In This Review

Land and Power: The Zionist Resort to Force, 1881-1948
Land and Power: The Zionist Resort to Force, 1881-1948
By Anita Shapira
Stanford University Press, 1999, 446 pp.

The rise of Ehud Barak -- a brainy Jewish warrior-hero turned peacemaker -- makes the reissue of this 1992 classic even more timely. Barak is merely the endpoint of a long process in the historical evolution of Jewish attitudes toward the use of force. This brilliant intellectual history by a distinguished Tel Aviv University scholar shows how the exilic Jewish aversion to Machtpolitik shriveled in the crucible of state-building. Mainstream Zionism, which never saw itself as a movement of European usurpers, evolved what Shapira calls a "defensive ethos" under British rule that skirted both compromise and confrontation with the Arabs. It hoped to dull enmity by offering Palestine's Arabs everything as individuals but nothing as a people. But when the proto-intifada of the Arab Revolt erupted in 1936, a new "offensive ethos" recognizing the inevitability of an Arab-Jewish clash and the legitimacy of the sword gained ground among Mandate Palestine's Jews. Shapira's lucid, searching book -- a model of historical curiosity and craft -- is indispensable for anyone seeking to understand modern Israel, whose sense of its own power coexists painfully alongside a sense of fearful victimhood.