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The Returns of Zionism: Myths, Politics and Scholarship in Israel

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In this original and wide-ranging study, Gabriel Piterberg examines theideology and literature behind the colonization of Palestine, from the latenineteenth century to the present. Exploring Zionism’s origins in Central-EasternEuropean nationalism and settler movements, he shows how its texts can beplaced within a wider discourse of western colonization. Revisiting the wor In this original and wide-ranging study, Gabriel Piterberg examines theideology and literature behind the colonization of Palestine, from the latenineteenth century to the present. Exploring Zionism’s origins in Central-EasternEuropean nationalism and settler movements, he shows how its texts can beplaced within a wider discourse of western colonization. Revisiting the work ofTheodor Herzl and Gershom Scholem, Anita Shapira and David Ben-Gurion, andbringing to light the writings of lesser-known scholars and thinkersinfluential in the formation of the Zionist myth, Piterberg breaks openprevailing views of Zionism, demonstrating that it was in fact unexceptional,expressing a consciousness and imagination typical of colonial settlermovements. Shaped by European ideological currents and the realities ofcolonial life, Zionism constructed its own story as a unique and impregnableone, in the process excluding the voices of an indigenous people—thePalestinian Arabs.


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In this original and wide-ranging study, Gabriel Piterberg examines theideology and literature behind the colonization of Palestine, from the latenineteenth century to the present. Exploring Zionism’s origins in Central-EasternEuropean nationalism and settler movements, he shows how its texts can beplaced within a wider discourse of western colonization. Revisiting the wor In this original and wide-ranging study, Gabriel Piterberg examines theideology and literature behind the colonization of Palestine, from the latenineteenth century to the present. Exploring Zionism’s origins in Central-EasternEuropean nationalism and settler movements, he shows how its texts can beplaced within a wider discourse of western colonization. Revisiting the work ofTheodor Herzl and Gershom Scholem, Anita Shapira and David Ben-Gurion, andbringing to light the writings of lesser-known scholars and thinkersinfluential in the formation of the Zionist myth, Piterberg breaks openprevailing views of Zionism, demonstrating that it was in fact unexceptional,expressing a consciousness and imagination typical of colonial settlermovements. Shaped by European ideological currents and the realities ofcolonial life, Zionism constructed its own story as a unique and impregnableone, in the process excluding the voices of an indigenous people—thePalestinian Arabs.

39 review for The Returns of Zionism: Myths, Politics and Scholarship in Israel

  1. 4 out of 5

    Steve Cran

    1947 marked the rebirth of the state of Israel. For Jews it was something joyous that words could not begin to describe. For the Palestinian Arabs living their it was one of the worst disasters comparable to the Babylonian Exile of the Israelite. It was called the Nakhba. This scholarly epistle examine the mythology of Zionism with a critical eye. The professor who teaches at UCLA is definitely one of those Israelis who has sympathies for the Palestinian tragedy. Zionism was both a reaction to an 1947 marked the rebirth of the state of Israel. For Jews it was something joyous that words could not begin to describe. For the Palestinian Arabs living their it was one of the worst disasters comparable to the Babylonian Exile of the Israelite. It was called the Nakhba. This scholarly epistle examine the mythology of Zionism with a critical eye. The professor who teaches at UCLA is definitely one of those Israelis who has sympathies for the Palestinian tragedy. Zionism was both a reaction to and a child of European Nationalism. Europe even after the Emancipation never fully accepted Jews. While they may have been allowed to leave their confines of the Ghettos they were still in a social ghetto as people did not wish to interact with them. Jews were not considered manly warrior types they were viewed sort of as the third sex. There were two reactions to this one of the most famous is that of Theodor Herzl who proposed that the Jews have a state of their own. The other was Bernard Lazares who thought that Jews as the ultimate Pariah could bring a about a general emancipation of Europe from Mental bondage. To be sure both were assimilationist. Herzl felt that by having their own land the Jews could rebuild themselves into the manly image of a European male. This would enable them assimilate more readily if they had a state of their own. Even his works show Jews interacting as equal with gentiles in the Jewish State. The Zionist ideology is based on three suppositions which are analyzed in full. The negation of exile, the return to the land and the return to History. For Ben Gurion and other Zionist leaders the Exile is something off an anomaly a blip in history that they choose to gloss over. The Diaspora must disappear and Jews must come live in Israel. What ever happened out there in exile must bee discarded or places on the backburner. Focus on Jewish history in the land. Of course not all Jews moved to Israel. There was a movement called Canaanism which called on adopting a Hebrew identity and discarding Judaism totally.Some of it still remains. The Next is the return to the land. Making a Jewish state in the land. This attitude refused to take into account the inhabitants already living their. Not much mention is made of the Arabs in the literature. In fact they called it a land without a people and a people without a land. Piterberg gives full analysis of Zionist documentation and shows that the original Zionist ideology was in fact to get the Arabs to move out of the Jewish state. Their only inclusion was to be used as a workforce and then driven out by economic means. Eventually the Zionist enterprise would strive to dominate the labor sector. An example of Zionist attitude towards Arabs is the labor strike of Arab and Jewish workers in the British Railway. Ben Gurion thought of using them and then discarding them or giving them a section in the Histrdut as partial members until they became more sophisticated. Chaim Arlsoff said no way they could never join forces. They wanted to exclude thee Arabs Kibbutzim and Moshavs were not products of Israel or socialism as a matter of fact they were copied from the the Nationalist Germans who were trying to reclaim land that had many Polish people living on it. The projects failed as the Polish People organized and refuse to be driven off their land. THe final cornerstone is the return to history. They believed that the Jews or any other nation without a land of their own could in no way shape or form take and active part in history. The history and accomplishments in exile are over looked and focus is on Jewish history in the land. The Talmud and Mishna are overlooked and the bible is focused upon especially the book of Joshua which details the armed conquest of Canaan over the sinful Canaanites. While Ben Gurion may use the Bible as justification there are many flaws with his approach. First off there are no external indicator that the Jews were in fact slave in Egypt. No proof has been found of the Patriarchs existence and there is no evidence of the Exodus. There was no lightning quick conquest as mentioned in Joshua the assumption of the Israelite was slow and gradual. In fact the Israelites were not pure monotheists until Josiah's time. THe book of Joshua is modeled after Assyrian literature which detail conquests and treaties. The model of Joshua was used by Josiah to prepare the nation to reclaim land taken by the receding Assyrian empire. In the end Israeli literature speaks mournfully about how the establishment of the state obliterated the biblical landscape. Several authors also document abuses against Palestinians and how they drove out the villagers at gun point. there is a level of guilt written on the lines of Israeli literature.

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