This should not be a great surprise: Nationalism is out of favor. It has, especially in Europe and for obvious historical reasons, been understood as a basis for fascism and extreme chauvinism. Orwell wrote that nationalism is “power hunger.” Einstein considered it infantile — the view most officials in Brussels probably take. Nationalism is considered by European elites to be a primitive view — indeed, not even a view but an emotion.
In the Brexit vote, Brits chose to reject those patronizing views and express their nationalism. By this, they seem to have meant that they want to make the key decisions about their future, and about how they live, through their own democratic institutions. On the BBC on Friday morning, a typically biased interviewer spoke with Radek Sikorski, the former foreign minister of Poland, who denounced Brexit as dangerous and malevolent. His anger and resentment were so great that they finally moved even the BBC to defend the vote. How? On democratic grounds. Don’t people have a right to vote? Isn’t self-rule sacred? It was half amusing, half inspiring to see the interviewer rise to the defense of his countrymen and -women when they were treated with contempt for choosing Westminster over Brussels.
There is a message here for Israelis — and for Americans.
For Israelis, the referendum fight helps explain their unpopularity among European elites. If nationalism is primitive and infantile and dangerous, it is no wonder that Israel is criticized endlessly and its efforts to defend itself are seen as excessive. Its basic demand — to be understood and acknowledged as a Jewish state — is itself considered illicit; ethno-national states are out of the question these days. Defending your state with actual guns is positively medieval in the eyes of today’s European leaders.