The Jewish State: The Struggle for Israel's Soul

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The Jewish State: The Struggle for Israel's Soul

By Yoram Hazony
Basic Books, 2000
432 pp. $28.00

Hazony's thesis is that a small number of German-Jewish intellectuals, exemplified by Martin Buber, never really wanted Jewish empowerment or a Jewish state. Marginalized politically during the 1930s by David Ben-Gurion's brand of Zionism, they nevertheless found their niche in Israeli universities. There they educated those who have now emerged as the "post-Zionists," questioning Israel's foundational myths, considering territorial concessions, championing equal rights for Israeli Arabs, and rejecting the idea of Israel as the "guardian state" for all Jews everywhere. In this partisan reconstruction of Zionist and Israeli history, Hazony's heroes are Theodor Herzl (who dared to dream) and Ben-Gurion (who stayed the course). Chaim Weizmann, Ahad Ha'am, and other Zionist luminaries are disparaged. In the end, the author does not make the case for the importance of Buber and those few German-Jewish intellectuals in shaping later Israeli thinking. Nor does he address the other factors that might explain post-Zionism in Israel. Hazony's scanty and thoroughly negative coverage of Palestinians and other Arabs suggests his intellectual pedigree -- Revisionist Zionism championing maximalist positions. Call it Jabotinsky redux.

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