For Israel to exist, so the early Zionists argued, it needs support from a powerful patron. They first looked to the Ottoman Empire. That didn’t work out. Then the British came. The results were… mixed. Now, Israel is allied to America.
Quite what would have happened if the Zionists had aligned themselves with the Palestinian population against whatever imperial hegemon happened to be dominating the region we will never know.
That isn’t as far fetched as it may sound. After Israel’s foundation, left-wing Zionists proposed to arm the Palestinians in the West Bank to strike at the Hashemite monarchy in Jordan.
Jewish and Arab fighters against the common enemy: British imperialism and its Hashemite stooges. If there’s one thing Zionists and Arab nationalists can agree on it’s probably a distrust of perfidious Albion.
Alternative history aside, Israel now has a special relationship with the United States that is extremely beneficial to it.
For ten years, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign has been trying to pressure Israel’s governments to leave the Palestinian territories and implement United Nations resolution 194, allowing Palestinians to return to their homes and properties.
Major victories for the campaign include convincing the French rail company Veolia to withdraw from the Jerusalem Light Rail (JLR) project.
JLR is controversial because its route includes territory captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War. As such, opponents argue that JLR represents an attempt to annex territory.
According to the website Global Exchange, Veolia has lost contracts worth €18.1 billion ($23.97 billion) due to activist efforts against the company. Canceled contracts range from waste collection for a British university to bus transport in the Netherlands.
Notable academic boycotters include the theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. On the cultural side, hundreds of artists have pledged not to perform in Israel.
There is no doubt that the boycott has clout and momentum. And the debates around it have been extremely fierce.
In Sparta, children that were judged to be “imperfect” were left on a hillside to die. As in most militarized societies, there was only one model for health and perfection. Those that did not fit did not survive, let alone join Sparta’s army.
Even modern, democratic states have a particular vision of what a soldier should look like. Although the heirs of Athens are less discriminate than Sparta, the popular imagination still has its own model soldier.