The Volokhs on Zionism – God of the Machine
Jul 182002

A very sensible post on Zionism from Volokh/Non-Volokh. A highlight:

…as far as real politics is concerned, the best shouldn’t be the enemy of the good; we should support countries and governments not according to whether they conform exactly to an abstract ideal but according to whether they’re closer to the ideal than whatever else is on offer. By that standard, Israel as it is today is vastly superior to the alternatives, the best of a really iffy lot. To the extent Israel requires a tribal/nationalistic/religious/collectivistic mythology to maintain the will to defend itself against its enemies, well, that’s really sad, but possibly true.

To the extent it’s true, Zionism is acceptable (but nothing for me to get enthusiastic about), but only because as a side effect it promotes democracy, secularism, and individual freedom. (On this account, statements like the “Zionism = Racism” resolution of the 1970s are objectionable — not because they’re false, but because they lack perspective, applying a standard against Israel that applies equally well against most other countries in the area.)

  One Response to “The Volokhs on Zionism”

  1. The best of a bad lot? Is that like being valedictorian of summer school? Volokh’s perspective is yet another that conveniently ignores the whole picture.

    There are countless examples of colonial exploitation that resulted in destabilization of the region. The following series of events is not disimilar from similar policies in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, etc.

    1925-194 — Reza Shah Pahlavi’s first priority was to strengthen the authority of the central government by creating a disciplined standing army and restraining the autonomy of the tribal chiefs. He embarked upon a series of modernizing and secular reforms, some of which were designed specifically to break the power of the clergy over Iran’s educational and judicial systems. He provided public education, built Iran’s first modern university, opened the schools to women and brought them into the work force. He initiated Iran’s first industrialization program and dramatically improved Iran’s infrastructure by building numerous roads, bridges, state-owned factories and Iran’s first Transnational railway. In 1935, he officially requested all foreign governments to no longer refer to Iran as Persia, but as Iran. (The Iranian people themselves had always referred to their country as Iran.) Politically, however, Reza Shah forcibly abolished the wearing of the veil, took away the effective power of the Majles and did not permit any forms of free speech. With the outbreak of WW II, Reza Shah, wanting to remain neutral, refused to side with the Allies.

    1941 — In need of the Trans-Iranian railway to supply the Soviets with wartime materials, the Allies invaded and occupied Iran for the duration of the war. Reza Shah was forced to abdicate in favor of his son Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and died in South Africa in exile in 1944.

    1946 — Under American pressure, the Soviet Union was forced to pull out of Iran’s northwestern province. It was the first and only time that Stalin gave back a WWII occupied territory.

    1951- 1953 — Iran’s Majles passed a law sponsored by the nationalistic (soon to be prime minister) Dr. Mossadeq to nationalize Iran’s oil from British control. The British, enraged by the threat to their oil concessions, froze all of Iran’s Sterling assets and took their case to the International Court of Justice. The Court ruled in Iran’s favor. Undeterred, the British placed a total trade embargo on Iran and enforced it with their navy, leading to the collapse of Iran’s economy. Citing the threat of a communist takeover, British Intelligence and the CIA sponsored a coup to topple Dr. Mossadeq’s government. In the midst of the coup, the young Shah, having thought the plan had failed, left the country. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Mossadeq’s government was overthrown and the Shah was put back in power.

    1962-1963 — The Shah introduced his White Revolution. It consisted of major land reform, workers’ rights and women’s suffrage, among other initiatives. His reforms did not develop as planned due to poor execution. In a series of public speeches, Ayatollah Khomeini attacked these reforms. He was arrested and then exiled.

    1963-1973 — Iran experienced rapid economic growth and prosperity coupled with a relatively stable political climate. Iran’s infrastructure, public health and educational institutions were expanded. A number of highways, roads, bridges, railroad tracks, water and sewage projects, factories, schools, universities and hospitals were built. Iran’s military strength grew and its international prestige was enhanced.

    1973-1979 — The oil embargo quadrupled Iran’s oil revenue to $20 billion a year. This new wealth accelerated the Shah’s timetable to make Iran "catch up" with the West. The Shah’s determination to modernize Iran virtually overnight and at any cost led to cultural shock, alienation of the masses, inflation, corruption, economic bottlenecks, massive urbanization, rising expectations and increasing authoritarianism in dealing with these social, economic and political problems. By the late 1970s, the Shah’s opponents, of all political affiliations, united behind Ayatollah Khomeini. The Shah was overthrown in 1979 by the Islamic Revolution and died in Egypt a year later. After 2,500 years of monarchy, Iran’s government was changed to a theocratic republic, The Islamic Republic of Iran.

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