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Archive for the tag “nationalism”

On the Eve by Turgenev

On the EveOn the Eve by Ivan Turgenev
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve read quite a lot about Ivan Turgenev, especially in connection with nihilism, but this is the first book of his that I’ve actually read, mainly because it’s the first one I’ve seen. I picked it up from a toss-out box at the Russian Church in Midrand. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this.

It’s a story about romantic love and romantic nationalism during the build-up to the Crimean War There’s not a breath of nihilism in it that I could discern.

Concerning nationalism, I was once inveigled into joining a web site called Quora, where people ask questions and other people try to answer them, though most of them are quite unanswerable, and if you want examples of “begging the question”, you’ll find plenty on Quora. One of those questions was Why is nationalism bad?. I was tempted to respond with corollary question: Why is imperialism good?.

On the Eve will not answer either question. But what it does do is give a sympathetic portrayal of the nationalist hero, which, I think, shows insight into the mindset of 19th-century romantic nationalists. Though the hero is not a poet, and is in fact rather prosaic, he did remind me of romantic poets like Byron and Shelley who sympathised with nationalist struggles in the Balkans.

Twentieth-century nationalism seems somehow to have been less romantic. There were plenty of nationalist struggles in Africa and elsewhere against imperialist powers, and some of them generated poetry and novels, but nothing, to my knowledge, as overtly romantic as this.

To the person who asked “Why is nationalism bad?” on Quora, I would recommend this book. As I said, it won’t answer the question, but it may show why it is the wrong question to ask. When it comes to the question whether nationalism is good or bad, a brief answer is “It’s complicated”, and I’ve written more about it here Orthodoxy and nationalism and here Nationalism, violence and reconciliation, but that goes a long way beyond Turgenev’s book.

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Flemish separatists triumph in Belgian election – Europe- msnbc.com

Flemish separatists triumph in Belgian election:

The Flemish N-VA (New Flemish Alliance) was set to be the largest party in Dutch-speaking Flanders and in all Belgium, narrowly ahead of the French-speaking Socialists, results showed after 86 percent of the votes had been counted.

‘The N-VA has won the election today,’ N-VA leader Bart De Wever, 39, told cheering, flag-waving supporters who burst into a rendition of the Flemish national anthem.

The Interior Ministry projected the N-VA would win 28 of the 150 seats in the lower house of parliament, compared to just eight now. It forecast heavy losses for the Christian Democrats and the liberals, former partners in government.

Funny, isn’t it, that 20 years ago the West wanted South Africa to drop apartheid, and almost immediately imposed it on Eastern Europe, most notably in Yugoslavia, where the West has consistently supported the independence of Kosovo, the Bapetikosweti of the Balkans. Hat-tip to A conservative blog for peace.

And now it’s spreading West, with English nationalists increasingly demanding independence from the UK, and waving the flag of the patron saint of Palestine — one hardly ever sees the Union Jack nowadays.

Perhaps if the Flemish section of Belgium gains independence our diehard apartheid holdouts could emigrate there, and have it as their Boerestan. There’s just one problem — the Flemish are Catholic, and “die Roomse gevaar” ranks pretty close to “die Rooi gevaar” and “die Swart gevaar” as things for which there must be zero tolerance.

Anti-Zionism and antisemitism

Ad Orientem: Anti-Zionism & Anti-Semitism recommends a post that addresses (from a Catholic perspective) the often blurred lines between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism: Vivificat!: When Anti-Zionism Turns Into Anti-Semitism:

I start with a statement that many will find counterintuitive and is this: since Zionism is a non-religious political movement belonging to the sphere of politics according to its own founders, to oppose Zionism a priori does not make one a Judaeophobe and anti-Semite of necessity. Said in other words, in theory, it is possible to be an anti-Zionist without hating Jews as a people or as a believers of their particular religion and at the same time, there is no obstacle in principle impeding an otherwise tolerant state to oppose Zionism and to protect the civil liberties of the Jewish people in their midst.

Unfortunately Ad Orientem: Anti-Zionism & Anti-Semitism also says “Please leave your comments at Vivificat!”, and that is something I find difficult to do, because an Orthodox perspective on the matter must differ from a Catholic perspective, and operates with different asumptions. I think the assumptions of the Vivificat! article are flawed, not merely because they are Catholic, but because they are approaching it from a different end.

Judaism-Rejects-ZionismIn my experience (which is no doubt fairly limited) the link between Anti-Zionism and antisemitism has been made by apologists for the government of the state of Istrael, who denounce any criticism of any policy of the government of the state of Israel (such as the bombing of Lebanon in 2006) as “antisemitic”.

And if that is what “antisemitism” has come to mean, then I have no hesitation is saying that I think “antisemitism” is a thoroughly good thing.

I don’t believe, however, that that “antisemitism” has come to mean that, or that it ought to mean that. I believfe that those who make propaganda for the government of the state of Israel have been twisting the meanings of words.

But that is what all warmongers do. Criticism of the Israeli bombing of Lebanon in 2006 have been described as “antisemitic” (on the grounds that “anti-Zionism is anti semitism”), just as critics of the US bombing of Iraq in 2003 and of Yugoslavia in 1999 have been described as “anti-American”.

The Israel apologists also accuse those who criticise any policy of the government of the state of Israel of denying Israel the right to exist, as if the right to commit mayhem is an essential part of the right to exist.

There’s no arguing with such people, and I’ve given up trying. I do not believe that criticising the policies or actions of the government of a state means that one denies that state’s right to exist, but then, I don’t believe that the right to exist includes the right to commit mayhem.

We had the same kind of attitudes in South Africa back in the 1960s. People who criticised the apartheid policy of the South African government were denounced by the government and its appologists as “anti-South African”. But they believed that it was not possible for South Africa to exist without apartheid. They confused the government of the state with the state itself.

So much for my experience.

nationalism1But one needs to go deeper and examine the roots of Zionism, which was a form of nationalism that arose in central Europe, and partly grew out of the romnatic movement in Germany. In this sense Zionism is akin to Hellenism, the Greek nationalism that arose from much the same roots. And there were other Balkan nationalism too, and others in Eastern Europe. Zionism, Hellenism and the other Balkan nationalisms wanted to establish “homelands” in territory under the rule of multinational empires. In most cases this was the Ottoman Empire, and in some cases the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Prussian Empire, or the Russian Empire (e.g. Polish nationalism). One could even say that in South Africa Afrikaner nationalism has similar philosophical roots.

In some ways, Zionism is to Judaism as Hellenism is to Orthodoxy. Just as there are those who say “Antizionism is antisemitism”, there are those who say that “Hellenism is Orthodoxy and Orthodoxy is Hellenism”. And there are others who have tried to coopt religion for that kind of nationalism. The Roman Catholic Church is not exempt from this — Croatian nationalism is not all that disssimilar from Zionism either.

I’ve written about this elsewhere, in an article on Nationalism, violence and reconciliation.

It’s almost supernatural: The loathsome smearing of Israel’s critics – Johann Hari, Commentators – The Independent

Why is it that when one criticises actions of the Israeli government, one is often called “anti-Semitic”, or accused of “denying Israel’s right to exist”. Here’s a journalist who has had such experiences.

Johann Hari: The loathsome smearing of Israel’s critics – Johann Hari, Commentators – The Independent:

I have also reported from Gaza and the West Bank. Last week, I wrote an article that described how untreated sewage was being pumped from illegal Israeli settlements on to Palestinian land, contaminating their reservoirs. This isn’t controversial. It has been documented by Friends of the Earth, and I have seen it with my own eyes.

The response? There was little attempt to dispute the facts I offered. Instead, some of the most high profile ‘pro-Israel’ writers and media monitoring groups – including Honest Reporting and Camera – said I an anti-Jewish bigot akin to Joseph Goebbels and Mahmoud Ahmadinejadh, while Melanie Phillips even linked the stabbing of two Jewish people in North London to articles like mine. Vast numbers of e-mails came flooding in calling for me to be sacked.

I had a Jewish correspondent in New York who was forever sending me copies of the same article by Martin Luther King, Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism and vehemently denied any resemblance between the way Palestinians are treated by Israel and apartheid. Yet in many ways it is worse than apartheid. South Africa never tried to build a concrete wall around the “homelands”, though they did accuse anyone who criticised apartheid (or any of its euphemisms, like “separate development”) of being anti-South African, though the accusation that they “denied South Africa’s right to exist” was implicit rather than explicit as in the case of the Israeli government apologists.

Let’s face it, Zionism (in the sense of Jewish nationalism, rather than the African Independent Churches) comes from the same milieu that produced other Eastern European nationalisms that led, inter alia to the breakup of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, whose repercussions are still being felt today. In Africa, however, we call it tribalism rather than nationalism.

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