Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

The Invention of a Nation, Zionist Thought and the Making of Modern Israel

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

The Invention of a Nation, Zionist Thought and the Making of Modern Israel

Article excerpt

The Invention of a Nation, Zionist Thought and the Making of Modern Israel, by Alain Dieckhoff, New York: Columbia University Press, 2003. xi + 289 pages. Index to p. 297. $30.

The last sentence of this otherwise comprehensive and interesting book by Alain Dieckhoff encapsulates my main criticism of the study. That sentence reads: "It [the rediscovered consensus] is proof that Zionism, as a historical representation of the destiny of the Jews, still has plenty of life ahead of it" (p. 289). Yet, I cannot understand why the author, having reached this hopefully accurate conclusion, decided to entitle the book The Invention of a Nation. I imagine that the only answer lies in the theoretical school to which the author appears to belong, namely, the constructivists, who regard nationalism and the nation in general as an invented reality, rather than as a genuine historical entity. To my taste, the ethnonationalist school represented by sociologists like A.D. Smith or students of politics like Walker Connor would be a more hospitable setting for this book, perhaps the most important one since Ben Halperin's The Idea of the Jewish State.

Indeed, the book portrays over a hundred years of political and social thought starting with the "Forerunners" of Zionism of the mid-19th century and formally ending in 1948, with the establishment of the state of Israel. Within this time frame, the author identifies the main thinkers, shades of ideologies, and movements that constituted Zionism. He pinpoints the various streams of thought within each camp, revealing that sometimes the distances between them was wider than among Socialism, Cultural Zionism, or Religious Zionism. His in-depth analysis of figures like A.D. Gordon, in comparison to Marxist Zionists, is fascinating, as is his discussion of the undervalued political contribution of "reviver of modern Hebrew," Eliezer BenYehuda. With respect to the religious camp, while dedicating the main share to Rabbi A. …

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