based criticism of Israel - is the publicity and support of the recently growing group of Israeli soldiers and officers who refuse to defend their state by means of a counterproductive military policy of destruction and occupation. There are now around 500 and more than 12,000 civilians have signed their solidarity. They are continuing the work of the Yesh Gvul group, founded in 1982: Israel within the borders of 1967 - but not as an occupying power, no matter how "benevolent" it was, as the Israeli military administration claimed before the first Intifada. No people and certainly no democratically governing community can endure being an occupying power without damaging its political and ethical soul. Abraham Lincoln had had to wage a civil war for the sake of human history to preserve the experiment of republican self-determination: a republic could not be half free and half unfree. Even a courageous Israeli government, in order to get its own settlers out of the territories still occupied because of it, will have to be prepared at least at the risk of a civil war in order to save the larger project of Israel as a state capable of dialogue from becoming a permanent occupying power over two million disenfranchised Palestinians become. Anyone who wants the intellectual-political and not just the power-political-military success of the Israel Experiment, who is interested in its long-term stabilization so that this complex and fascinating multicultural society can find itself, has to find those groups and movements here and now take note of and encourage them through all accessible forms of publicity and support - in the common criticism of and from a critical distance from the tragically majority elected government.

No less a person than the winner of this year's Carl von Ossietzky Peace Medal, Uri Avnery, has also and not least called on the German Democrats to interfere, to raise their voices and not to be intimidated when it comes to humanistic and educational issues Principles of human rights and the preservation of this second political human project of the modern age. And also as a multicultural project: The fact that there is still a Palestinian party and its representatives in the Knesset in Israel is - in addition to the cultural pluralism of Judaism itself - the potential strength of this unique community. The American and Israeli perspectives also have in common that a society that is developing into a political nation out of multiplicity, both today more from within than from without historical hopes that are highly endangered: it is linked to the surplus of power accumulated by both governments with an excess of dazzling self-confidence, which evokes the one great iron law of politics: "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely". What both governments are doing strategically today, namely shielding their nations against criticism and admonishing voices by provocative invocation of external enemies and thereby nationalistically depriving them of their political world soul, frightens a sympathetic international public: Fear, direct and indirect victims of unchecked arrogance of power to become these governments, and fear for the inner, the spiritual future of the two projects that are not only vital for Americans and Israelis.

*) See the documentation in "Blätter", 6/2002, pp. 755-759 (or pp. 755-768). - D. Red.
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On the subject of the USA and Israel in the "Blätter" among others: Hanno Loewy, When solidarity leads to being held hostage. On the Difficulty of Criticizing Israel (Interview), 7/2002 Michael Lind, The Israel Lobby in the United States, 6/2002 William Pfaff, Pacemaker of Mankind. On the spiritual foundations of American foreign policy, 6/2001 Moshe Zuckermann, Asymmetries of the Palestine Conflict, 5/2001 Immanuel Wallerstein, America and the World: The Twin Towers as Metaphor, 5/2002 Jürgen Habermas, Fundamentalism and Terror. Answers to questions about September 11, 2001, 2/2002 Margret Johannsen, Behind walls and barbed wire? Future scenarios of the Paiestine conflict, 2/2002 Norman Birnbaum, Letter from America, 11/2001 Documents: The Jenin case. A report by the human rights organization Human Rights Watch dated May 2, 2002, 6/2002 * George W. Bush, "Enough is enough", - Statement by President George W. Bush in the rose garden of the White House on April 4, 2002, 5/2002 as well as "axis of evil". State of the Union Address of January 29, 2002, 3/2002