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Sunday, July 8, 2007

Post Zionism dissected

The problem with this article on Post Zionism and Anti-Zionism is that it takes the contentions of people like Ilan Pappe too seriously. However, it is nonetheless a useful review of the use and abuse of the term "post-Zionist."
Ami Isseroff

Yoav Gelber

Post-Zionism and Anti Zionism

From its beginning, Zionism has provoked various adversaries whose common denominator was their objection to Jewish nationalism or, at least, to its linkage with the Land of Israel. Orthodox and liberal Jews regarded Zionism as a panicked response to anti-semitism, imitation of European nationalism and distortion of Judaism's true essence and image. Marxists claimed it was reactionary and endangered "the world of tomorrow" in which the Jews, too, would find their proper place. The opposition that accompanied Zionism was mainly a trend of the exile.

Present post-Zionism, by contrast, is mainly "blue and white"—an Israeli product produced by people who were born and/or educated in Israel though now some of them may live abroad.

Since the 1980s, "postist" trends have penetrated into the public and academic debates in Israel. The post-Zionist criticism consists of two distinct versions. The first appears as a new chapter in the history of Israeli historiography. This is an internal development within the historical and a few other disciplines that emanates from the accessibility of new source material, the development of new research methods, and the suggestion of new interpretations. The discussions have taken place mainly in professional-academic circles, and the opposing stances have been published in scientific books and journals.

The second version is a meta-historical debate that has effect mainly in the media, in which post-Zionists assault the Zionist idea and the values, beliefs, assumptions, methodologies and objectivity of their Zionist colleagues. They accuse Zionist scholars of mobilizing in favor of Zionist ideology and in helping to impose the "hegemonic" Zionist concepts of Israeli culture and collective identity.

Like post-modernism, with which it has something in common, post-Zionism, too, is difficult to define and the definitions are not agreed upon. Uri Ram, a sociologist from Ben-Gurion University, has claimed the copyright for the concept "post-Zionism." However, his definition is vague, and apparently he regards it as a fashion. He underscores its cultural aspect that goes beyond the academic framework and penetrates into the public discourse through the media. Ram argues that post-Zionism should be discussed in the context of the changing world: the impact of globalization, post-structuralism and post-colonialism; the transformation of the concept "identity" and the challenges it faces from competing concepts such as "otherness," "difference," and "hybridism."

Ram focuses his criticism on the writing of Israeli history. Zionist historiography, he maintains, has been historicist, and like the historiographies of the European countries, it cultivated national memory and identity. Post-Zionism means also post-historicism, and dismantles the national identities and the "historical laws" in their basis. Historicist memory built nations, he says, and the post-historicist memory shatters them. Post-Zionist historiography writes the history of "others" and "otherness," while Zionist historiography gave room only to history of self-identity. In Ram's view, the controversies among historians are but one aspect of the national identities' crisis in the era of globalization—in the world as well as in Israel.1

Another post-Zionist sociologist, Avishai Ehrlich, regards post-Zionism as the Israeli articulation of the liberal anti-Zionism in the wake of assimilation in Western Europe and America. This post-Zionism of the liberal type represents in Ehrlich's eyes the capitalist globalization, and therefore he regards it as the opposite of religious-orthodox and socialist anti-Zionism.2

Israel Bartal, the Jerusalem historian, attaches the condemnation of the Zionist and Israeli establishment from the right wing to the post-Zionist wave. He relates especially to Yoram Hazoni's book The Jewish State and to the activities of Shalem Center in Jerusalem.3 Ram, on the other hand, distinguishes the right-wing's criticism from post-Zionism, and names it "Neo-Zionism." He links it with the emergence of Gush Emunim in the 1970s, a decade before the emergence of post-Zionism.4 Historian Tuvia Friling also differentiates between the two trends. He argues that the right-wing disapproval of left and center Zionism does not include any of the typical foundations of the post-Zionist criticism, and it directs its attacks against other elements of the political, social, and cultural Israeli way of life.5

Most Post-Zionists openly admit, like Ilan Pappé, the linkage between post-modernism and post-Zionism. Pappé points to "a jump from positivist pre-history to postmodern meta-history" in the development of Israeli historiography. In Israel, as in the world, the majority of participants in the post-modernists' debates of history are not historians. Nevertheless, Pappé asserts, the post-modernist discourse has indirect impact on historians through indicating ways "to dismantle the domination of the hegemonic, white and masculine narrative over the historical story of the "others" and "otherness" in this country.6

The gist of post-Zionism is the denial of Jewish nationalism, at least in its present form of a nation-state, and the demand—apparently relying on the world "spirit of globalization"—to turn Israel into "a state of all its citizens" in reduced boundaries. The post-Zionists repudiate the Zionist ideology and its basic assumptions lock, stock, and barrel. They disapprove of the Zionist movement's policies in all fields and all periods, and deny the very existence of a Jewish People. By "a state of all its citizens," they do not mean a pluralist society in the manner of the United States or Canada, but an invigorated version of the bi-national state idea of the 1930s and 1940s, or the Palestinian state that was envisaged by the British White Paper of May 1939 (and the Palestinians rejected). This is primarily a new form of old anti-Zionism.7

This new Israel should be devoid of any Jewish identity, secular or religious, and of any unique moral and social pretensions. This position denies the connection between historical Judaism and the State of Israel, and strives to transform the only state of the Jewish People into a "liberal," multi-national and multi-cultural state. The post-Zionists demand to abolish laws whose purpose has been to stress the Jewish nature of Israel, such as The Law of Return, and to change its Jewish symbols and make them acceptable to the entire population. At the same time, they strive to sterilize the Hebrew language by removing words, terms, images, and stereotypes that carry a "Zionist charge" such as aliyah or "The War of Independence" and replace them with apparently neutral terms such as "immigration" or "The War of 1948," or even adopt counter-terminology such as "colonialism," "ethnic cleansing," or "occupation."

Post-Zionist positions hardly derive from empiric research. Usually they are articulated in theoretical debates and in public polemic in the media. The purpose of the criticism is to destroy the "Zionist discourse" and portray it as a deliberate distortion of historical reality, or truth (that post-modernists usually deny its existence, but the Zionist case is apparently an exception). Furthermore, the post-Zionists strive to cause tremors in the Israeli historical consciousness, deconstruct Israeli identity, dismantle Israeli collective memory, and present it as a Zionist meta-narrative that usurped Jewish history and Israeli identity.

Modesty is not a conspicuous characteristic of Israeli "postists." Quite the contrary, they often flatter each other, compliment, grade and grant superlatives to themselves and their comrades, and usually ignore or belittle those who do not count among their ranks. Tom Segev, for example, asserted that the new historians "are the first to make use of archival source material… It is the first generation of [true] historians. They plough a virgin soil."8 However, many historians of Zionism and the yishuv have worked in Israeli, British, American, and other archives—before the advent of the "new" historians (who are not all post-Zionists), simultaneously and subsequently. The difference between those who boast in their "innovativeness" and those who dispute them is not one between the use and non-use of archives. It is a difference between the ideological writing of the post-Zionists (though they sometimes innovate and illuminate) and the disciplinary writing (even if it sometimes entails deviation in various ideological directions) of those who do not rank among them.

Most post-Zionists accept the post-modern approach that historiography is politics, and render a good service to the accusation that Israel was born in sin when they dismiss Jewish nationality, reject the negation of the Exile, describe the surviving remnant of the Holocaust and the oriental Jews as the prey of Zionist manipulations and the Palestinians as innocent victims of collusions and atrocities. This last "innocence" is unconvincing for anyone familiar with the source material, unless he is utterly prejudiced. Pappé, who has led this approach for years, has totally abandoned the academic disguise since the beginning of the present intifada in 2000, and has enlisted in the service of Palestinian propaganda in Israel and abroad, openly and wholeheartedly.9

The Denial of Jewish Nationalism

The post-Zionists' opposition to the Jewish nation state derives from their denial of the very existence of Jewish nationality. Their criticism of Jewish nationalism has been based on relatively new theories of nationalism and colonialism. Primarily, they quote Benedict Anderson, who regards the nation as an "imagined community"—imagined by those who belong to it or are manipulated by bureaucrats and pedagogues. They also like to quote Eric Hobsbawm's claim that the allegedly old national traditions were invented in the 19th century to cultivate national myths. On the other hand, they tend to ignore other theories of nationalism, such as that of Anthony Smith (who regards nationality as the continuation of an older ethnic identity) or Ernst Gelner, for whom nationalism is an outcome of modernization. They hardly relate to earlier scholars of nationalism, such as Hans Kohn.10

Following the Palestinians' old claim from the early 1920s that Judaism is a religion, and religion does not need a national home, the radical post-Zionists also negate the very existence of a Jewish nation. A non-existent nation cannot have a national movement and does not need a nation-state. Thus, the way opens for a Jewish religious milet in a future Palestinian state as it existed in the Ottoman Empire. Non-religious Jews will assimilate with the Palestinian Arabs as they have assimilated with the surrounding people in Europe and America. Indeed, Pappé dedicates his recent book on the history of modern Palestine to his sons and wishes them a peaceful life in the modern Palestinian state that will be constituted on the ruins of the Jewish nation-state.11

Since he does not recognize Zionism as an authentic articulation of Jewish nationalism, Pappé theorizes on the essence of "Israeli nationalism." His principal argument is that this is a Middle Eastern phenomenon that should be studied in the framework of nationalism in the Third World. The purpose is evident: denying Zionism's origins in the Jewish question and affiliation to the Jews' plight in Europe and turning it into a territorial-colonialist local phenomenon.

In denying Jewish nationality and replacing it with "Israeli nationality" Pappé relies on a famous source—the Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm. However, Hobsbawm is hardly an authority on Jewish or Middle Eastern history. His expertise is the history of Europe and Latin America. Long before Pappé, he denied the existence of Jewish nationality and Zionism as its representation. Hobsbawm coined the phrase "Israeli nationality," but deliberately refrained from stating to whom this nationality relates. Hobsbawm's position is nothing but a weird personal view that does not rely on historical evidence, erudition, or any expertise in Jewish history.12 There is more than a trace of fraud in Pappé's attempt to portray Hobsbawm's ideological and political stance as scientifically authoritative.

Pappé's approach to Jewish nationalism is not exceptional among post-Zionists, and many of his comrades share it to various degrees. Ram, for example, maintains that contrary to the conviction of the Israeli education system's graduates that a Jewish nation has always existed, the Zionist movement invented a tradition to a nation that did not exist and would not have been created without the Zionist initiative. Shlomo Zand, to give another example, regards Zionists as "a community of immigrant-settlers" that transformed the Bible from a holy religious canon to a national history textbook to give legitimacy to its claim for ownership of Palestine.

In Ram's eyes, Israel's Scroll of Independence articulates the gist of the "national narrative" that Zionist historiography invented. He admits that it was not "making up" and the materials from which the narrative was built were taken "from the real history of the Jewish communities," but states that "Jewish existence was split and varied, and during most of the period was not national. Only from an ideological national vantage point it was seen as necessarily national and having a national destiny."

Ram breaks into open doors and claims the self-evident: Until the 18th century, no nationalism in the modern sense of the word could exist in Europe. Nonetheless, the medieval and early modern Jewish corporation featured a high degree of solidarity among its members, a highly developed autonomous organization, communal and occasionally supra-communal, a religious affiliation to the Land of Israel and an expectation for the redemption of all Jews and their return to Zion that from time to time surfaced in the image of Messianic movements. Zionism translated all these into modern concepts—not as "politics of identity," but as a response to constraints and pressures that Ram blatantly ignores.

The Jews' patterns of response to European nationalism and modernization were not "strategies of identity." They were not abstract texts, but real experiences. Zionism's principal purpose was solving the plight of the Jews, and only in the second place that of Judaism. The condition of Judaism in face of modernity preoccupied intellectuals like Achad Ha'am, but much less it bothered the activists that built the Zionist movement and the masses that joined it.

The plight of Judaism in face of modernity gave birth to various suggestions to construct a modern Jewish identity, such as the idea of "mission"—the Jews' special mission to disseminate monotheism (or refined morality) in the world. None of them provided an answer to the existential distress of the Jewish masses in Eastern Europe. Only two answers were suggested to this distress: a national solution in the Land of Israel, and a pluralist solution through emigration to the New World. The American immigration laws of the 1920s halted the mass emigration, and indirectly had a crucial impact on the scope of the Holocaust and on the foundation of Israel.

The Colonialist Paradigm of Zionism

Israeli post-Zionists have joined Palestinian scholars and propagandists in an attempt to prove Zionism's colonialist nature, especially in post-1967 Israel.13 However, attempts to portray Zionism as a colonialist movement did not begin with post-Zionism. They have been almost as old as the Arab-Jewish conflict. The first attempt was made by the Palestinian Congress that convened in Jerusalem in January 1919, if not earlier as Rashid Khalidi claims.14

Since the shaping of the new order in the Middle East after the First World War, the Palestinians have portrayed themselves as a national liberation movement struggling against a foreign colonial power (the Zionist movement) supported by the military might of British imperialism and trying to usurp a land that belonged to others. The Palestinians raised their national and anti-colonialist arguments in the Palestinian congresses at the beginning of the 1920s, in their appeals to the British government, and in their official and non-official deliberations with the various commissions that sought a solution to the Palestine problem in the 1930s and 1940s. However, in a world in which colonialism was legitimate, their arguments did not attract attention and support. World public opinion did not consider them stronger than the Jewish plight in Europe before, and certainly after the Holocaust.

The circumstances changed after the completion of de-colonization. Since the late 1970s, the Palestinians' arguments fell on receptive ears, particularly in Western Europe that was torn by post-colonial guilt feelings as well as by quandaries about the role of collaborators and by-standers during the Holocaust. Under the inspiration of Edward Sa'id, the Palestinians endeavored to demonstrate the colonial nature of Zionism, particularly of "greater Israel" after the Six-Day war.

Post-Zionists cultivate the stereotype of the colonialist Zionist immigrant by comparing the settling farmer in Rosh Pina or the pioneer in Deganya to the Dutch settlers in the Netherland's Indies (now Indonesia) or the French "Colons" in Algeria. Similarly, they make up similarities between the Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel and the Boers in South Africa. They equate the acquisition by the United States of Louisiana from France in 1803 and Alaska from Russia in 1867 with the purchase of Arabs' tracts of land by the Jewish National Fund. Similarly, they compare the attitude of the Jews to the Arab tenants that tilled these tracts with the Americans' handling of Hispanic settlers in Texas.15

"Political Zionism," Jerusalem sociologist Baruch Kimmerling asserted, "emerged and consolidated on the threshold of the colonial period in Europe, when the right of Europeans to settle in every non-European country was taken for granted."16 One should not be an expert on colonial history to know that the colonial era in European history had begun much earlier, in the 16th century. Zionism emerged toward the end of this era and not on its threshold, and West European colonialism had been preceded and paralleled by other colonialisms—Arab, Chinese, Turk and Russian. The resemblance of the transactions of Louisiana and Alaska to the land purchases of the JNF is dubious. Many problems would have been saved or solved if the Zionist movement had the means to buy the Land of Israel in a few steps as the United States did in the 19th century, and had Britain and other powers really supported Zionism in the manner that Kimmerling and others ascribe to them. Precisely the slow pace of the Zionist enterprise's development, because of the need to purchase the land and the scarcity of resources, testify to the non-colonial character of the movement.

For others, the comparison with the United States is redundant. In their eyes, Zionism is an occupying force in the manner of the Spanish Conquistadors in Latin America. Pappé compares Zionism to Christian missionary activities in West Africa and to previous attempts by Christians to settle in Palestine and expel the Arabs from the country (i.e. the crusades). He finds an "astonishing similarity" between the hidden hopes of Henri Gerren, the traveler and explorer of Palestine, and those of the Zionist leader Menachem Ussishkin: Gerren strove to renew the crusaders' Kingdom of Jerusalem and Ussishkin aspired to revive the kingdom of David and Solomon!

Drawing on odd and unverifiable sources, Pappé further asserts that Zionist settlement in the Land of Israel strove from the beginning to dispossess the Arabs. He brings a dubious quotation of the Rabbi of Memel (then a free German town in Lithuania), a "well-known" Zionist leader by the name of Itzhak Rielf, who, according to Pappé, called in 1883 (14 years before the establishment of the Zionist organization!) to expel the Arabs from the country. His second authority is Ussishkin's alleged ambition to purchase the bulk of the land of Palestine (as if he had the means to do it). The most "convincing" is his third authority: the Palestinian historian Nur Massalha, who collected quotations that in his view testify to Zionist intentions to dispossess and expel the Palestinian Arabs.17

A more serious endeavor to offer grounds for the formula Zionism equals colonialism was done by Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin in his Ph.D. dissertation that deals with Zionist historiography of the Middle Ages and its contribution to Zionist colonialism through the negation of the Diaspora. He argued that every historiographic project in the Land of Israel after the Balfour Declaration and the First World War aimed to distance the Arabs from the history of the land and portray it as a Jewish country either because of continuous Jewish presence in the country or because of the Jews' continuous affiliation, longings, and pilgrimages.

According to Raz-Krakotzkin, emphasizing the continuity of Jewish presence in the country, and the Jews' affiliation to the Land of Israel, aimed to serve the Jewish claim for rights on the country. He asserts that a clear linkage has existed between Zionist historical writing and diplomatic activity. The historical claims, he maintains, were the basis for the demand that Britain would adopt an exceptional policy in Palestine that would disregard the national aspirations of the indigenous population. However, history books by Zionist writers in the first half of the 20th century were not written in English or translated into it. Certainly, they were not against Lord Balfour's eyes when he wrote to Lloyd George after the opening of the Peace Conference in Versailles:

In the case of Palestine we refuse, deliberately and justly, to accept the principle of self-determination […] We regard Palestine as absolutely exceptional. In our view the Jewish question outside Palestine has worldwide significance, and the Jews have a right to a home in their ancient country, provided this home will be granted to them without dispossessing or repressing the present inhabitants.18

Zionist political demands were based on Jewish history, not on Zionist historiography, and Zionist diplomacy preceded the historiography by a generation at least.

In the eyes of Raz-Krakotzkin, even the Hebrew University in Jerusalem symbolized Zionist colonialism. It was not established for the indigenous population but for immigrants, and prevented the establishment of universities for the natives. Hence, he accuses the University of being "a political weapon that prevented education from the majority of the populace."19

He did not mean the graduates of Jewish high schools that until the Second World War usually went abroad for higher education, but the local Arabs. However, which education did Palestine's Arabs need? In 1925, the year of the Hebrew University's establishment, Palestine had 49 Arab elementary and high schools in towns (29 for boys and 20 for girls) and 265 rural schools (all elementary, of which 11 were for girls). They were attended by 16,146 boys and 3,591 girls. Most pupils attended school for four or five years. Twenty years later, in 1945, the total number of Arab pupils rose to 71,468, but only 232 studied in the 11th and 12th grade classes. Arab higher education had only 58 students.20 In the Mandate period, the Arab population did not need a university but elementary schools, and the British mandate did develop the Arab education system considerably. The argument that the establishment of the Hebrew University prevented higher education from the Arabs is simply ridiculous.

Zionism Is Not Colonialist

Put simply, Zionism essentially required immigration and colonization—just as the Spanish settled in South America, or the Pilgrims and others in North America, followed by a long line of Europeans who occupied America, Southeast Asia, Australia, and Africa and settled in the occupied territories. Zionism, for a while, also was assisted by an imperialist power, Britain, though the reasons for British support were more complex than pure imperialism. Here, however, the similarity ends, and the comparison with colonialism fails to adequately explain the Zionist phenomenon.

Unlike the conquistadors and their successors, Jewish immigrants to the Land of Israel did not come armed to their teeth, and made no attempt to take the country by force from the native population. The pioneer immigrants conceived the normalization of the Jews in terms of return to manual labor, not in exercising military power. Until the First World War, the idea of creating a Jewish military force for achieving political aims was confined to a few visionaries, and even at the end of that war, volunteering into the Jewish battalions of the British army was controversial among young pioneers in Palestine.

If we take a semiotic approach, up until 1948 the Hebrew word kibbush (occupation, conquest) referred to taming the wilderness and mastering manual labor and the art of grazing; in its most militant form, it referred to guarding Jewish settlements. Terms such as g'dud (battalion) or plugah (company) did not refer to military but to labor units. The armed Jewish force emerged late, in response to attacks and threats on the part of the Palestinians and Arabs from the neighboring countries, and the key word in the process of building it was "defense." The ethos of using force was defensive at least until the Palestinian rebellion in the years 1936-1939.

Since the late 1930s, "defense" was not perceived necessarily in tactical terms. Tactically and methodically, the yishuv's youth became aggressive since the "emerging out of the fence" in 1937-1938. Yet, the use of the word "defense" symbolized a broader perception of the Zionist enterprise as constantly threatened by its Arab surroundings and, sometimes, also by other powers. The word implied that the yishuv was the responding side and not the initiator of the threats even if and when, tactically, it took the initiative and unleashed the first strike.

Unlike the whites' societies in the British dominions, to which the post-Zionists compare Zionism when they define it "national colonialism" or "colonialism that develops into territorial nationalism," Zionism voluntarily undertook restrictions compatible with democratic principles of self-determination. It strove to arrive at a demographic majority in the Land of Israel before taking political control of the country. Furthermore, the Zionists regarded a Jewish majority as a pre-condition for Jewish sovereignty. They believed that this condition was attainable through immigration, and not by expulsion or annihilation in the manner of the whites' attitude to the Native Americans or the Aborigines.

Economic theories of colonialism and sociological theories of migration movements are equally inadequate when applied to the Zionist experience. Palestine differed from typical countries of colonialist immigration primarily because it was an underdeveloped and primitive country. Usually, Europeans had immigrated to countries rich in natural resources and poor in manpower in order to exploit their wealth; by contrast, Palestine was too poor even to support its indigenous population. At the end of the Ottoman period, natives of Palestine—Jews and Arabs—emigrated to seek their future in America and Australia.

Zionist ideology and the import of Jewish capital compensated for the lack of natural resources and accelerated the modernization of the backward country. Ideology and import of capital were totally absent in other colonial movements. Colonial empires generally exploited colonies for the benefit of the mother country and did not invest beyond what was necessary for that exploitation. By contrast, the flow of capital to Palestine went one way. Neither Britain nor the Jewish People derived any economic gains from the country.

A central argument of those who compare Zionism with colonialism concerns the taking over of Palestine's lands and the dispossession of the Arab tenants. However, until 1948 the Zionists did not conquer, but—unparalleled among colonial movements—bought land in Palestine. Kimmerling shows how between 1910 and 1944, the prices of land in Palestine were multiplied by 52.5. According to Kimmerling's data, in 1910 the price of agricultural land in Palestine was twice its average price in the United States, while in 1944 the proportion was 23:1. Between 1936 and 1944 the land prices rose three times more than the cost of living index.21

Under these circumstances, the Palestinians could not resist the temptation to sell land to the Jews. Sellers included members of all the prominent clans of the Palestinian elite. Palestinian and some post-Zionist Israeli scholars tend to put the blame for the eviction of Palestinian tenant farmers on foreign landowners such as the Sursuq family of Beirut, concealing the role of resident elite families who led the Palestinian national movement.22

Upon the attainment of statehood, the circumstances changed. State land was requisitioned and private lands were expropriated. But the state compensated private owners, either with money or alternative tracts, and individual Arabs continued to sell off holdings. One of the Palestinians' biggest fiascos was their inability to check land selling, despite the violent steps they took and the numerous assassinations of land sellers and dealers throughout the 20th century.

By contrast to other countries of immigration and colonialist settlement, the Jewish immigrants did not wish to integrate into the existing, mainly Arab economy, and also did not try to take it over. They laid foundations for a new and separate economy, without the relations of mastery and dependence that characterized colonial societies.23 During the Mandate period and the early years of statehood, Jewish immigrants competed with (Arab) natives and immigrants from the adjacent countries in the urban and rural, public and private manual labor markets—as agricultural laborers, in the building industry, as stonecutters, road builders, porters, and stevedores.24 "Kibbush Ha'avoda" (occupying the Labor) had ideological, economic, social, and political motives, but such competition between white settlers and natives was inconceivable in colonial countries.

A cultural appraisal, too, excludes Zionism from the colonialist paradigm. Contrary to the colonialist stereotype, Jews who immigrated to the Land of Israel severed their ties to their countries of origin and their cultural past. Instead, they revived an ancient language and, on the basis of Hebrew, created a new culture. The revival of Hebrew began in Eastern Europe and preceded Zionism, but the Zionist movement and the yishuv implemented it fully. In the Land of Israel, Hebrew became the national language spoken by all: from the kindergarten children to the academy.

All over the world colonialist immigrants either quested after a lucrative future or sought to escape a dreary present. Jewish immigrants to the Land of Israel shared these motives, but their primary, unique impulse, which distinguished them from colonialist movements, was to revive an ancient heritage.

The above should suffice to refute the identification between Zionism and colonialism. The seemingly historical argument, however, impinges significantly on the present. Long after most national-liberation movements have achieved their goals and thrown off colonialism, the Palestinians—who have enjoyed far greater international support—are still in the same place, if not worse. This fact alone should have led Palestinian intellectuals and their Western and Israeli sympathizers to re-examine their traditional paradigm. Instead, by cultivating the Zionist-colonialist prototype, Israeli historians and social scientists continue to provide the Palestinians with an excuse to avoid such re-examination, and encourage them to proceed along a road that apparently leads nowhere.

Post-Zionist Propaganda and Israeli Historiography

The post-Zionist tone of the public debates in Israel grew louder in the days of "The New Middle East"—the era of euphoria and illusions after the Oslo accord. In those days, some post-Zionists proclaimed the end of the era of Zionist hegemony and the beginning of a new, post-Zionist, era. Other post-Zionists

About the author

Prof. Yoav Gelber is a historian, teaching at the University of Haifa where he is also head of the Herzl Institute for Research of Zionism. This year he is a visiting professor at the University of Texas, Austin. He is the winner of three Israeli prizes (Ben-Zvi, Ruppin, and Itzhak Sadeh [twice]) and the author of about 20 books on various aspects of the history of Israel, and 60 articles. His book History, Memory and Propaganda is coming out in Hebrew in these very days, and he is working now on an English version of the book.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.


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