The Question of Zion

The Question of Zion

The Question of Zion

The Question of Zion


Zionism was inspired as a movement--one driven by the search for a homeland for the stateless and persecuted Jewish people. Yet it trampled the rights of the Arabs in Palestine. Today it has become so controversial that it defies understanding and trumps reasoned public debate. So argues prominent British writer Jacqueline Rose, who uses her political and psychoanalytic skills in this book to take an unprecedented look at Zionism--one of the most powerful ideologies of modern times.

Rose enters the inner world of the movement and asks a new set of questions. How did Zionism take shape as an identity? And why does it seem so immutable? Analyzing the messianic fervor of Zionism, she argues that it colors Israel's most profound self-image to this day. Rose also explores the message of dissidents, who, while believing themselves the true Zionists, warned at the outset against the dangers of statehood for the Jewish people. She suggests that these dissidents were prescient in their recognition of the legitimate claims of the Palestinian Arabs. In fact, she writes, their thinking holds the knowledge the Jewish state needs today in order to transform itself.

In perhaps the most provocative part of her analysis, Rose proposes that the link between the Holocaust and the founding of the Jewish state, so often used to justify Israel's policies, needs to be rethought in terms of the shame felt by the first leaders of the nation toward their own European history.

For anyone concerned with the conflict in Israel-Palestine, this timely book offers a unique understanding of Zionism as an unavoidable psychic and historical force.


A suicide bomber kills nineteen—including four children—in a mixed, Jewish-Arab café, in Haifa on the eve of Yom Kippur in October 2003. While Ariel Sharon sends his planes into Syria in response, the Israeli airwaves fill with the voice of Golda Meir speaking to Israelis during the Yom Kippur War of thirty years before. in one interview, she is reported to have said that Israel had no responsibility for war “because all the wars against Israel have nothing to do with it.”

This book originally took shape as the Christian Gauss seminars at Princeton University in September 2003. It grew out of my desire to understand the force— at once compelling and dangerous—of Israel's dominant vision of itself as a nation. How did this vision first arise, and—apparently unanswerable—take hold? Golda Meir's view is widespread. I encountered a strong version of it from the audience at Princeton. Israel is innocent of the violence with which it is beset. There is nothing in the actions of the state, the history of the country or of Zionism, that can explain it. But even if you believe . . .

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