In This Review

The Zionist Ideology
The Zionist Ideology
By Gideon Shimoni
University Press Of New England, 1995, 506 pp.

The creation of the state of Israel is a powerful example of the role of ideas in history. It was, after all, only 100 years ago that the idea of a Jewish state began to take hold among Jews in the European diaspora. This intelligent book places the development of Zionist ideology in a sensible comparative framework, highlighting its distinctive features without making it seem unlike all other forms of nationalism. Essentially, Shimoni argues that Zionism emerged from three convergent currents: the Jewish enlightenment, which was especially strong among intellectuals in Russia in the late nineteenth century; the enduring role of the traditionalist rabbis who kept the Hebrew language alive; and the rejected integrationists, such as Theodor Herzl, who had unsuccessfully sought a place for Jews in the modern societies of Western Europe. Once Zionism took hold, it developed along several different paths, each expertly described in this carefully researched and well-written book. The author concludes with reflections on the importance of Zionism for Jewish secular identity and on the Zionist justification for the priority of a Jewish claim to the land of Palestine-Eretz Yisrael. In sum, Shimoni argues that most Zionists have adopted the utilitarian moral principle of following "the line of least injustice" in asserting that Jewish existential needs were greater than the Arabs'. Resolving the clash between the two national claims remains, in the author's view, the most critical of the problems facing Zionists today.