Israel does not see itself as normal. Rather it lives in a perpetual state of exceptionalism.
I understand this: Israel is a small country whose neighbors are enemies or cold bystanders. But I worry when Israel makes a fetish of its exceptional status. It needs to deal with the world as it is, however discomfiting, not the world of yesterday.
The Holocaust represented a quintessence of evil. But it happened 65 years ago. Its perpetrators are dead or dying. A Holocaust prism may be distorting. History illuminates — and blinds.
There’s another way of looking at the ongoing struggle in the Middle East — less dramatic and more accurate.
That is to see it as a fight for a different balance of power — and possibly greater stability — between a nuclear-armed Israel (an estimated 80 to 200 never-acknowledged weapons), a proud but uneasy Iran and an increasingly sophisticated and aware (if repressed) Arab world.
Some of Israel’s enemies contest its very existence, however powerless they are to end it. But the death-cult terrorists-versus-reasonable-Israelis paradigm falls short. There are various civilizations in the Middle East, whose attitudes toward religion and modernism vary, but who all quest for some accommodation between them.
One casualty of this view, of course, is Israeli exceptionalism. The Jewish state becomes more like any other nation fighting for influence and treasure.