Sunday, July 08, 2007

Yoav Gelber: The Disease of "Post-Zionism"

Some Basic Issues of the Zionist/Post-Zionist Controversy
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 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 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 Papp, the linkage between
post-modernism and post-Zionism. Papp 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, Papp 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 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. Papp, 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, Papp 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, Papp 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.
Papp 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 Papp, 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 Papp.s attempt to
portray Hobsbawm.s ideological and political stance as scientifically

Papp.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,
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,
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

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. Papp 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, Papp 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 Papp, 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

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

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

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

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 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

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.

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