Yoram Hazony’s Virtue of Nationalism

by Friedrich Hansen (July 2018)

Conversation, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1879


This is the book many conservative readers in the West have been waiting for. It invariably touches on issues which are extremely controversial, at least in liberal polite society, such as religion, family and tribes. An erudite political philosopher, Hazony is president of an institution that bears the name of Theodor Herzl, and well known for his political courage and untiring support for the Zionist cause. Like Herzl, Hazony strides into territories seldom explored, particularly by the European enlightenment: namely the world of family, clans, and tribes. These are concepts with deep Oriental appeal and, in our time, overlooked by many in the liberal West. Yet, at the same time, they are inspiring for conservatives with a religious affinity to the Middle East where biblical political ideas still occupy the most accomplished minds. A book on the virtues of nationalism could hardly be timelier.


religion—a blessed state of identity which many of them have been deprived of for the better part of the last century. Meanwhile, nationalism is also back with a vengeance in the west. The new Catalonian quest for independence, rumors about Irish unification, Brexit, and Trump’s “America First” approach are but the most popular examples. On top of all that comes a refreshingly particular Italian government, hostile to the Germanophile European Empire and instead looks to President Putin for inspiration. These are all heretics of liberal globalism in the name of political self-determination.



Hazony makes an interesting point: after WW II the EU was designed by Conrad Adenauer to prevent Germany from ever becoming strong enough to dominate or threaten the rest of Europe again—which is nevertheless exactly what has come about in recent decades. This paradox is rarely discussed in Western publications today.




No doubt Hazony considers the family as a paradigm for all other human collectives, to which loyalties are owed by individuals. They can be described and measured using the family as the fundamental template, Hazony maintains, based on criteria of physical flourishing, internal integrity, and cultural inheritance. All the same he equates individual loyalty to the family to that of the nation, which is certainly a matter of much divergence in advanced Western societies.




Hazony argues that collective self-determination enabled by the national state opens up more resources and freedom for all members of tribes and clans while retaining traditional loyalties. By contrast, imperial orders push the centrifugal drive too far thereby transcending the individual toward unhinged individualism, bent on dropping any particularist loyalties to family, clan, tribe, and religion.



Now it is entirely understandable that against these pornographic culture wars a counter movement has emerged which has taken the form of a revival of national and ethical borders. Hazony particularly dismantles the myth that the European Union represents the best answer to Auschwitz or that the concept of liberal empire is the best insurance against the return of fascism. This has become the Western Liberal-Protestant raison d’etre. With his contrarian view on the lessons of Auschwitz Hazony gives us the answer to an ever-increasing European hostility toward Israel. He speaks for many conservatives who are upset about the unspeakable case of equating Israel with the Nazi state with reference to its defense against Palestinian acts of terror.


Hazony as an Israeli is understandably aghast over the identification of Israel with Auschwitz yet he may be forgiven for missing the perverse logic behind this moral equivocation.



Dr. Friedrich Hansen is a physician and writer. He has researched Islamic Enlightenment in Jerusalem and has networked on behalf of the Maimonides Prize. Previous journalistic and academic historical work in Germany, Britain and Australia. He is currently working in Germany and Australia.

Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast