Revisiting Zionism

By Wasserstein, Bernard | The National Interest, March-April 2014 | Go to article overview

Revisiting Zionism


Wasserstein, Bernard, The National Interest


John B. Judis, Genesis: Truman, American Jews, and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014), 448 pp., $30.00.

The security outside my neighborhood temple in Hyde Park, Chicago, like that around many Jewish institutions throughout the world these days, is conspicuous, though not as rigorous as at comparable buildings in Germany, France or Sweden. But in this case there is a special reason: Temple KAM Isaiah Israel stands just across the road from the residence of the Obama family. The house is rarely occupied now, but when the Obamas lived there full-time they used to "pal around" (to use Sarah Palin's felicitous expression) with the congregation's notoriously radical rabbi, the late Arnold Wolf.

In Genesis, John B. Judis credits Wolf with providing the future president with "his view of Israel." The rabbi, he says, described himself as a "religious radical" and a "liberal activist." As Judis writes, he "supported Israel's existence, but he wanted the Israelis to pursue policies that fully recognized the rights of the Palestinians." Wolf's view of Israel represented "a return to the universalism of nineteenth-century Reform Judaism." In a confessional passage at the outset of his book, Judis, a senior editor at the New Republic and the author of several well-regarded books on domestic and foreign policy, declares his own attraction to Wolf's teaching "that the role of Jews was not to favor Jews at the expense of other people but to bring the light of ethical prophecy to bear upon the welfare of all peoples."

Reform Judaism, as Judis notes, was historically opposed to Zionism. Yet several of the early leaders of American Zionism, notably Stephen Wise and Abba Hillel Silver, were Reform Jewish clerics. Judis traces the awkward relationship between the universalist values of Reform Judaism and the nationalist cause that these men espoused. He sees a profound contradiction between their liberal political outlooks and their general failure to recognize the political rights of the Palestinian Arabs. He admits of only rare exceptions such as Judah L. Magnes, an American Reform rabbi who became the first head of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

In some ways this is an old-fashioned book that might have been written by a member of the American Council for Judaism, an association of Reform Jews, formed in 1942, that propagandized vigorously against Zionism in the early years of the Jewish state (it still exists, albeit in diminished form). The "main lesson" of the book, Judis writes, is that "the Zionists who came to Palestine to establish a state trampled on the rights of the Arabs who already lived there."

Of course, one does not need Reform Judaism, historical or current, as one's guide in order to arrive at this conclusion. Others have reached the same destination by different routes. Perhaps the most effective presentation of this point of view was written a generation ago from a Marxist standpoint by the great French Jewish orientalist Maxime Rodinson in his Israel: Fait Colonial? (published in English as Israel." A Colonial-Settler State?). Even those who disagreed with its basic contention (among them the pro-Israeli Jean-Paul Sartre, who commissioned the essay in May 1967 for a special issue of his journal Les Temps Modernes) had to recognize the power of Rodinson's argument, which derived from a scrupulous welding of theoretical framework and historical data and from an aversion to unexamined moralizing. The same cannot be said for Judis's enterprise.

This book is divided into three parts. The first and weakest presents a history of the Zionist enterprise in Palestine up to 1939. "The moral contours of that early history," he writes, "are remarkably clear. From the 1890s ... until the early 1930s, the responsibility for the conflict lay primarily with the Zionists." Judis here develops the proposition that British imperialism and the Zionists, using the vehicle of the mandate for Palestine granted by the League of Nations, "conspired to screw the Arabs out of a country that by the prevailing standards of self-determination would have been theirs.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Revisiting Zionism
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.