From Herzl to Rabin: The Changing Image of Zionism

By Reich, Bernard | The Middle East Journal, Summer 2001 | Go to article overview

From Herzl to Rabin: The Changing Image of Zionism


Reich, Bernard, The Middle East Journal


From Herzl to Rabin: The Changing Image of Zionism, by Amnon Rubinstein. Foreword by Ehud Barak. Preface by Arthur Hertzberg. New York and London: Holmes & Meier, 2000. xiii + 272 pages. Index to p. 283. About the author. $32.95.

Zionism as a political movement seeking to establish a Jewish state in Palestine in which Jews could live safe from anti-Semitism and persecution is a century old. Theodor Herzl's notion was of a state based on the ideals of Western civilization, but this conception has been discussed and debated in Zionist and Jewish venues from the outset to this day. Zionism is a vast tent encompassing a large and diverse set of views and perspectives lying at all points on the politicalideological spectrum, and those views have, to a considerable degree, been reflected in the composition of the Israeli body politic and in the Israeli parliament (Knesset).

Born in 1931 in Tel Aviv, Amnon Rubinstein graduated in law from Hebrew University of Jerusalem and received a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics. He served as professor of law and dean of the faculty of law at Tel Aviv University and participated in the founding of the Democratic Movement for Change (DASH) after the Yom Kippur War (1973). He has been a member of the Knesset since 1977, and served as the chairman of the Shinui faction in the tenth Knesset. He joined the Government of National Unity in 1984, and was Minister of Education in the Labor-led governing coalition between 1992 and 1996. He serves in the current (15th) Knesset as an MK on the left-of-center Meretz list.

Rubinstein is included in the Zionist tent, and seeks to analyze it as a dispassionate observer, but is a vocal participant in the discourse on Zionist ideology and practice, as well as in the politics associated with the modern Jewish state. He traces the evolution of the ideology and reality of a Jewish state from the original goal of a "normal" state living in peace with its neighbors to the post-1967 war period where, in Rubinstein's account, Israel seems to have moved toward reclaiming the whole of the Land of Israel, thereby exacerbating the Arab-Israeli conflict. His argument is thus that Israel has been beset by a conflict between those who are prepared to compromise for "normality and peace" and those who seek all of the land almost without regard for the consequences of their actions. This clash, he suggests, remains the core of the Zionist-Israeli conflict today.

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