The case of Israeli identity is a good example of the paradox of national identity and national self-determination. On the one hand Israelis put forwards ‘centripetal’ claims about why they are part of the family of nations. These claims are based on universal arguments and would go hand-in-hand with universal (often liberal) values. On the other hand they maintain ‘centrifugal’ claims, about ‘breaking away’, and about why their nation feels different from other nations. Centrifugal claims emphasize a people's uniqueness and tend to refer to particularistic morality. In the case of Israeli identity, emphasizing the particularistic goes together with chauvinistic attitudes towards other nations.
It is argued that the more vulnerable Israelis feel, the more they define themselves in a centrifugal way, that is, by distinguishing themselves from the rest of humankind. This tendency, I argue, proves a self-fulfilling prophecy: the more a nation defines itself in centrifugal terms, the more paranoid it becomes; this, in turn, serves to fan the flames of suspicion even more, and sustains the nation's self-image as different, unique and detached. The nation enters a vicious circle, which prevents it from becoming a normal member of the family of nations.