The Corner


God, Ancient Israel, and Nationalism

I enjoyed the discussion/debate with Jonah last week at the NRI Summit, but I was probably unclear regarding Israel, given David’s post yesterday.

I wasn’t arguing that God ordained nationalism (I did jokingly say that God was the first nationalist, and I believe the record will show that people laughed). My point was that, via the influence of the Bible, Ancient Israel was the model of the nation that the West looked to, and that the national idea has been incredibly powerful throughout Jewish history.

I think Zionism was the most inspiring nationalist movement of the 20th Century, which is why I dwelled on the amazing return of the Jews to their homeland a couple of millennia after their exile.

I also pointed out how important Ancient Israel has been to the American national identity, and how  it figured in the freedom rhetoric of Martin Luther King.

None of this should be controversial; in fact, it’s all a matter of historical record.

As for David’s point about Israel having a higher purpose: Yes, of course — it joined the particular and the universal in a way that was a model for other nationalisms.

In sum, I don’t think God ordained nationalism, but I do think nationalism created our system of independent, sovereign nation-states that has proven quite favorable to self-government, democracy, and peace — things that anti-nationalists support, so long as they don’t have to acknowledge nationalism’s contribution to them.

Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: 

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