Hazony Baloney

Given my credentials as a widely published and widely translated scholar on European and American political movements, some of my readers thought that I would be invited to this month’s conference in Washington on conservative nationalism. That I was not asked to speak came as no surprise. The conference’s organizer and star attraction, an Israeli advocate of nationalism, Yoram Hazony, is like his predecessor Yuval Levin, a neocon client; and from what I’ve seen of the program, most of the participants are the usual suspects. West Coast Straussians, lackeys of conservatism, inc. and professional Zionists like Daniel Pipes are all well represented at Hazony’s conference. Although other scheduled speakers are less easily classified, it certainly doesn’t require an advanced degree in research techniques to know who was providing the money and direction for this event.

Hazony, who seems to be more of a neocon point man than a serious historian, produced a book on nationalism that makes obvious points about European nationalism. I was amused to find paleoconservatives who took offense at Hazony’s sound contention that Protestantism was more useful than the Catholic Church in launching national movements. Neither the Holy Roman Empire nor its pagan predecessor nor the Church of Rome did as much to lay the groundwork for modern nations as vernacular bibles provided by Reformers like Luther and Huss. Those who prepared the Reformation also typically played up their ethnic identities. Nationalist movements went through several phases in nineteenth century Europe, and the Baltic German J.G. Herder (1744-1804) was a major influence on the development of cultural-linguistic nationalism. Hazony also presents nationalism as a more democratic force (in that word’s original but not current sense) than distant administrative bodies controlling local populations. Citizenship has more meaning in traditional nation states than it does for those who are subject to international political administration. Encounters: My Life wi... Paul Gottfried Best Price: $6.98 Buy New $21.91 (as of 10:25 EST - Details)

Of course we don’t need Hazony to provide such widely available information, but the neocons do need him to argue that Zionism is the quintessential version of the nationalism that he sets out to defend.  This brings me to the matter of why I feel free to post this diatribe. If the unlikely had occurred and I had been asked to come as a speaker to the conference held this week in Washington, I would have held my tongues and treated the other guests deferentially. But since my enemies didn’t bother to invite me, I shall be less restrained in my comments. Hazony and his fake meeting of minds are needed in order to allow the neoconservatives to go on controlling the Right, including those who are not as docile as Rich Lowry and other familiar types at National Review.   The neocons colonized the zombie-like conservative movement in the 1970s and 1980s, after they reached the conclusion that their fanatical Zionism plus moderate left-of-center politics no longer gave them a winning hand on the Left. Starting with George McGovern’s presidential campaign in 1972, Democrats moved slowly but perceptibly in the direction of the Palestinian cause, and so the neocons took over what became conservatism, inc. and reshaped it in certain predictable ways. In American politics, the captive or seduced conservatives would veer leftward and embrace an expanded centralized welfare state and all the civil rights and immigration legislation of the 1960s. In Middle Eastern affairs, however, “conservatives” would be unswervingly Zionistic and attack all critics of Israel as anti-Semites while hurling them off the bus of conservatism. Neocon and Jaffaite language about the US as a propositional nation would prevent any confusion between Israeli ethnic nationalism (which is supposedly a good thing) and America’s pluralistic, immigration-friendly identity.

This double standard worked for a time, especially since the movement’s leaders unceremoniously blacklisted those who made trouble. But then more and more skeptics started asking edgy questions about why American nationalism should be different from the Israeli kind. It finally became necessary to produce someone like Hazony who could set forth the new party line: All nationalism (properly understood and certified by his sponsors) is OK, providing that we recognize certain guidelines. Whatever the Israelis have achieved is truly admirable nationalism and exemplifies what the conference should be praising. Right-wing European thinkers like Carl Schmitt and Martin Heidegger were not really nationalists but (well!) Germans; and Americans are allowed to be intensely nationalistic, as long as Jaffaites from the American Greatness website define this term for us. National Review-Online may have provided the most infantile reason for why this conservative nationalism conference is taking place. The Left, it seems, is moving us toward “neo-segregation” because it has abandoned its onetime integration imperative. American nationalism, not just patriotism, is therefore needed to get us “to love all our fellow-citizens.” One must stagger in disbelief when reading such poppycock about nationalism. Presumably the average age of those writing this filler has fallen from ten to about six.

Fascism: The Career of... Paul Gottfried Best Price: $36.41 Buy New $28.90 (as of 03:10 EST - Details) Allow me in my nonage after being professionally marginalized and ruined by Hazony’s sponsors to reveal a truth that I dared not express until now. My now deceased friends (like Murray Rothbard) who kept insisting that Zionism is an essentially leftist movement were right. Zionists have traditionally viewed the Western Christian world as the enemy of the Jewish people and as dangerously and even irrevocably anti-Semitic. Although Revisionist Zionists like Zev Jabotinsky, tried to form alliances with the revolutionary Right in the interwar period, most famously with fascist Italy, such moves were not typical of the Zionist spirit.  Most active Zionists for at least several generations were quasi-Marxist socialists and as long as it was possible, tried to build bridges to the anti-colonial Third World. They were forced to form other friendships when adverse developments intervened. The anticolonial Left came to regard the Israelis as Western colonizers, who had expelled the Palestinians or reduced them to second-class citizens. The fact that most of the Jewish settlers came to a land that the Palestinians were already occupying also made their national claims seem less credible.

In the US Jewish opponents of Zionism into the post-world War Two years came mostly from the Right, not the Left. The long settled Sephardic and German Jewish communities, particularly in the South, viewed the Zionists as an alien presence, which they associated with Eastern European ghetto life and socialism. Clearly neither Zionism nor Israeli life is what it was in 1948, when the Israeli union movement, Histadruth, still dripped with affection for Communist Russia. Nor am I stating that Israel does not have a right to exist because Zionism is an ideology that seems more attuned to the Left than the Right. Finally I’m not denying that the Israeli economy is less socialist now than when the country came into existence or that I’d much rather live in a Jewish Israel than a Palestinian one. What I am underlining is that the elevation of Zionism to the quintessential “conservative nationalist” movement is a bit of a stretch. Or so it might seem to someone who was not invited to Hazony’s conference.