Yascha Mounk and Amichai Magen discuss the worst attack on Jews since the Holocaust and Israel’s response.
The talk of axes (of good, of evil, of civilisation, of chaos) is such a painful mis-characterization of the thing. It is a jargon of political discourse, sure, and a useful emotional catchphrase to whip up support. But it is not useful to the actual understanding of the state of things... it seems to me that it blurs the real elements, on the contrary, into an abstract definition of good and evil.
What is on the table is not good or evil, order or chaos, civilisation or barbarism. It is two different visions of the world, one of which includes (admits, even welcomes) the total annihilation of the other. The global jihad folks dream of the global Caliphate... it is not chaos, nor instability, it is a different civilisation altogether; a world order that has no place for democracy, the rules of statehood as we know them, or international law as we know it. A New Order, does it ring any bells? it should. In particular for any Jew.
But beyond that. This vision of the world has many incarnations, not just within Islam -- this is just the one that is more physically visible and virulent now. Chaos is a very mistaken word for it, because although it may use chaos as a means, chaos is very much not the end. The end is in fact order, a terrible order -- an eternal order, based on the words of a deity as spoken out of the mouth of its priests: no place for anything else. A perfectly ordered world where what does not conform is expunged, expelled, destroyed.
Make no mistake. This is not Islam, not just within Islam. It has been happening in most other religions (it has been a constant current of all major religions probably since the beginning of time, but the circumstances never made it globally pre-eminent before).
It is the drive to create orderly fortresses free of the contamination of the unholy. We have seen it rise in Israel too in the last couple decades, among Jews; the Haredim were content to live in their self-imposed insulation, within their echo chamber, only damaging their own children by denying them knowledge of the outside world; but now they strive to make the whole of Israel Haredi.
It does not matter if this vision of the world aims at complete world domination as it does when grown within Islam or Christianity, or it aims just at establishing fortress-states of purity as it does when grown within Hinduism or Judaism. It does not matter how much the goals are obfuscated by greed, material need, narratives of oppression/liberation, ethnic nationalism, inequalities, and the numberless ploys of other actors who hope to gain advantages from the struggle. It does not matter that the deities are different, because the spirit is one.
And it is this spirit that is the enemy. The enemy of democracy, of the rule of law as we know it, of the rules of statehood as we know them -- of everything that was born of the Enlightenment, born then for the first time in the history of humanity, this precious thing that has been alive for not even 300 years, a widespread and spreading Age of Reason. Modernity, something which I deem worthy of being embraced in spite of all its faults, the Enlightenment of which Haskalah and its child, Zionism, were also born.
Not order and chaos, not civilisation and barbarism. Two opposite and irreconcilable visions of the world.
It will be a long fight yet. Our vision, which does not allow for "by whatever means necessary" may seem weakened by the prohibition to wage violence indiscriminately and by the shame and rebuke that is the consequence when excessive force is applied, or when horrible acts are endorsed. Without this, though, it would cease to be itself. We will have to persevere -- even while watching many of our own, drunken on post-modernism or Cold War propaganda, lionize their own executioners, and others, drunken on dreams of omnipotence, throw more and more desperate people into the arms of the enemy.
Hope cannot die.
Looking forward to listen to this conversation tomorrow. After being banned permanently from Twitter/X for using irony and finding myself washed ashore on BlueSky, I miss the good people from Persuasion.
I hope you will consider joining this platform, which is still in its early stages with 1.5 mil users. However, there is a calm, constructive atmosphere and I believe a great potential for debates.
An excellent conversation. I was shocked and disappointed at the end, though, to hear Yascha Mounk speak with apparent approval and desire for the so-called "one state solution". I believe that we saw this week exactly the implications of that, implications of which, I think, most proponents of the proposition on the far Left are well aware, and which they tacitly endorse. I hate to think that Mr. Mounk makes common cause with them.
I'm wondering by what moral calculus Israel should be forced to allow Hamas to continue to hold onto and torture its men, women and children, because the cost in Gazan lives of saving them would be too great.
I also wonder, given that it's really the West that holds Israel to standards it never applies to itself, what the West is going to do. Will it continue to keep Hamas afloat with donations while their captives suffer unimaginably?
Also, I understand that you guest is an Israeli leftist. Fine, but it should come with some kind of warning label, given that calling the judicial reform "anti democratic" is a matter of dispute (it's also wrong, but I don't expect you to take my word for it any more than his).