European Diary, 3.12.2020: Yesterday the Israeli philosopher and political thinker Omri Boehm was our guest, in a Zoom event organized together with the German-Israeli Society of the Lake Constance Region.
His book “Israel – a Utopia” is causing lively discussions and joins a growing number of critical voices that no longer cling to the failed phantom of a “two-state solution” but explores new visions for a binational state.
Our Zoom-webinar with him was attended by 150 guests from Vienna to New York and Berlin to Zurich. Here is the recording of the talk, that was mainly conducted in English.
There is a blatant contradiction between a Jewish state and a liberal democracy, says the Israeli philosopher Omri Boehm. For a Jew (and thus a fully-fledged Israeli citizen) is only someone who is ‘of Jewish descent’ – or religiously converted. In his great essay, he sketches the vision of an ethnically neutral state that overcomes its nationalist founding myth and thus finally has a future.
Israel has changed dramatically in the last two decades: While religious Zionism is becoming increasingly popular, both leftists and liberals lack convincing ideas and concepts. The two-state solution is widely considered to have failed. In view of this disaster, Omri Boehm argues for a rethink of Israel’s statehood: Only the equal rights of all citizens can end the conflict between Jews and Arabs. The Jewish state and its occupied territories must become a federal, binational republic. Such a policy is not anti-Zionist; on the contrary, it lays the foundation for a modern and liberal Zionism.
Omri Boehm, born in 1979 in Haifa, studied in Tel Aviv and served in the Israeli secret service Shin Bet. He received his doctorate at Yale with a dissertation on “Kant’s Critique of Spinoza.” Today he teaches as professor of philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York. He is an Israeli and German citizen, has conducted research in Munich and Berlin, and writes about Israeli politics in Haaretz, Die Zeit, and The New York Times.
Omri Boehm: Israel – eine Utopie,
Propyläen Verlag, Berlin 2020, hardback, 256 pages,
€ 20.60, ISBN 978-3-549-10007-3
The English edition, A Future for Israel: Beyond the Two-State Solution, will appear in April 2021 at New York Review Books.