Academic journal article Arena Journal

Zionism: An Unfinished Revolution?

Academic journal article Arena Journal

Zionism: An Unfinished Revolution?

Article excerpt

How Do You Say Modernism in Hebrew?

In a recent and fascinating study published in Israel, the history and achievements of Israeli - or Hebrew - modernist art, music, architecture and literature have been documented and discussed under the title Hoiu Do You Say Modernism in Hebrew?1 Clearly, the authors and editors of the collection felt that, despite the rich modernist artistic heritage of modern Hebrew culture, the status of modernism in Israeli culture is still underappreciated or misunderstood and its rehabilitation is an important intellectual task. However, the editors did not explicitly raise any political consideration in their book. This essay seeks to address this question and argues that the modernist history of the Zionist movement needs to be re-examined in order to rehabilitate the universalist aspects of the project of Jewish nationalism that lie dormant in its intellectual heritage. This paper is not intended as a definitive statement and does not offer a detailed empirical or historical analysis but rather raises some theoretical and more generally philosophical questions based on what I take to be the ideological heritage of Zionist thought. I am aware that some of the following reflections may fall on deaf ears or even provoke hostile reactions due to the sensitivity of the topic, so I will try to be as clear as possible.2

In an essay entitled 'The Communist Hypothesis',3 Alain Badiou has proposed that, despite the obvious failings and anachronistic nature of the communist societies of the twentieth century, the belief in a universal politics and a pacified, just global society that transcends capitalism is in need of rehabilitation and that attempts should be made to invent the political and aesthetic forms through and in which these ideas can be realized. I would like to make a similar proposal in regards to Zionism. I propose this not with the aim of rehabilitating justifications for the state of Israel, whose policies I do not support. Rather, I propose it precisely because I believe that within the history of Zionism there exist similar aspirations to those shared by communism and that a reexamination of its history and development may yield useful results for those - whether Israeli citizens like myself or not - who wish to follow Badiou's call.

Many Unfinished Projects?

I would like to begin by explaining the title of this essay and in this way introduce my main points. I believe that Zionism is an unfinished project insofar as its modernist history determines that it can never be completed. In order not to generate confusion as to my intention and so as not to be mistaken for what I am not, it is important to point out some rival contemporary attitudes to this issue. Many people these days make apparently similar claims about the ends of the Zionist revolution. The notion that the revolution is not over is expressed in three major ways, none of which I endorse. The first is by US fundamental Christians and the Israeli Right, by which I mean the ideological settlers in the West Bank who form the para-military wing to their representatives in parliament, who now more than ever sit in government and are enabled by the ever more offensive Benjamin Netanyahu, the current prime minister of Israel. When they interpret Zionism as an unfinished project they mean only one thing: the violent expansion of territorial conquest and the transformation of Palestine into a totally Judaized space free of foreign elements, most notably the Palestinian Arabs. This is a political position that I vehemently reject.

The second position is held by whatever remains of the Israeli liberal Left and is also the position of another increasingly unimaginative American president, Barack Obama. This sometimes goes by the name of the Two State Solution. This position is that Zionism is unfinished insofar as Israel has not achieved peace with its neighbours behind the internationally recognized pre-1967 borders. …

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