Zionism: The Crucial Phase

Zionism: The Crucial Phase

Zionism: The Crucial Phase

Zionism: The Crucial Phase


Zionism, as it emerged in the late 19th century, called for a grand effort to create an independent, self-governing Jewish nation. By publicly raising the flag of autonomy, it was the Zionists, ultimately, who accomplished this truly revolutionary change, transforming the structure of Jewry, its condition among the nations, and the play of conflicting religious and secular beliefs.
Completing the most comprehensive and thorough examination to date of the rise and consolidation of this remarkable movement, David Vital's Zionism: The Crucial Phase is the third and final addition to the critically acclaimed history of Zionism. The first volume in the series, The Origins of Zionism covered the years from 1881 to 1897, and was followed by Zionism: The Formative Years which continued the history through 1906--winning both the 1983 Kenneth B. Smilen/Present Tense Literary Award and the Jewish Chronicle/Wingate Award. The final volume considers the critical period on the eve of World War I, when Zionist leadership was faltering, the promise it had held out to the crushed and impoverished Jews of Europe had drastically diminished, and it appeared as if the movement was already in decline. Studying the sources and consequences of this decline and the dramatic and unexpected wartime recovery, Crucial Phase dispels the myths and legends surrounding British policy on Zionism under Lloyd George and Balfour and sheds light on the revolutionary nature of Zionism and its dedicated followers.


This is the concluding volume of what has become—but was not originally intended to be—a series of three. Each was conceived and written in turn as an independent book, dealing with a specific period and with a distinct theme. In the first case, it was with the circumstances in which a radically new national movement emerged in Jewry in the years 1881–97. In the second, it was with the process by which the movement took on its more or less definitive character in the years 1898–1906 and with the essential features of that character. But together, the three books do nevertheless represent an attempt to treat a larger subject, the re-entry of the Jewish people into the world political arena, through a more extended period. And it is with the precise circumstances in which the threshold of that arena was attained and entry finally gained that the present volume deals. While the three books do not depend on each other, and overlapping and cross-references have been cut down to a minimum, it is the author’s hope that the links between them will, none the less, be apparent.

All three books, but the present volume especially, are offered as a contribution to the political history of the Jewish people—and this is natural enough. It was of the essence of the matter of Zionism that its adepts called—often uncertainly, it is true, and at times, in their heart of hearts, doubtfully—for a grand effort to make of the Jews an independent, self-governing, and therefore political nation once more. By having raised the flag of autonomy publicly and by the inner logic of their own internal procedures and institutions, it was they, ultimately, who did accomplish that truly revolutionary change, transforming not only the structure of Jewry, its condition among the nations, and the play of conflicting religious and secular beliefs and ideologies within it, but much else in the world besides. A history of Zionism is therefore necessarily first and foremost a political history.

The Origins of Zionism (Oxford, 1975, repr. 1980).

Zionism: The Formative Years (Oxford, 1982).

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