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Confronting the Founding Myths of Israel

Allan C. Brownfeld
Fall 1998

For some time, there has been growing intellectual ferment  
in Israel as a generation of young historians challenges what they believe to  
be the "founding myths" of the State of Israel.

The "old historians," those who wrote the history of Israel in the 1950s,  
‘60s and ‘70s, distorted the truth, writes revisionist historian Benny  
Morris of Ben Gurion University of the Negev. He argues that they stressed the  
beneficence of the Zionist movement and downplayed or overlooked unpleasant aspects  
of modern Middle Eastern history, such as the role Israel played in creating Palestinian  

In his book, Original Sins: Reflections On The History Of Zionism and Israel,Benjamin  
Beit-Hallahmi, who teaches at Haifa University, writes that Zionism in practice  
and power became a kind of settler colonialism, trying to ignore its victims —  
the Palestinians, and shows how the establishment of Israel created a political and existential trap for Jews in Israel and in other countries, particularly the  
United States.

T.V. Series

Recently, in commemoration of Israel’s 50th birthday, a 22–part  
television series entitled "Tkuma" (Rebirth) appeared on Israeli television.  
This series, wrote Joel Greenberg in The New York Times, challenges "the  
traditional Zionist tale of heroic return and nation-building in an empty desolate  

The re-examination of Israel’s beginnings, Greenberg points out, "reflects  
a process that began more than ten years ago, when a few Israeli scholars began  
challenging conventional accounts of their country’s history." Among  
the events highlighted by these "new historians" are the expulsion and  
flight of the Palestinians, "the killing of Arab civilians in border skirmishes  
and retaliatory raids and terrorist attacks in the 1950s, and what the scholars  
described as missed opportunities to negotiate with Arabs."

Gidon Drori, the executive producer of the series, said that, "There’s  
still disagreement over what the past is, and perceptions of the past are constantly  
changing. We’re dealing with unfinished business. The scars still haven’t  

Tom Segev, an Israeli historian, said:"The justification for the State of  
Israel has been a certain interpretation of Jewish history, a Zionist Interpretation.  
The minute you shake that, people get excited. History is more touchy than politics.  
Our past is more sensitive than our present."

Feet of Clay

Leonard Fein, in his column in The Forward, points out that Israel’s  
50th anniversary produced far more celebration in the U.S. than in Israel itself.  
There, he notes, ". . . disenchantment, quite literally, was in the air.  
The Founding Fathers were unveiled as having feet of clay. Revisionist historians,  
controversial in the groves of the academy, had successfully altered the public  
consciousness. Hence much cynicism, little trust, low morale." The 22-part  
"Tkumah" program, declared Fein, "set out to ‘set the record  
straight,’ and so it did."

Of particular interest is the book The Founding Myths of Israel by Zeev  
Sternhell, professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  
His previous books include Neither Right Nor Left and The Birth of Fascist  

In this book, Sternhell advances a radical new interpretation of the founding  
of modern Israel. The founders claimed that they intended to create both a landed  
state for the Jewish people and a socialist, egalitarian society. However, according  
to Sternhell, socialism served the leaders of the influential labor movement more  
as a rhetorical resource for the legitimation of the national project of establishing  
a Jewish state than as a blueprint for a just society. He believes that socialist  
principles were subverted in practice by the nationalist goals to which socialist  
Zionism was committed.

Territorial Expansion

Sternhell declares:"I contend that the inability of the labor movement  
under the leadership of its founders and immediate successors to curb aspirations  
for territorial expansion, as well as its failure to build a more egalitarian  
society, was not due to any objective conditions or circumstances beyond its control.  
These developments were the result of a conscious ideological choice made at the  
beginning and clearly expressed in the doctrine of ‘constructive socialism.’  
Constructive socialism is generally regarded as the labor movement’s great  
social and ideological achievement, a unique and original product, the outstanding  
expression of the special needs and conditions of the country. But in reality,  
far from being unique, constructive socialism was merely an Eretz Israeli version  
of nationalist socialism."

The fact is, in Sternhell’s view, that modern Zionism is more rooted in the  
19th century nationalism of Eastern Europe than it is in anything in Jewish religious  
history. He writes: "To the east of the River Rhine . . . the criteria for  
belonging to a nation were not political but cultural, linguistic, ethnic and  
religious. German, Polish, Romanian, Slovakian, Serbian and Ukrainian identities  
came into being not as the expression of an allegiance to a single independent  
authority but as a result of religion, language and culture, which were very readily  
regarded as reflecting biological or racial differences. Here the nation precedes  
the state. The thoughts of Johann Gottfried von Herder was most relevant to East  
Europe, not the teachings of Kant, Mill or Marx . . . In these regions the individual  
was never regarded as standing on his or her own and as having an intrinsic value;  
a person was never anything but an integral part of a national unit without any  
possibility of choice, and the nation claimed absolute allegiance."

Individualism A Threat

Liberal individualism, Sternhell points out, "suddenly appeared as a  
real threat to the a continued Jewish people’s existence as a homogeneous  
autonomous unit. Thus, Zionism was not only a reaction to increasing insecurity  
but also a Herderian, not to say tribal response, to the challenge of emancipation  
. . . Zionism was from the beginning the preoccupation of a minority, which understood  
the Jewish problem not in terms of physical existence and the provision of economic  
security but as an enterprise for rescuing the nation from the danger of collective  
nihilism. Only with the closing of the gates of the United States did Palestine  
become a land of immigration, although even then it was not an entirely ordinary  
land of immigration. Even someone who had no choice but to land on the shores  
of Jaffa and Tel Aviv was viewed as fulfilling a national mission."

Comparing the nationalist socialism of Zionism with that of other emerging movements  
in Eastern Europe, Sternhell describes the differences this way: "In place  
of bourgeois individualism, nationalist socialism presented the alternative of  
team spirit and the spirit of comradeship; instead of the artificiality and the  
degeneracy of the large city, it promoted the naturalness and simplicity of the  
village. It encouraged a love of one’s native land and its scenery. All these  
were also the basic values of the labor movement. Socialist Zionism, however,  
went further than any other national movement when it rejected the life of the  
Jews in exile. No one attacked Eastern European Jewry more vehemently than the  
young men from the Polish shtetl who settled in Palestine, and no one depicted  
traditional Jewish society in darker hues than the pioneers of the first immigration  
waves. Consequently, Jewish communities in the diaspora were viewed primarily  
as suppliers of manpower. Ben-Gurion was not the only one uninterested in the  
fate of the Jews outside the Zionist context. The belief of the movement’s  
leadership in the supreme importance of the Zionist revolution was so great that  
immigration to Palestine was regarded as the final aim of Jewish existence. A  
Jew who did not intend to settle in Palestine and who did not prepare his children  
to do so was considered a useless Jew. All other matters, including social problems,  
were viewed as insignificant in comparison with national rebirth."

Zionist Considerations

David Ben-Gurion declared: "For me, Zionist considerations take precedence  
over Jewish sentiments, and I only heed Zionist considerations in this matter  
— that is, what is required for Eretz Israel. And even if my Jewish feelings  
urge me to go to France, I shall not do so, and I think we should act according  
to Zionist considerations and not merely Jewish considerations, for a Jew is not  
automatically a Zionist."

Leaders of the labor movement resolved this contradiction, Sternhell writes, "by  
abandoning the universal aims of socialism for the particularistic aims of nationalism  
... collective settlement was a pragmatic rather than an ideological choice, and  
raising national funds for that purpose did not imply a rejection of private property  
as such. The kvutza (small kibbutz) and the moshav resulted from the old capitalist  
agriculture’s inability and unwillingness to give priority to national considerations  
and to take on Jewish workers in place of Arab ones. Independent collective settlement  
was not a conscious ideological choice but a solution arrived at after some years  
of attempting to employ members of the Second Aliyah as salaried workers on farms  
created by the Zionist Organization. The kvutza, the kibbutz, and the moshav which  
were set up on national land with the aid of national funds, constituted a pragmatic  
Zionist solution to the problems of conquering the land, lack of work, and the  
need to absorb immigrants; it was not an ideological solution aimed at eliminating  
inequality or combating private property."

All over Central and Eastern Europe, ethnic units were fighting for their cultural  
and political independence. "The Jewish national movement," writes Sternhell,  
"was similar ... it was no worse than other national movements, no more aggressive  
or intolerant, but also not much better ... In the tense atmosphere of building  
up the country, where the main preoccupation of Jewish workers was the ‘conquest  
of labor,’ in other words, the dispossession of Arab workers in order to  
take their place — and thus the establishment of a solid infrastructure for  
an autonomous Jewish existence ... a movement grounded in the universal values  
of socialism could not survive."

Tribal View

What grew in Palestine, Sternhell shows, was a "tribal view of the world  
... What fell victim to national objectives was not only the rights of workers  
but the very aims of socialism as a comprehensive vision of a changed system of  
relationships between human beings ... Ben-Gurion knew that a national movement  
does not function in a void and that Palestine was not an uninhabited territory  
... From the beginning he was convinced that settling Jews on the soil of Eretz  
Israel would mean a conquest of land and a rivalry with Arabs ... Universalistic  
ideals such as justice and equality interested Ben-Gurion only insofar as they  
served national objectives and did not interfere with their attainment. Because  
he did not regard them as having any intrinsic value, it was not difficult for  
him to dispense with them at the first signs of incompatibility."

The early philosophers of Labor Zionism, A.D. Gordon and Berl Katznelson, emphasized  
redemption of the soil in the service of a national resurrection. As they pressed  
their organic, nationalist agenda, the very idea of equality and universal rights  
for all men were largely abandoned.

For Gordon, Jewish life outside of Palestine was meaningless. Sternhell notes  
that, "For him, the existential danger was not anti-Semitism but liberalism  
... Gordon proposed a radical solution: ‘If we do not have a complete and  
absolute national life embracing our entire existence, it is better that there  
should be full and total assimilation.’ He rejected the liberal conception  
of the nation as a collection of individuals but argued that it was a living body  
and cannot exist uprooted from the soil in which it grows. It received its creative  
power from its roots in the soil."

The concept of "purity of soil," writes Sternhell, "was always  
one of the shibboleths of tribal nationalism. There is no doubt that one finds  
in Gordon’s teachings ... an echo of Slavophile nationalism. In fact, one  
finds there not only echoes but a real intellectual affinity with integral nationalism."

Diaspora Jews

To such nationalists, the Jews of the Diaspora meant as little as the Arab  
residents of Palestine.

Even at the height of the Second World War, there was no change in the Zionist  
order of priorities. "It was not the rescue of the Jews as such that topped  
Berl Katznelson’s order of priorities," writes Sternhell, "but  
the organization of the Zionist movement in Europe. In December 1940, Katznelson  
lashed out at Polish Jewry in areas conquered by the Soviet Union because they  
were unable to cope with the situation and unable to fight even for a few days  
for small things like Hebrew schools. ‘In my opinion that is a terrible tragedy,  
no less than the trampling of Jewry by Hitler’s jackboots.’ Indeed,  
this was the founders’ order of priorities from the beginning and the tragedy  
of the Jews in the Second World War could not change it. Zionism was an act of  
rebirth in the most literal sense of the term. Thus, every event in the nation’s  
life was evaluated according to a single criterion: the degree to which it contributed  
to Zionism."

Shortly after the Kristallnacht assault on Jews in Germany, David Ben-Gurion expressed  
his opposition to a British decision to permit 10,000 Austrian and German Jewish  
children to come to England rather than settle in Palestine. He stated: "Were  
I to know that all German Jewish children could be rescued by transferring them  
to England and only half by transfer to Palestine, I would opt for the latter,  
because our concern is not only the personal interest of these children, but the  
historic interest of the Jewish people."

Arab Residents

While the indigenous Arab residents of Palestine played no role in Zionist  
theory, the early Zionists were very much aware of their presence and some were  
concerned about the manner in which they were being treated. "The building  
of the Yishuv was accompanied by a constant struggle with a stubborn Arab opposition  
to Zionist goals," Sternhell declares. "Contrary to the claim that is  
often made, Zionism was not blind to the presence of Arabs in Palestine. Even  
Zionist figures who had never visited the country knew it was not devoid of inhabitants  
· At the same time, neither the Zionist movement abroad nor the pioneers  
who were beginning to settle the country could frame a policy toward the Palestinian  
national movement. The real reason for this was not a lack of understanding of  
the problem but a clear recognition of the insurmountable contradiction between  
the basic objectives of the two sides. If Zionist intellectuals and leaders ignored  
the Arab dilemma, it was chiefly because they knew that this problem had no solution  
within the Zionist way of thinking."

Some of the early Zionists sought to hold a dialogue with the Arabs. Among them,  
Sternhell notes, "some hoped that Arabs would feel that rapid development  
would compensate them for loss of control of the country or of large parts of  
it, and others entertained ideas of coexistence within a binational state. Still  
others considered a federation with neighboring Arab states, then on the road  
to independence, but in general both sides understood each other well and knew  
that the implementation of Zionism could be only at the expense of the Palestinian  
Arabs. The leadership of the Yishuv did not conceal its intentions; nor was it  
able to do so. Similarly, the Arabs, who knew from the beginning that Zionism’s  
aim was the conquest of land, made perfectly clear their refusal to pay the price  
for the Jewish catastrophe. The pioneers well understood that the Arab national  
movement regarded Zionism as an enemy, even though it was obvious that the Jewish  
presence could contribute to the country’s rapid modernization and the improvement  
of its economy.

Palestinian Nationality During the long and  
difficult struggle, Sternhell states, "there developed a Jewish, and later  
an Israeli, refusal — especially after the Six Day War of 1967 — to  
recognize the legitimacy of the Palestinian national movement. Many members of  
the Jewish cultural and political elite, both of the Right and of the Left, considered  
an agreement to partition the country and the acknowledgment of a Palestinian  
nationality as a denial of three thousand years of history, a mortal blow to the  
rights of the Jewish people in the land of its fathers, and consequently an undermining  
of the foundations of Zionism. This view has been as destructive for Israel’s  
policies since the Six Day War as for the spiritual and moral climate in which  
Israeli society has developed in the last generation. The origins of this view  
go back to the days of the Second Aliyah and form an inseparable part of the founders’  

The ultimate Zionist argument as set forth by Gordon was: "For Eretz Israel,  
we have a charter that has been valid until now and that will always be valid,  
and that is the Bible, and not only the Bible." The Gospels, the New Testament,  
he claimed, were also the work of the Jewish people: "It all came from us,  
it was created among us." And then the decisive argument: "And what  
did the Arabs produce in all the years they lived in the country? Such creations,  
or even the creation of the Bible alone, give us a perpetual right over the land  
in which we were so creative, especially since the people who came after us did  
not create such works in this country, or did not create anything at all."

Sternhell notes that, "The Founders accepted this point of view. This was  
the ultimate Zionist argument. The centrality of the Bible was responsible for  
both the importance of historical factors in the thinking of the movement and  
for the place given to religion and tradition. The dependence of the Jewish movement  
of national rebirth on history and religion necessarily gave it from the start  
a radical character that was unavoidable ... Essentially, Gordon’s thought  
was anti-universalistic and anti—cosmopolitan and favored tribal segregation."

Contempt For Diaspora

The early Zionists had particular contempt for those Jews in the Diaspora  
who maintained that they were Jews by religion and American, English, French or  
German by nationality. Sternhell reports that the Zionist pioneers had "a  
loathing of the diaspora. No one was more disgusted with their people, more contemptuous  
of its weaknesses and its way of life, than the founders. These stern individuals  
... described exiled Jews in terms that at times resembled those of the most rabid  
anti-Semites. Aaron David Gordon, for instance, wrote that the Jewish people was  
‘broken and crushed ... sick and diseased in body and soul.’ This great  
disability, he said, was due to the fact that ‘we are a parasitic people.  
We have no roots in the soil; there is no ground beneath our feet. And we are  
parasites not only in an economic sense but in spirit, in thought, in poetry;  
in literature, and in our virtues, our ideals and higher human aspirations. Every  
alien movement sweeps us along, every wind in the world carries us. We in ourselves  
are almost nonexistent, so of course we are nothing in the eyes of other peoples  

The Zionists of the Second Aliyah feared the freedom of America even more than  
they did the pogroms of Russia, which they viewed as a means to populate Palestine.  
Sternhell writes: "Emigration to America was a response to the blows anti-Semitism  
inflicted, a consequence of modernization. The only barrier Zionism could place  
before this mass exodus was a rejection of the diaspora as such; not merely a  
rejection of the European diaspora ... but a total opposition to the concept of  
life in the diaspora. It was therefore necessary to demonstrate that Jewish life  
outside Eretz Israel was in its death throes."

The Zionist view of Jews and that held by anti-Semites was, in many ways, quite  
similar, Sternhell shows: "The explanation of anti-Semitism given by Jew  
haters of the school of social anti-Semitism fell on fertile soil here (in Palestine).  
Typical of this way of thinking was an article that appeared in Ha’ahdut  
in 1912: ‘Modern anti-Semitism ... is largely a consequence of the abnormal  
economic positions that the Jews have occupied in the diaspora ... Today, the  
Jewish people has many more shopkeepers, businessmen, teachers, doctors, etc...  
. than the small and impoverished masses of Jewish workers is able to support.  
Thus, our shopkeepers, businessmen and members of the liberal professions are  
obliged to gain their livelihood at the expense of the hard toil of the non-Jewish  

Anti-Semitic Literature

The fact is, Sternhell points out, that, "Similar ideas may be found  
in abundance in all modern European anti-Semitic literature, and they underlie  
the claim that modern anti-Semitism is not an expression of religious or racial  
hatred but an attempt to root out parasitic elements that prevent the proper functioning  
of social systems. Thus, anti-Semitism has been represented as a defense of the  
working masses against their exploiters, and hence as a legitimate political phenomenon  
... At the beginning of the century, the views of those who sought Jewish political  
independence and those who sought to purge their countries of the Jewish presence  
were often quite similar ... Not only was Jewish history in exile deemed to be  
unimportant, but the value of living Jews, Jews of flesh and blood, depended entirely  
on their use as raw material for national revival. The Jewish communities scattered  
across Central and Eastern Europe were important to the founders chiefly as a  
source of pioneers. They were considered to have no value in themselves."

The ideology which dominates Israeli life at the present time, Sternhell argues,  
is precisely the same nationalist ideology which gave birth to the state. He writes  
that, "The reason the Labor Party drew the country into an occupation of  
the West Bank was nationalism, not its intoxication with the military victory  
of the Six-Day War or a temporary deficiency in some humanistic values in Zionist  
thinking. And its denial of the legitimacy of the Arab national movement was not  
a form of blindness that afflicted only Golda Meir. The prime minister at the  
time of the Yom Kippur war was chosen as a successor to Levi Eshkol to ensure  
the perpetuation of a worldview that had begun with Gordon and continued with  
Katznelson. Like these major thinkers of Eretz Israeli Zionism, Meir appealed  
to history as proof of the legitimacy, morality and exclusivity of the Jewish  
people’s right to the country, to the entire country. For her, as for Katznelson,  
there was room for only one national movement in Palestine. That was also why  
she prohibited the use of terms such as ‘Palestinian national movement’  
and ‘Palestinian state’ on radio and television."

Fundamentalism and Nationalism

The Gush Emunim, formally established after the war of 1967, which combines  
religious fundamentalism with extreme nationalism in pursuance of its aim of recovering  
the West Bank through colonization is correct, Sternhell declares, "in claiming  
that the settlements in Judea and Samaria or in the very heart of Hebron were  
the natural, logical and legitimate continuation of Zionism’s original intention.  
It is also right in maintaining that this movement is closer to the spirit of  
the founders than the ‘new liberal Zionism’ which it does not always  
recognize as Zionism at all. In effect, the secular Israeli Jew, looking toward  
the West and receptive to its values, has begun, in recent years, to forge for  
himself an ‘independent’ identity, detached from the mystical ramifications  
of his religion and the irrational side of his history. This is a revolution that  
the national religious Zionists and radical nationalist (and supposedly secular)  
Zionists are unable to countenance, and whose development they cannot watch with  
indifference ... For the religious right and this supposedly secular radical right,  
a new front against Zionism was opened on the day the Oslo accords were signed.  
Rabin had become an enemy of the nation, a traitor to his people and its history  
... Rabin’s assassination was the work of a very small group, but it gave  
a tragic dimension to a fact that many people refused to acknowledge until then:  
Israel too has its Brownshirts, not only consisting of settlers in Judea and Samaria."

A point stressed by Sternhell, and one which many contemporary commentators seem  
not to understand, is that the Zionist movement "represented a minority among  
the Jewish people, and the form of Zionism exemplified by the Eretz Israel labor  
movement was attractive to only a minority of the Jewish proletariat in Eastern  
Europe and the United States. Most of the manual workers in the factories of Lodz  
and the workshops of Manhattan embraced non-Zionist socialism, read Yiddish newspapers,  
and participated in the struggles of the local socialist parties. In addition,  
the Jewish Yishuv was a minority in Palestine, and its representatives vigorously  
opposed any attempts to set up institutions of representative government in the  
country on the basis of majority decisions."

Democracy A Danger

In this respect, Sternhell writes, "Formal democracy was a mortal danger  
to Zionism ... The justification of Zionism for the Yishuv did not depend on the  
support of the majority of the Jewish people, just as its implementation could  
not depend on the good-will of the Arabs. ‘We think the concept of Eretz  
Israel suits the needs of the Jewish people, and thus we consider the Zionist  
movement a truly democratic one regardless of whether Zionism is embraced by the  
majority of the people or not,’ wrote Moshe Beilinson in one of the major  
articles on the subject to appear in the labor press. ‘We don’t insist  
on formal democracy. When Herzl or Weizmann spoke on behalf of the Jewish people,  
they were not officially authorized by a majority, and a formal concept of democracy  
would not have allowed them to speak in behalf of the people.’ He drew the  
conclusion that even if democracy were fully in control or the ‘sovereignty  
were in the hands of the people ... the true course of life would nevertheless  
be charted by an active minority conscious of its objectives.’ This view  
accorded with a concept that was very common in communist parties: collective  
needs, like correct opinions, are grounded in objectivity. This objective existence  
cannot depend on the will, which by its nature is subjective ... If only a minority  
of the Jewish people identified with Zionism, that did not mean that the movement  
had to submit to the majority."

Of particular interest to readers is Sternhell’s placement of Zionism alongside  
other organic 19th century nationalisms which emerged in Europe rather than emerging  
from the biblical Jewish tradition. Zionism, Sternhell reports, drew from the  
thought of Johann Gottfried Herder, whose conception of the "volk community"  
was of "an organic whole" conscious of its "tribal roots."

Cult of Volkgeist

"Herder’s organic concept of the nation," Sternhell writes,  
"the cult of the Volkgeist (spirit of the people), his historicism, his assertion  
that the proper foundation of collective identity is a common culture, fostered  
a cultural nationalism that as early as the second half of the 19th century gave  
rise to the historical-biological form of nationalism. By contrast, liberal nationalism  
was inspired by the doctrine of natural rights and the idea that the individual  
had priority over society, and that civil society, as a collection of autonomous  
individuals, had priority not only over the state but also over the nation ...  
The idea that the individual owed his being to the nation, that unique cultural  
unit which derived its existence from nature and was rooted in the soil of the  
motherland, created a human identity independent of a person’s political  
or social status."

What role did religion play in such a concept of nationality? "This form  
of nationalism had a religious component," Sternhell declares. "A cultural-organic  
conception of the nation necessarily included religion, which it saw as an inseparable  
part of national identity ... In integral nationalism religion had a social function  
unconnected with its metaphysical content. Generally, it was a religion without  
God; in order to fulfill its function as a unifying force, religion required only  
external symbols, not inner content ... Its affirmation of religion as a source  
of identity had no connection with metaphysics. Its attitude to tradition, ritual,  
and generally, the church as an institution was extraordinarily positive. At the  
end of the 19th ... and the beginning of the 20th century, religion divested of  
a belief in God was considered an unrivaled basis for mobilization and a component  
of national identity not only in Eastern Europe but also in the West. This was  
an outstanding example of the common ground between all national movements ...  
the Bible was not only a tool to cement the inner unity of society but an indispensable  
weapon in the struggle for the land."


Now, post-Zionists in Israel argue that a lasting Middle East peace cannot  
be achieved within the framework of classical Zionism. What Professor Sternhell  
and others urge is a more pluralistic and tolerant Israeli society, one which  
can provide freedom within Israel and is prepared to make peace with the Palestinians  
as well. Whether a Western-style civil society can emerge from the 19th century  
organic nationalism which motivated Zionism’s founders is, of course, less  
than clear.

The growing debate in Israel is a healthy one and shows that, whatever its other  
failings, Israel’s commitment to free speech remains strong. Ironically,  
there seems to be more free and open debate in Israel than within some sectors  
of the organized American Jewish community.

Zionist Ideology

Many American Jews confuse sympathy for Israel and a hope for its security  
and well-being with "Zionism." The fact is, however, that Zionism is  
a very specific ideology and worldview, emerging from the era of organic nationalism  
in 19th century Eastern Europe. It has, from its beginning, had contempt for the  
idea of Judaism as a universal religion, at home everywhere in the world, and  
has argued that a full Jewish life can be lived only in Israel. Its contempt for  
Jewish life outside of Israel is, as Sternhell shows, not far different from that  
of the most militant anti—Semites.

As we approach the 21st century, both the future of Jewish life in the free and  
open societies of the United States and other Western countries, as well as peace  
in the Middle East, requires a different vision on the part of both Israelis and  
Jews elsewhere in the world. Hopefully, Professor Sternhell and the other post-  
Zionist historians represent the beginning of such a vision.  

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