Zeev Sternhell, The Founding Myths of Israel - a book about Israel's Nationalist Socialist political system - Peter Myers, December 5, 2002; update January 2, 2004. My comments are shown {thus}; Write to me at contact.html.

You are at http://mailstar.net/nat-soc-isr.html.

This text explains how Israeli 'nationist socialism' drew upon the ideas of Johann Gottfried von Herder, mediated by Aaron David Gordon.

There are many similarities with 'white Australia' of the 1950s - and no doubt 'white America',  and Japan of the 1970s, too.

But the greater community closeness excludes internal enclaves and external colonies.

Zeev Sternhell, The Founding Myths of Israel: Nationalism, Socialism and the Making of the Jewish State, translated by David Maisel, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1998.

{p. ix} Preface

... That is why one day at the end of the 1980s I decided to find out for myself. I wished to proceed in the only way that is really proper for a professional historian: to search the archives, to reread the texts, and to test social and political realities against the ideologies designed to guide policies. ... To analyze social and political realities, one has to give priority to the raw material of the period and not to the eyewitnesses' memories of it. ... Memory is not only a filter; it also has a regrettable way of reflecting the needs of the present.

Another unfortunate aspect of traditional Israeli historiography is the damage caused by the prevailing separation in universities of Jewish history

{p. x} from general history. The view that Jewish history is a separate area of study has already had many negative results ...

{p. xi} In contemporary Israel, as in Germany, Italy, and France, when problems connected with the more complex aspects of the history of the twentieth century come up for discussion, the historiographical debate assumes a particularly intense tone. In Israel the reason is that this academic debate merges with the public debate on the future of Israeli society. Thus, the Israeli intellectual establishment tends to blur the distinction between two totally different phenomena: the progress of scholarship and the emergence of what are called post-Zionist tendencies. ...

In this connection, I should explain that post-Zionism derives from two completely different sources: first, the debate about Jewish identity and the character of the future Israeli society (this takes place against a background of struggle over the future of the territories conquered in 1967), and second, the appearance of postmodernist tendencies in Israeli society. ... because postmodernist tendencies stress cutural pluralism and the rights of minorities, they are often regarded as hostile to the classical concept of Israel as the state of the Jewish people and as a melting pot in which the Jews lose their various former identities and

{p. xii} gain a single new identity. Moreover, placing the emphasis on minorities' rights immediately raises the problem of the Israeli Arabs, constituting about 20 percent of the population, and brings up the question of the Jewishness of Israel and the place of religion and tradition in lsrael's national identity in the coming generations. ...

The state of Israel is a classical product of modern nationalism as it materialized in Eastern Europe and the Third World After a long and difficult struggle, the nation was able to acquire a state.

{p. xiii} A liberal state can be only a secular state, a state in which the concept of citizenship lies at the center of collective existence. ... Thus, a state cannot be liberal as long as religion plays a major role in governing society and politics, or as long as the state is defined as the operative arm of the nation, conceived as a living organism, a unique creation, one of a kind.

{p. 3} Introduction

Nationalism, Socialism, and Nationalist Socialism

Speaking of the Israeli model of nation building, however, raises a question of general significance: is a national movement whose aim is a cultural, moral, and political revolution, and whose values are particularistic, capable of coexisting with the universal values of socialism? The leaders and ideologists of the labor movement used to answer this question unhesitatingly in the affirmative. They maintained that the movement's synthesis of socialism and nationalism was its main historical achievement and its claim to uniqueness among labor movements. From the beginning of their political careers, the founders persistently claimed that in Eretz Israel (Palestine) the aims of nationalism and socialism were identical, and that they complemented and supported one another.

In this book I examine this position ...

Was the nationalism of the labor movement and its practical expression, the pioneering ideology of conquering the land - first by means of a Jewish presence and Jewish labor and latey by force, if necessary - in any way special?

{p. 4} Every society is ruled by an elite. In this book I hope to reconstruct the saga of the labor elite and its long march toward a nation-state.

Israeli society was molded and assumed its present form in the decisive years of the British mandate. At the end of the 1920s, a few years before they gained official control of the Zionist movenlent, the labor elite had already acquired a position of unquestionable moral, social, and cultural authority in the Yishuv.

{p. 5} After more than forty yers of continuous political activity, the original leaders of the movement founded the state of Israel and shaped its first twenty years. ...

Thus, it is particularly significant that at the end of these long years of dominance a movement that claimed to be socialist had not created a society that was special in any way. There was no more justice or equality there than in Western Europe, differences in standard of living were just as pronounced, and there was no special attempt to improve the lot of the disadvantaged. ...

Moreover, by 1977 not only was Israeli society not different from any other developed society, but its social policies lagged far behind those in France or Britain under the Labour government. In secondary and higher education, in the advancement of the poorer classes, and in the provision of assistance to the needy and the "nonproductive" elements of society, Israel in the first twenty-five years of its existence was guilty of conscious neglect, continuing the policies that the same elite had maintained in the days of the Yishuv. Secondary education, a prerequisite of upward mobility in a modern society, was expensive and inaccessible to large numbers of laborers, salaried employees, artisans, shopkeepers, and new immigrants. Until the revolt of the Black Panthers in the early 1970s, Israel did not have any social policies at all. This was not due to lack of sensitivity but derived from ideology.

{p. 6} But in reality, far from being unique, constructive socialism was merely an Eretz Israel version of nationalist socialism.

{p. 7} Nationalist socialism, properly understood, appeared in Europe in the last years of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth as a alternative to both Marxism and liberalism. In contrast with social democracy, this ideology of national unity par excellence was the product of an encounter between anti-Marxist and antireformist tendencies in socialism on one hand and ethnic, cultural, and religious nationalism on the other. The uniqueness of European nationalist socialism, whose origins can be traced to the pre-Marxist socialism of Proudhon, in relation to all other types of socialism, lay in one essential point: its acceptance of the principle of the nation's primacy and its subjection of the values of socialism to the service of the nation. In this way, socialism lost its universal significance and became an essential tool in the process of building the nation-state. Thus, the univelsal values of socialism were subordinated to the particuutlistic valules of nationalism. In practice, this was expressed by a total rejection of the concept of class warfare and by the claim of transcending social contradictions for the benefit of the collectivity as a whole. This form of socialism preached the organic unity of the nation and the mobilization of all classes of society for the achievement of national objectives. According to the theory, this process was to be led by natural elites, whose membership was determined not by class, origin, or educational qualifications but by sentiment, dedication, and a readiness to make sacrifices for all. Nationalist socialism quite naturally disliked people with large fortunes, the spoiled aristocracy, and all those to whom money came easily and who could allow themselves to be idle. It lashed out mercilessly at the bourgeoisie whose money moved from one financial center to another and whose checkbook, close to its heart, served as its identity card. In contrst with all these, nationalist socialism presented the working man with both feet firmly planted on the soil of his native coun-

{p. 8} try - the farmer, whose horizons are restricted to the piece of land he tills, the bourgeois, who runs his own enterprise, and the industrial worker: the rich and poor who contribute the sweat of their brow, their talents, and their money to increasing the collective wealth.

According to this school of thought, the only real social distinction is between the worker and the person who does not work, that is, the "parasite." These social categories replaced the Marxist division of society into a class that owns the means of production and a class that does not. This form of socialism was careful to speak not of "proletarians" but of "workers," and to distinguish not between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie but between "producers" and "parasites." Nationalist socialism taught that all kinds of workers represented national interests; they were the heart of the nation, and their welfare was also the welfare of the nation. Thus, workers standing beside the production line and the owners of the industrial enterprise were equally "producers." Similarly, nationalist socialism distinguished between the "positive" bourgeois, the producer, and the "parasitic" bourgeois, between "productive" capital and "parasitic" capital, between capital that creates employment and adds to the economic strength of society and speculative capital, capital that enriches only its owners without producing collective wealth. So we see that nationalist socialism fostered a cult of work and productive effort of every kind. All workers were regarded as deserving of protection from the incursion of foreigners. Nationalist socialism wished to close its country's borders to foreign labor, and also to foreign capital when it competed with national capital, and considered the right to work as the right of every member of the nation. Nationalist socialism sought to manifest a natural solidality between productive national wealth and the worker; between the owners of capital, who provide jobs, and the native born-workers. This was a partnership of interests, but also an ideological partnership: all social classes were to unite in an effort to increase national wealth. All had to contribute to the capability of their society to compete against other nations. According to nationalist socialism, the fate of each social group was organically linked to that of all other classes, and all members of the nation were responsible for one another. Class walfare was obviously out of the question.

Indeed, nationalist socialism was based on the idea of the nation as a cultural, historical, and biological unit, or, figuratively, an extended family. The individual was regarded as an organic part of the whole, and the whole took precedence over the individual. The blood ties and cultural ties linking members of the nation, their partnership in the total national effort, took precedenct over the positin of the individual in the production system. To ensure the future of the nation and to protect it against the forces threatening to undermine it, it was necessary to manifest its inner unity and to mobilize all classes against the two great dangers with which the nation is faced

{p. 9} in the modern world: liberalism and Marxism in its various forms. Liberalism views society as a collection of individuals forever struggling for a place in the sun, a sort of open market in which the sole driving force is personal gain. Marxism views society as a place of conflict between hostile classes, groups driven by the inner logic of the capitalist system to fight one another relentlessly. The originality of nationalist socialism was that it refused to accept society as a theater of war. It also refused to contemplate any intermediate or partial solutions. ... Nationalist socialism repudiated all this mighty intellectual effort for one basic reason: all schools of thought involved in it belonged to a conceptual universe rooted in the principle of class warfare. ...

Altllough nationalist socialism detested the owners of fortunes and abhorred uncreative, egoistic, and speculative capital, it never objected to private capital as such. If capitalists did not sink their money in production, contribute to the enrichment of society, or employ workers, they were incorrigible parasites, but the fault lay with unproductive capitalists, not private capital itself. ... Thus, the aim of nationalist socialism was not the socialization of the means of production, and its attitude to private capital was solely functional.

{p. 36} Over time, laborers who were not members of kibbutzim or moshavim, that is, the ovelwhelming majority of workers, perceived that this idealization of physical work was a myth ...

{p. 37} An outstanding illustration of this phenomenon was the Histadarut s failure to develop a system of secondary education for its members' children; workers' children were expected to remain workers. ....

In theory the social status of the office worker was lower than that of the laborer, but in practice the Histadrut and party apparatus were made up of workers who had abandoned work in agriculture or the factory as soon as they could or of people who had never done any physical labor. ...

The Histadrut sought to provide its members with a comprehensive framework of life. As the organization matured and reached its final form, the Histadrut became a power structure that mobilized all members for the supreme national goal.

{p. 40} The labor movement gained the bourgeoisie's cooperation in the area it believed was most important: the financing of the agricultura settlement that was conquering the land. ...

From the beginning, the kibbutz had a special place in the Zionist ethos. Agricultural collectives fired the imagination of millions of Jews throughout the diaspora ...

{p. 41} Agricultural collectives were exhibited with great pride to all visitors from abroad, and all of the Jews and noll-Jews, socialists and members of the European nobility, were thrilled and excited at the sight of the egalitarian utopia coming to life in the land of the Bible ...

However, on the eve of independence, at the end of 1947, in a general population of more than 600,000 and a Histadrut membership of 175,659 people, only 23,962 lived in kibbutzim and 8,149 in moshavim ...

{p. 42} As is always the case with nationalist ideologies, the conceptual system of the labor movement was elitist. The activist minority engaged in collective settlement was held to represent the hard core of the conquerors of the land. In the same way, only the pioneering minority among the Jews of the diaspora really interested the leadership of the labor movement: the Jews of Eastern Europe were to furnish the pioneers, and the Jews of the United States were to provide the means for settling the country. Everything else was secondary.

{p. 43} The evolution of the Histadrut is a classic illustration of Robert Michels's well-known ideas, and of Milovan Djilas's more recent ones, about the oligarchic tendencies of organizations. The labor oligarchy was undoubtedly a "new class" in the strictest sense of the term. The "family wage" (see chapter 6) was already a fiction from the mid-1920s on, and in periods of crisis, like the late 1930s, there was an enormous gap between the managers and officials of the Histadrut economy, who enjoyed a guaranteed income regardless of the economy, and the masses of the unemployed.

{p. 47} Most national movements and parties that managed to translate their historical and cultural aspirations into political terms in the late 1800s and early 1900s viewed themselves as fighting not only for their nation's liberation from a foreign yoke, for its unification, or for the return of its separated brethren but also for protection from assimilation, loss of identity, and cultural annihilation. Zionism was also of this nature. Physical danger, which was a real threat to Eastern European Jews, was not the only peril. The danger of a loss of identity--the result of a modernization process that had begun to spread to Eastern Europe as well--was even more serious. A seemingly paradoxical situation had arisen. Although liberalism had suffered serious setbacks in Germany, Austria, and France--as a result it appeared that the Jews' emancipation was in jeopardy--the assimilation process continued at full strength. Most Jews continued willingly to pay the price for emancipation and gave up their national identity without difficulty, even when it was perfectly clear that this provided no solution to anti-Semitism. Despite the fact that society as a whole increasingly opposed their absorption even as individuals, cultural assimilation continued. The process of loss of identity was very rapid in Central and Western Europe, but signs of it also began to appear in the east, in the Russian empire. It could easily be supposed that in a short time assimilation would gain as much ground there as it had in Western Europe.

A concern for the fate of the nation, which for the first time in its history found itself in a situation in which the traditional frameworks that had held it together for so long were disintegrating, and whose destiny had begun to depend on the personal decision of each member, was accompanied by another, no less important phenomenon: a loathing of the diaspora. No one was more disgusted with their people, more contemptuous of its weaknesses and its way of life, than the founders. These stern individuals, who permitted no self-indulgence, described exiled Jews in terms that at times resembled those of the most rabid anti-Semites. Aaron David Gordon, for instance, wrote that the Jewish people was "broken and crushed ... sick and diseased in body and soul." This great disability, he said, was due to the fact that

{p. 48} {quote} we are a parasitic people. We have no roots in the soil; there is no ground beneath our feet. And we are parasites not only in an economic sense but in spirit, in thought, in poetry, in literature, and in our virtues, our ideals, our higher human aspirations. Every alien movement sweeps us along, every wind in the world carries us. We in ourselves are almost nonexistent, so of course we are nothing in the eyes of other peoples either. {endquote}

Indeed, said Gordon, "It is not our fault that we have reached this point, but that is the fact: that is what exile is like." This destructive criticism was very widespread at the time of the Second Aliyah and, no less than the danger of pogroms in Russia, was fundamental to Zionism.

From the beginning, Zionism faced stiff competition from two factors that played a powerful role in Jewish life: on one hand the instinctive urge to save one's skin and ensure one's economic existence by leaving Eastern Europe for the New World, and on the other hand the attraction of movements with a strong universal and humanistic component, bringing the promise of full emancipation: socialism and liberalism. Emigration to America was a response to the blows anti-Semitism inflicted, a consequence of modernization. The only barrier Zionism could place before this mass exodus was a rejection of the diaspora as such: not merely a rejection of the European diaspora, where the Jewish ability to survive had disappeared, but a total opposition to the concept of life in the diaspora. It was therefore necessary to demonstrate that Jewish life outside Eretz Israel was in its death throes. The Jews, wrote Gordon, were "a people hovering between life and death," and if they had not yet vanished from the face of the earth, it was only because "the body of the people of Israel existed in a mummified state." But now that "the walls of the pyramid have been breached ... the body has begun to crumble, and the fragments are dispersed in all directions." Thus, "In exile, we do not and cannot have a living culture, rooted in real life and developing within itself. We have no culture because we have no life, because the life that exists in exile is not our life."

This concept of the diaspora was quite common among the leadership of the Second Aliyah. In 1915 Ben-Gurion repeated Gordon's statement almost word for word: "We cannot develop a normal and comprehensive culture in exile, not because we do not have the right but because we are physically and spiritually dependent on the alien environment that consciously or unconsciously imposes its culture and way of life upon us." Thus, from the point of view of Zionist activism, there could be no compromise with exile. "Not to condemn exile means to perpetuate it," wrote Berl Katznelson at the height of the Second World War. In this connection he mentioned an article by Yosef Aharonowitz, one of Hapo'el Hatza'ir's founders, written a few years earlier. Aharonowitz, wrote Katznelson in December 1940, "con-

{p. 49} trasted Eretz Israel with the diaspora, not because he thought Eretz Israel could rescue all the Jews of the diaspora but because he saw that destruction was coming over the diaspora, and only the remnant of Israel in Eretz Israel would be rescued, and that would become the Jewish people." A hatred of the diaspora and a rejection of Jewish life there were a kind of methodological necessity for Zionism.

This had two consequences. First, the explanation of anti-Semitism given by Jew haters of the school of social anti-Semitism fell on fertile soil here. Typical of this way of thinking was an article that appeared in Ha'ahdut in 1912.

{quote} Modern anti-Semitism, which the Jews have suffered from during this last century, in politically free countries as well, is largely a consequence of the abnormal economic positions that the Jews have occupied in the diaspora. ... Today, the Jewish people has many more shopkeepers, businessmen, teachers, doctors, etc., .. than the small and impoverished masses of Jewish workers is able to support. Thus, our shopkeepers, businessmen, and members of the liberal professions are obliged to gain their livelihood at the expense of the hard toil of the non-Jewish workers. {endquote}

Similar ideas may be found in abundance in all modern European anti-Semitic literature, and they underlie the claim that modern anti-Semitism is not an expression of religious or racial hatred but an attempt to root out parasitic elements that prevent the proper functioning of social systems. Thus, anti-Semitism has been represented as a defense of the working masses against their exploiters, and hence as a legitimate political phenomenon. It has been seen by many as a manifestation that does not necessarily contradict universal, humanistic, or egalitarian values. At the beginning of the century, the views of those who sought Jewish political independence and those who sought to purge their countries of the Jewish presence were often quite similar.

The second and most important consequence of the rejection of the diaspora, however, was that all hopes and efforts focused on Palestine. The country was regarded as the sole center of not only Jewish existence but also Jewish history, the source of inspiration and the elixir of life. As with all national movements, history played a decisive role in Zionism. As with all national movements, Zionist interpretations were very selective: not only was the favorite period always that of the kings and Maccabees, but it sometimes seemed that between the far-off days of independence and the beginning of the return to the land at the end of the nineteenth century, very few events worthy of mention had taken place in the nation's life. Not only was Jewish history in exile deemed to be unimportant, but the value of living Jews, Jews of flesh and blood, depended entirely on their use as raw material

{p. 50} for national revival. The Jewish communities scattered across Central and Eastern Europe were important to the founders chiefly as a source of pioneers. They were considered to have no value in themselves.

Thus, even at the height of the Second World War, there was no change in the order of priorities: it was not the rescue of Jews as such that topped Berl Katznelson's order of priorities but the organization of the Zionist movement in Europe. In December 1940 Katznelson lashed out at Polish Jewry in areas conquered by the Soviet Union because they were unable to cope with the situation and "unable to fight even for a few days for small things like Hebrew schools. In my opinion," wrote Katznelson, "that is a terrible tragedy, no less than the trampling of Jewry by Hitler's jackboots." Indeed, this was the founders' order of priorities from the beginning, and the tragedy of the Jews in the Second World War could not change it. Zionism was an act of rebirth in the most literal sense of the term. Thus, every event in the nation's life was evaluated according to a single criterion: the degree to which it contributed to Zionism. ...


Aaron David Gordon, it is generally agreed, has a special place among the people of the Second Aliyah. To the pioneers who got off the ship at Jaffa, "this Jew of about fifty," as Katznelson described him after their first meeting, was already very old. But more important, Gordon was a man of intellectual stature. Among the young pioneers, he stood out as a giant. He was familiar with the dominant cultural trends of his time and knew how to adapt them to the needs of Zionism. Like Ahad Ha'am, Gordon was not an original thinker, but he was one of the few links between the young leadership of the labor movement and European culture as a whole. Katznelson was especially close to Gordon and absorbed his influence directly. At Kinneret, the legendary settlement on the shore of Lake Tiberias, they shared a room, and long afterward Katznelson related that he was the first person to see all of Gordon's manuscripts at that period. There is no doubt that Gordon's influence on Katznelson was decisive and profound. In the struggle between the heritage of Borochov represented by Po'alei Tzion and the pure nationalist current represented by Hapo'el Hatza'ir, Gordon's presence in the country carried special weight for those semi-intellectuals who began their political activities before the First World War.

Gordon gave these young people, who lacked the intellectual equipment of a traditional Torah education and had not yet acquired any real European culture, the first solid basis on which to construct their national outlook. He developed a form of semisecular nationalism that in many respects, although in a far more moderate way, reflected some of the basic principles of European integral nationalism. "A complete and absolute nationalism," "a nationalism complete and absolute through and through," was how Gordon, in 1921, described the conceptual framework and modes of behavior that he deemed necessary for the nation's survival in the open and secular world of the future. For him, the existential danger was not anti-Semitism but liberalism. Since national life in exile, as we have seen, was not considered a life worth living, Gordon proposed a radical solution. ...

{p. 53} The integral nationalism of Gordon is based on the assumption that the nation is "one great family," an organic body the individual draws not only his culture but his very existence. A nation, wrote Gordon, unlike a society, "is not a mechanical conglomeration of individuals from the general pool of humanity." Unlike a society, "which is a mere artificial conglomeration, devoid of the spirit of life," a nation "is bound up with nature. Its living connection with nature is its creative force, which makes it a living entity."

The nation is the source of life. "The nation created language (that is, human thought), religion (that is, man's conception of the world, the expression of man's relationship to the world), morality, poetry, social life. In this sense, one can say that the nation created man."

On several occasions Gordon expressed his absolute rejection of the liberal conception of the nation as a collection of individuals. He called this a "society," that is, an "artificial conglomeration, devoid of the spirit of life," as opposed to the nation, "which created human nature and human life." Moreover, "The nation represents the spirit of the individual." And elsewhere he said that one should always remember that the soul of the people "is the source of the soul of each one of us, and that its life is the source of our life." Finally, since it is a living body, a nation cannot exist for any length of time uprooted from the soil in which it grows. It receives its creative power from its roots in the soil. "This is the root of its soul," which sometimes it can preserve even after "being uprooted from its soil," but only if "it is not completely dried up or is not overlaid with the spirit of another nation." Thus, a nation has to preserve its purity of soul, and it can do this only by settling on a piece of land, which is the inheritance of the nation. "Purity of spirit" was always one of the shibboleths of tribal nationalism. There is no doubt that one finds in Gordon's teachings, as Shlomo Avineri has pointed out, an echo of Slavophile nationalism. In fact, one finds there not only echoes but a real intellectual affinity with integral nationalism. ...

But Gordon was also aware of the perversions and dangers to which nationalism was prone. In this respect, Gordon has a special place among the theoreticians of integral

{p. 54} nationalism. He understood that Marxism, as well as Nietzschean individualism and Tolstoyan "altruism," could drive nationalism further and further into the clutches of the "darkest forces." Nationalism was transformed into a "brutal, vulgar chauvinism," and conditions were ripe for "the wild and vulgar national egoism to explode in all its savagery." Similar considerations applied to the relationship between the individual and the nation. "It is forbidden to sacrifice man even on the altar of the nation," said Gordon. Yet, at the same time, "Individuals are like cells in the body of the nation." A deterministic relationship defines the individual's behavior and his way of thinking even when he is not aware of the importance of the "national character in his soul." Gordon concluded that "the national "I" is in this sense the progenitor of the individual "I" or, at any rate, it plays a large part in its formation and existence." Gordon repeated this assertion in various forms, together with the principle, which was one of the cardinal tenets of organic nationalism, that this natural and organic relationship between the individual and the nation exists on an unconscious level, independently of the individual's volition. This was a key concept: even when the individual constitutes a value in himself and is not called upon to sacrifice himself on the altar of the nation, the relationship between himself and the nation remains totally independent of his own powers of decision.

{quote} Thus, we see in reality that each individual "I," to the degree that it is authentic--that is, to the degree that it draws from the depths of life, from the depths of the infinite--always draws from the wellspring of the nation it is national in its productions and in all its manifestations, whether their progenitor is aware of it or not, and quite often despite the fact that their progenitor consciously and knowingly rejects nationalism (thought, it seems, does not always acknowledge its source even when it is genuine. Authenticity does not belong to consciousness but to below the level of the conscious. Thought is genuine only to the degree that it derives from that source). {endquote}

Thus we reach the conclusion that only members of the same nation can participate in a common cultural tradition. This conception of the relationship between the individual and the nation is inseparable from integral nationalism.

{But nations contain excluded minorities; are they entitled to a nation
too? If one does not want such a schism, one must accomodate them.
Nations also contain free spirits, people who feel part of some other
culture. Finally, nations shed members and absorb new members, thus
changing over time. There is no immutable 'Group Soul' akin to a
Platonic Form}

According to Gordon, the nation is the element linking the individual to humanity at large. Humanity is made up not of individuals but of nations: "The nation, so to speak, represents the spirit of the individual. ... Through the nation, the soul of each individual becomes a kind of reflection of cosmic existence." The nation "is the link between the soul of the individual and the soul of the world.

There is no doubt that throughout his career Gordon was deeply influenced by Johann Gottfried von Herder. Herder's thinking had tremendous

{p. 55} importance in Eastern Europe. Shmuel Hugo Bergmann has already drawn attention to the similarity between Herder's and Gordon's views. Bergmann observed that "Herder's definition of the people and the state recurred in Gordon's `people-state' concept. And, like Herder, who stressed the organic nature of the people (Volk) and the mechanical nature of the state, Gordon claimed that the people reflected the life of the cosmos, whereas the state was merely a machine." Bergmann regards Herder the father of a pluralistic concept of nationalism, advocating a comradeship between nations, believing in spontaneity, and disparaging both the state and a closed society. He writes that Zionism, in the beginning, drew from the same "sources of humanism as those which Herder offered the awakening peoples of Europe."

There is no doubt that Herder's teachings, especially in their immediate context, in the second half of the eighteenth century, had a humanist dimension. But, at the same time, Herder's conception of the Volk community as an organic whole, his stress on tribal roots and on community's distinct collective consciousness, to which he also referred in terms of "national character" and "national spirit," his discussion of the conflict between "climate" and the "genetic force," had a different connotation at the beginning of this century. Herder's organic concept of the nation, the cult of the Volksgeist (the spirit of the people), his historicism, his assertion that the proper foundation of collective identity is a common culture, fostered a cultural nationalism that as early as the second half of the nineteenth century gave rise to the historical-biological form of nationalism. By contrast, liberal nationalism was inspired by the doctrine of natural rights and the idea that the individual had priority over society, and that civil society, as a collection of autonomous individuals, had priority not only over the state but also over the nation.

Neither liberal thought, which centered on civil society, nor Hegel's system, which was based on the state, corresponded to the needs of the Eastern European intelligentsia. This was even more applicable to the Jewish-nationalist intelligentsia: an acceptance of the liberal concept of society would have meant the end of the Jewish people as an autonomous unit, and Hegel's philosophy of history and philosophy of law had little significance where the Jews were concerned. However, the concept of nation offered by Herder, the father of volkisch thought, had much relevance in Eastern Europe. The definition of the nation not in political or judicial terms but in cultural, historical, linguistic, and religious terms raised the stature of all those peoples who had lost their political independence hundreds of years earlier. The idea that the individual owed his being to the nation, that unique cultural unit which derived its existence from nature and was rooted in the soil of the motherland, created a human identity independent of a person's political or social status.

{p. 56} {quote} In nationhood there is something cosmic, as if the spirit of nature of the nation's motherland fused with the spirit of the nation itself.... And that is what is all-important. This is the nation's source of life and creativity, its supreme source of abundance, and it constitutes the difference between the nation, a living and creative collective body, and a society, a mere functioning mechanism. {endquote}

This form of nationalism had a religious component. A cultural-organic conception of the nation necessarily included religion, which it saw as an inseparable part of national identity. This was the case in Eastern Europe, but also in Western Europe, in France and Spain. French integral nationalism was no less Catholic than Polish nationalism, and religion played the same role in it as it did in Poland or Romania. It was a focus of unity and identity, over and beyond social divisions. In integral nationalism religion had a social function, unconnected with its metaphysical content. Generally, it was a religion without God; in order to fulfill its function as a unifying force, religion required only external symbols, not inner content. Thus, it was natural that Gordon would reject anticlericalism and seek a rapprochement between the religious and the secular. He regarded Jewish anticlericalism as an imitation of European phenomena, an expression of spiritual servitude. Jewish anticlericalism, in his opinion, had no justification because "our religion does not give anyone power over anyone else." If certain rabbis aspired to clerical status, he said, they were in principle no more to be blamed than those who sought power "in the name of the Haskala [Jewish Enlightenment] or in the name of the proletariat." Gordon admitted that the Haskala's negation of religion had been necessary to national revival, but now that it had taken place there was no reason to con-tinue emulating others,

{quote} for the simple reason that our religion is not, like the religion of the European peoples, of alien origin, but is the creation of our national spirit. Our religion permeates our national spirit, and our national spirit is to be found in every part of our religion. To such a point is this true that it is perhaps not too much to say that our religion is our national spirit itself, only in a form that has come down to us from primeval times, and it is no accident that we have survived on the strength of it until today. Its form has grown old, but its spirit seeks renewal. {endquote}

{But Judaism was constructed from other religions too. Freud said it drew on Akhnaten's monotheism: moses.html, and Mary Boyce sees a clear influence from Zoroastrianism: zoroaster-judaism.html}

This was also the view of Katznelson and the great majority of the leaders of the Second Aliyah. They all regarded religious heritage or "tradition" as having a value in itself, without any connection to ceremonial or metaphysical beliefs.

Eliezer Schweid has examined the place of religion in Gordon's thinking. Gordon's expectation "that Zionism would prove to be a movement of reli-

{p. 57} gious renewal," wrote Schweid, "that only as such would it have a chance of succeeding, his prayer for the revival of prophecy among the people, is simply an expression of his belief in the existence of an eternal stratum of basic religious experience." Religion, according to Gordon, is "one of the basic factors that have made man what he is ever since he has been man." Schweid concludes with two observations that are particularly interesting from our point of view: on one hand, he points out Gordon's positive attitude not only to "the traditional requirements of religion: its beliefs, its rituals, its commandments as a whole," but also to "the historical manifestations of tradition"; on the other hand, he draws attention to "the paradox of religiosity without belief in God" in Gordon's thinking.

{thus the Non-Theistic variant of the Jewish religion: philos.html}

In fact, this is not a paradox at all. European integral nationalism also regarded religion as an essential component of national identity. Consequently, its attitude to tradition, ritual, and, generally, the church as an institution was extraordinarily positive. Its affirmation of religion as a source of identity had no connection with metaphysics. At the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, religion divested of a belief in God was considered an unrivaled basis for mobilization and a component of national identity not only in Eastern Europe but also in the West. This was an outstanding example of the common ground between all national movements.

Essentially, Gordon, and Katznelson after him, accepted Ahad Ha'am's view that "someone who says 'I have no connection with the Jewish religion, with the historical force that gave life to our people and influenced its life, spirit, and observances for thousands of years' ... may be a decent man, but he is not a national Jew even if he lives in Eretz Israel and speaks the national tongue."

In the Zionist context, the religious element was reinforced by a supremely important factor: for the founders, the Bible was not only a tool to cement the inner unity of society but an indispensable weapon in the struggle for the land. "We in this country," said Gordon, "created the saying `Man is made in the image of God,' and this statement has become part of the life of humanity. With this statement, a whole universe was created." From this he drew the following political conclusion: "With this, we gained our right to the land, a right that will never be abrogated as long as the Bible and all that follows from it is not abrogated."

It may be said that the religiohistorical element as a focus of national identity had even greater importance in Zionism than in other national movements. In the final analysis, it was religion in the broadest sense, with all its national and historical connotations, that provided the justification for the conquest of the country and the legitimation of Jews' return. As in all expressions of integral nationalism, there is in Gordon a turn to irrationality.

{p. 58} We have seen the importance Gordon attached to the unconscious, both individual and collective. Like all theoreticians of tribal nationalism, he abhorred an excessive inclination toward reason and skepticism. National rebirth was supposed to be a remedy for that weakness as well, a weakness that Gordon very typically viewed as the cause of modern degeneracy.

{quote} It is not the very thing, the very defect for which we hope to find healing in a new life? Being sick with too much cerebralism and lack of life, and eaten up by doubts to the point of despair? One could say that all cultured humanity is clearly sick with excessive cerebralism, for the whole tendency of the present culture is toward excessive cerebralism at the expense of life, and it is this, in fact, that is responsible for the decline of humanity. {endquote}

To counter this "excessive cerebralism," Gordon, like Brenner and all the cultural critics of the period, turned to elan vital, mysticism, the forces of the soul. In fact, his work reflects the intellectual revolution of the turn of the century. Menachem Brinker has pointed out the feverish preoccupation with Nietzsche in Russian literature between 1890 and 1905. The currents that were active among young Jewish intellectuals at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century found their way into the work of Brenner, and Nietzsche is no less present in his narratives than Tolstoy or Marx. These European influences are also very recognizable in Gordon. Even when it is difficult to know whether these are direct influences or were absorbed from the prevailing Zeitgeist, there is no doubt about the way in which these influences molded Gordon's vision of history. His 1920 article, "A Clarification of the Basis of Our Ideas," is an adaptation of Nietzsche to the needs of nationalism, very common at that time among nationalist intellectuals in Europe. The taste for spontaneity, the cult of "life," and the rejection of the "mechanical" and the "herd instinct" will he familiar to any reader of the post-Nietzchean synthesis, anyone whose ears are attuned to the expression of the reaction against modernity, socialism and liberalism which swept over Europe at the beginning of the century. Whether such an interpretation was faithful to Nietzsche's teaching is irrelevant in this context.

When he asked himself the basic question put by every thinker and writer at the beginning of this century--"How can people be mobilized?"--Gordon accepted the conclusions of the Sorelian doctrine of "myths." He did not call it that but embraced its view that in order to mobilize people one must appeal to their instincts and emotions rather than to their intellect. "An idea has little influence on the public," he said, "as long as it is the property of individuals, or as long as the public has only a cerebral understanding of it but does not grasp it emotionally. But one has no greater power over life than when the idea becomes everyone's property, the property of all." For Gordon, the great, the one-and-only question in history and politics was:

{p. 59} "How does one get the public to accept the idea until it becomes its own property, part of its very being, working naturally and constantly within it as an inalienable force?" As early as 1904, in his "Letter from Eretz Israel," Gordon claimed that nothing can be achieved by realism, or without self-sacrifice: material interests have no power to move people. Only the spirit, the consciousness, and the will can do this. Even socialism, wrote Gordon, had power only because of the idea it contained, because of its ability to turn "the idea from a spirit hovering upon the surface of life into a movement, a mighty current within life itself." Gordon's explanation of socialism's success shows that he did not underestimate it, which made him all the more determined to fight it.


Gordon regarded socialism as the diametrical opposite of nationalism and its greatest enemy. Socialism's appeal to emotions made it all the more dangerous. Gordon realized that because of its essential nature and its principles, no synthesis between socialism and nationalism was possible. In his view, socialism held that "the basis of life is matter," and the human unit on which it depended was society, the "mechanical collectivity," whereas nationalism represented "the living collectivity, the collective personality, collective man." Gordon not only understood the nature of Marxism but knew that there was also another form of the "mechanical," another type of "materialism," namely, capitalism and liberalism. He thus rejected with equal force both of these individualistic systems, which represented the domination of "the mechanical" over "the natural." He complained that capitalism, "with its advanced technology and cities cut off from nature[,] ... has finally destroyed the collective cell, the nation ... and reduced the individual, the private personality, to an isolated atom."

Gordon rebelled against the sense of urban alienation that industrial societies and large cities necessarily produced by tearing individuals away from their natural roots, soil, and landscape and by the modernization process that shattered the organic unity of the community, turning an individual into an isolated molecule without an identity. Gordon's view of the individual was essentially anti-individualistic and communitarian. The individual was considered a cell in the body of the nation, an inseparable part of the whole.

We see that Gordon grasped the point that socialism and liberalism had in common: the concept of society as a collection of individuals and the view of the individual as the final object of all social activity. These were precisely the social principles that integral nationalism abhorred, seeing them as a mortal danger to the nation. In this struggle, Gordon was totally

{p. 60} uncompromising. He was consistent in the positions he adopted, and in the best traditions of integral nationalist ideology he attacked socialism and liberalism with the same vehemence. As he saw it, the nature and purpose of socialism and liberalism were completely opposed to the nature and purpose of nationalism. "In the world of mere matter there is room only for isolated individuals, who together are called humanity," wrote Gordon. He hated this idea, which he saw, with some justification, as one of the foundations of modernity. "Modern thought," he wrote, "which bases everything on observation and experiment, has come to the general conclusion that the basis of life is matter. It sees the economic factor as the motive power of life, as if soul and spirit were not important." He deplored "the tendency to make people envisage the future in mechanical, materialistic terms, in terms of the economic well-being of the individual."

Thus, Gordon rejected the individualistic, hedonistic, and utilitarian content of both liberalism and Marxism. On one hand, he condemned "the teachings of socialism," which, he said, were "the doctrine of a human collectivity whose members have only a mechanical relationship, and whose collective life has only a mechanical economic basis"; on the other hand he attacked "modern individualistic teachings," because "individualism shrinks into its skin like a tortoise into its shell." Gordon repeatedly said that "in these teachings ... the principle of contraction ... is so profound that it can only give rise to materialism. It is the principle of contraction that produces the mechanical quality in human life, its separation from the life of the cosmos."

However, in the context of Jewish Palestine, Gordon believed that the true enemy was socialism and not liberalism. Thus, his whole struggle was directed against a single objective: Marxism, which the first members of Po'alei Tzion had brought with them from Russia. Although Borochov had already adapted this socialism to allow it to be assimilated by the national movement, Gordon rejected this solution, declaring that "between nationalism and socialism there is an essential opposition, a contradiction that cannot be resolved. Those socialists who violently oppose nationalism are undoubtedly consistent."

Gordon repeated this claim many times in various forms while adhering consistently to the principle. The ultimate argument was always that "if one pairs socialism with nationalism, one is pairing one kind with another, and the pairing cannot be successful." In 1909 Gordon insisted on his total opposition to socialism, giving the following as his reason: "I am as distant from socialism in the form in which it exists today as Judaism is from materialism. This, indeed, was an essential principle of his, and it is of paramount importance for an understanding of his teachings and their influence on the labor movement. In his rejection of the materialism of socialism, he employed the classic terminology of romantic, volkisch nationalism.

{p. 61} At the beginning of the century, materialism was a code word describing the rational and utilitarian nature of both socialism and liberalism. The idea that society and the state were tools to serve the good of the individual was regarded as materialistic. The term materialism denoted a hedonistic and utilitarian concept of society, a readiness to accept the pursuit of wealth and happiness as a legitimate goal, and a belief that human weaknesses and the darker side of human existence were the products of social factors rather than personal ones. No opinion was more despised by the integral nationalist school than the idea that the reform of civilization necessitated the reform of society rather than of the human being. In many respects, Gordon was a moralist who was bound to be revolted by the political culture of modern materialism. "It is no accident," he wrote, "that the founders of socialism based socialism on materialism and class warfare. The very fact that they based their whole argument on one aspect of human life shows how mechanical their thinking was." The "mechanical" nature of socialism particularly repelled Gordon. Although he was aware that socialism had nonmaterialistic currents, he condemned all forms of socialism as mechanical.

In Gordon's terminology, the "mechanical" denoted first individualism, which contradicted the idea of the individual as a cell in the body of the nation, an organic part of a whole. All representatives of the various organic or communitarian approaches hated individualism, in the sense that this concept had possessed since the seventeenth century, when the founders of Western liberalism, Hobbes and Locke, compared man to a molecule and society to a collection of units grouped together for their mutual advantage. In many ways, there is a great similarity between Gordon's point of view and that of the communitarian thinkers who flourished in Europe at the beginning of the century in the Catholic, antiliberal, and anti-Marxist Left. Gordon, whether consciously or instinctively, was in agreement with these cultural trends, which, although they contained oppositions and contradictions, had the same disgust for both the individualistic and the materialistic bourgeois culture and for Marxism, which was basically no less materialistic and individualistic. Adherents of the communitarian philosophy promoted organic concepts, which negated both capitalism and Marxism. But Gordon was also well grounded in the principles of romantic nationalism, which detested the "dryness" of liberalism and Marxism. He yearned for the spiritual exaltation, the outbursts of vitality and altruism of romantic nationalism, which, for him, represented the antithesis of the various kinds of Marxist socialism.

{quote} One feels this mechanical quality in all the actions, in all the public activities of the socialists, and in all that they write. One sometimes seems to catch sight, here and there, of signs of breadth, flights of imagination and song, but when one looks more closely one sees that this is only the sweep of an exhi-

{p. 62} bition, of a large battlefield, of a public procession, but not the expanse of a universe; that it is the flight of an aeroplane, of some advanced Zeppelin with all its sound and noise, but not the flight of an eagle, nor of a dove, nor even of a small free bird; that it is the sound of a gramophone, of some extraordinary singing machine, but not the song of a living person. {endquote}

And on the previous page, he observed:

{quote} The greatness of nationalism is its cosmic dimension. Socialism is totally different. ... It is the absolute opposite of nationalism, being entirely based on production and technology, whereas nationalism represents life and creativity. ... For this reason, the reforms and innovations in human life proposed by socialism depend chiefly on the reform of the social order and not on the reform and renewal of the spirit of man. {endquote}

Gordon regarded the socialists' ambition of reforming society as merely an aspect of the hated "mechanical" approach. Their preoccupation with society rather than with the individual as a cell in the body of the nation reflected, in his view, a preference for quantity over quality. Socialism's exploitation of the power of the masses--in Gordon's terminology, the exploitation of "deterministic force, or, one might say, the force of the herd"--its concern with class consciousness, and its doctrines of class warfare and the dictatorship of the proletariat betrayed its essential unhealthiness. Its practice of making social change the focus of human endeavor hindered the improvement of human beings, encouraged their egoistic and utilitarian tendencies, and finally imposed the "spiritual coercion" of a minority on the majority. Instead of developing the workers' sense of creativity and personal responsibility, socialism fostered a "herd psychology," utilitarian demands, materialism, collectivism, and an obsession with class warfare. It did not matter whether workers' claims were right or wrong. Socialism made it impossible to "change man's life and improve his character"; thus socialism's bankruptcy was revealed in all its starkness.

This total war against socialism did not, however, imply an acceptance of social injustice. A conservative who rejected socialism in the name of history and the natural order might have abandoned the idea of seeking justice and equality. The integral nationalists did not do this; they wished to do justice for the sake of the indivisibility of the nation, but while completely dissociating themselves from socialism. "As if justice and socialism were synonymous!" cried Gordon, repeating a formula used by all European integral nationalists. Moreover, the problem of exploitation was said to be not only of the workers but "of the people." Capitalism was not only the enemy of wage earners but the enemy of the people as a whole. Gordon declared that "our nationalism is all-embracing." Nationalism, which by definition represented the life of the nation in all its aspects, embraced the social side as

{p. 63} well. A nationalist ideology could not be indifferent to the fate of any part of the people. Thus, in order to defend workers, in order to support their demands, there was no reason to resort to socialism. It was enough, for this purpose, to adhere to the principle of national solidarity. "We demand justice--justice in all its forms, between a man and his fellow human beings and between one people and another--not in the name of socialism, but in the name of nationalism," wrote Gordon. He appealed to justice for the simple reason that "a robber is a robber, and a perverter of justice is a perverter of justice, whether the robber is a capitalist or a proletarian."

We have already seen that Gordon's main objection to socialism was that "it bases human life chiefly on the reform of social order and not on the reform and renewal of the spirit of the people." Indeed, the entirety of Gordon's nationalist ideology was focused on the reform of the human being and the reform of the nation. If the individual is a limb in the body of the nation, the improvement of the nation clearly depends on the reform of the human being, and the reform of the human being can be achieved only through labor. "In order to renew life and reform the human being," wrote Gordon, one must "wage war against parasites and parasitism, and not against this or that class or this or that group. We must wage war against parasitism of every kind, parasitism that is also rooted among us, the workers, and also against spiritual parasitism, parasitism on the spirit, the thought, the creativity of others, the universes and lives of others, and so on." For Gordon, like all socially aware nationalists, "parasitism" was first a cultural rather than a socioeco-nomic phenomenon. For him, a parasite was anyone, an individual or a group, who did not stand on his own two feet, who did not provide for himself, and who was dependent in some way on his fellow human beings. This, he claimed, was the situation of the Jewish people as a whole, including the Yishuv in Eretz Israel. It was a parasitic body living off the labor of others. And finally, it fell into spiritual parasitism as well: "We are parasites living on the handiwork of strangers and we do not feel it, for we have been parasites exploiting the minds of strangers, the souls of strangers, and the lives of strangers."

{p. 64} ... And farther on he wrote that "the war between capitalism and the proletariat is not so much a war between capital and labor as a war between the individual and collectivity in its modern form." The solution to class struggle, as to all political, social, and cultural problems, lay in the reformation of people by developing their "sense of creativity and responsibility.

In the reform of the human being, the essential first step toward the reform of the nation and the normalization of Jewish existence, physical labor had a special role. Katznelson even went so far as to say that his life in Eretz Israel and the work of Gordon had been entirely consecrated to the promotion of physical labor. Physical labor was for Gordon the means to the solution of all the problems of humanity and society. First, it was the prerequisite of all spiritual life: "The ultimate foundation of all works of the spirit is physical labor. That is, it is their foundation not in an economic sense but in a moral sense, in the sense of constituting a foundation of truth for all constructions of the spirit." Second, physical labor was the prerequisite for the reform of humans and the renewal of national existence. Similarly, Gordon viewed physical labor as the solution to the problem of exploitation and the realization of social justice. If everyone, he wrote, agreed "to abandon a life of parasitism, and if all potential idealists ... went to work and lived a life of labor, ... they would constitute a body that, through their multiplication, would slowly shift the center of power and ac-tivity in economic life and public life in general from the sphere of the capitalists to that of the workers." And finally, labor was a tool to redeem the land: the true instrument for conquering the land and restoring it to the Jewish people. "Thus, in saying `labor,' we have said everything. And if we add that labor must be free, on the basis of the nationalization of the land and the tools of labor, we have no need to seek the support of any mechanical socialism."

In these circumstances, not only was socialism unnecessary, but in Gordon's opinion it stood in opposition to all personal and national renewal. Socialism denied the primacy of the nation, loathed nationalism in its organic and cultural forms, and saw a change in the ownership of wealth as the prerequisite to a change in life. It focused on the need for a social revolution and regarded all attempts to "reform man" as naivete and bourgeois hypocrisy, if not sheer deceit. It was bound to be described by Gordon as the great enemy of Zionism. Thus, Gordon stated categorically: "We did not come to Eretz Israel on behalf of socialism, and it was not for its sake that we came here to labor and to live on the fruits of our labor." Gordon endlessly repeated this assertion, and at the same time he provided the truest description of the real situation: "We all came here to be the nation and to be ourselves. A small minority came here in the name of socialism, bringing its teachings."

{p. 65} Moreover, socialism, with its universal and international dimension, represented a mortal danger to Jewish nationalism, as it threatened to bring the hated exile to Eretz Israel. The founders' hatred of the exile knew no limits, and socialism represented an "exilic demon" that led astray "a rootless people hovering between life and death." Socialism, wrote Gordon in 1920, in an article entitled "Building the Nation," split the unity of the pioneering force that came to Eretz Israel, shattered its ideological cohesion, and weakened its purpose by promoting class interests and links with the international proletariat. He claimed that if socialism had triumphed, instead of a nation being built in Palestine, everything would have remained "as in the cities and shtetls of the exile." Socialism, wrote Gordon, was based on the opposition of classes, but the well-being of the nation required a solidarity transcending social divisions. One should seek unity with "our 'bourgeois.' Are they not the multitudes of the house of Israel: the shopkeepers, the merchants, etc., etc.?"

There is no doubt that Gordon's position was entirely consistent and of an unassailable inner logic. To those who hoped that one day "a suitable compromise would be found between nationalism and socialism," Gordon answered, "Here, no compromise is possible. Here, the only thing possible is a slow, imperceptible transition from socialism to nationalism in its new form." The new nationalism, for its part, understood that "all attempts to renew human life by means of new social arrangements and social education without beginning everything afresh, from the foundations, are only palliatives, perhaps able to provide a superficial and deceptive alleviation of the sickness for a time, and are in fact harmful, in that they distract attention from the cause of the illness and the necessity for a radical cure."

A radical cure was possible only through labor. Labor had both a spiritual and a national value. It created the new human being and the new nation; it was the expression of self-realization and of national rebirth; it symbolized a separation from the exile and was the supreme moral and practical instrument for conquering the land. It also represented a direct contact with nature. "To work in nature, to experience nature in Eretz Israel," and to feel part of the country, wrote Gordon, were one and the same thing.

In Gordon's opinion, the idea of physical labor "as a natural value in our lives," as a condition for "the renewal of life here," that is, the redemption of the individual and the nation, and "the war against parasitism through labor" necessitated "the nationalization of the land and the tools of labor." Gordon laid great stress on the fact that there was no connection between his call for nationalizing the means of production and socialism or class warfare; nor, he wrote, was there any connection between the war against "parasites" and the war against the bourgeoisie. However, he claimed there was an inalienable connection between "the idea of labor and the nationalization of the land." Just as labor was the inescapable prerequisite of the

{p. 66} reformation of man and national redemption, so "the primary foundation of national creativity ... is the land." Gordon was in total agreement with those who thought that "all the land should be national, just as all industry should be national. And there is no need," he wrote, "to be exploiters or exploited, but simply Jews working and living on their labor." The nationalization of agricultural and industrial resources was both an "economic necessity" and a means of redeeming the people."

Thus, Gordon can be ranked among the theorists of modern nationalism who on one hand developed a violent anti-Marxism, which also meant rejecting democratic socialism, yet on the other hand opposed capitalist exploitation and demanded public ownership of the means of production on behalf of the nation. The unity of the nation required the elimination of the exploitation that tore it apart, just as it necessitated an uncompromising struggle against the principle of class warfare. Gordon entirely opposed the policy of promoting "Jewish labor" in Palestine to serve any class interests whatsoever. In 1920, after the founding of Ahdut Ha'avoda and the Histadrut, he saw fit to declare, on behalf of those who rejected the idea of the unification of Hapo'el Hatza'ir and Po'alei Tzion, that Hapo'el Hatza'ir "did not seek socialism - either political socialism or productive socialism (if its activities in any way resemble productive socialism, that is, life; but the way of socialism is not its way, nor is the spirit of socialism its spirit)." The only union he recognized was "the complete union of soul of the entire people without any differences of class, party, or sect." Although Gordon regarded the reform of the human being as a value in itself, he considered the nation the sole criterion of all social and political action. It was the national "I" that prescribed the nature of the individual "I"; he did not view the individual as having any existence outside the organic framework of the nation. Thus, the moral arguments that Gordon used in favor of public ownership of the means of production were nationalist.

In 1920 Gordon summed up his nationalist outlook in two articles. In "Building the Nation," an essay that can be counted among the classics of nationalist socialism, he demonstrated his awareness of the deeper implications of his teachings.

{quote} I do not mean that we must be segregated from all other peoples, but the interaction and hence the comradeship between peoples must be an interaction of complete bodies, like the interaction of celestial bodies. There can be no question of an interaction of parts of these bodies against the other parts. Any union of parts of different bodies against the other parts of those bodies necessarily produces a division in those bodies and harms their wholeness of spirit, vitality, power of creativity, and inspiration. This means that such a union unwittingly destroys in the depths, from within, the subjective spiritual foundation of the structure that this type of unification is intended to create. {endquote}

{p. 67} In the second article, "On the Unification," Gordon gave us another classic example of nationalist socialist doctrine.

{quote} The socialists can say what they like, but I say quite openly: we are closer to our own "bourgeois" than to all the foreign proletariats in the world. It is with them, with our bourgeois, that we wish to unite, and we seek their resurrection as we seek our own. We shall fight their parasitism: perhaps we shall fight it more than the socialists themselves, just as every one of us would combat his own weaknesses more than the weak-nesses of others. But even in the midst of this war, we shall never forget for a moment that they are our own brethren and flesh and blood, whose sins and transgressions are our own, which we have to correct, just as we have to correct our own sins and transgressions. {endquote}

Like all nonconservative, or revolutionary, nationalists, Gordon knew that economic oppression, like great social differences, tears the nation apart and places its future in jeopardy. He rejected the rule of finance and class warfare in equal measure. The perpetuation of the existing social and economic order was almost as dangerous, in his opinion, as a socialist revolution. Gordon condemned the "rotten order of the domination of work by capital," but he claimed that capitalists and "those living on the work of others" who are interested in maintaining that order "constitute a very small part of any people." The great majority of the population, including the middle classes, has no reason to want "that rotten order to continue." In the best traditions of nationalist socialism, Gordon maintained that "from the national point of view, the war between labor and capital is not a class war and is not only an economic conflict but a war of the people against its parasitic elements, a war of life against corruption." He continued: "The power of the people is in labor, and the people wants the worker to eat the fruit of his labor in its entirety but does not want the power of his labor, the power of the people, to come to nothing." The worker, wrote Gordon, is the people, and workers as a class constitute the majority of the people, as opposed to a small stratum of exploiters. The war against exploitative capital is not a war against the bourgeoisie (a social category that in Gordon's oeuvre generally appears in quotation marks) but against parasitical elements, for the true struggle of all times and places is between producers and parasites.

Finally, Gordon asked the workers not to waste their energies on a war against capital, "which is essentially international, or a-national and inhuman," but "to concentrate on work, which is essentially national, and to fight against capital within the limits of the nation." Farther on, Gordon added another principle, which would become basic to constructive socialism and would be a chief feature of the cultural revolution as in-terpreted by the labor movement: "The emphasis should be not on the workers' portion of the immediate material benefits of labor but on the work itself--that is, its creativity and the spiritual benefit contained in it."

{p. 68} Thus, in addition to possessing a moral value, labor also had a national value: the reformation of the individual and the rebirth of the nation would come about through labor, as would the conquest of the land. Here, the workers played the role of "a vanguard going before the people." However, in a letter to Brenner in 1912, Gordon was careful to point out that although in his teachings "the main emphasis is on the actions of a few," he was not advocating a Nietzschean morality. These few are "the first to go forward and reach the place where the people are to be gathered," but this group should not "regard itself as a special class among the people, or as one part in opposition to another part." It serves as an infrastructure for the national edifice; it assumes responsibilities and experiences hardships, but unlike the proletariat in socialism, it has to remain an inseparable part of the nation as a whole. The Yishuv in Eretz Israel, the prototype of such a pioneering group, was "the first living cell of the national body in the process of resurrection." Its task was to bring to fruition the rights of the Jewish people over Eretz Israel.

{p. 96} In the collapse of Po'alei Tzion's ideological basis, the cooperative program of Nachmcm Syrkin, Franz Oppenheimer, and Shlomo Kaplanski played a major role In 1895 Oppenheimer, a physician fiom Berlin whose main interest was economics, published a long essay entitled Cooperative Settlement. The book had an interesting subtitle Toward a Constructive Rejection of Communism through a Solution to the Problem of the Cooperative and the Agrarian Question. Oppenheimer saw cooperative settlement as the highest form of social organization and regarded himself as the continuer of the utopian traclition of Charles Fourier, Etienne Cahet, and Robert Oven. He vas also close to Ferdinand Lassalle. The kind of cooperative colony he envisaged as a mixed rural-urban settlement, and its members were allowed to decide, after the initial investment had been made, the form the colonly would take, including the way the land would be divided into

{p. 97} private holdings.

{p. 104} Ben-Gurion's thinking as along the same lines, although his focus was not cooperatives but establishing "a Jewish state in Eretz Israel."

{p. 105} Ben-Gurion ... also thought that no program would be realistic without a solution of the Arab question ... Socialism and cooperatives were in his view only means to the goal of transforming "the Jewish people ... into a single political unit." In addition to domination by the bourgeoisie and the dictatorship of the proletariat (both of them equally absurd, in Ben-Gurion's opinion), there was also, he thought, a third possibility, "the dictatorship of the Jewish people."

Thus, in the years after the delegation's visit to the country, the Histadrut was established as a system that in no way resembled Syrkin's cooperative ideal. It was the most concentrated, disciplined, and power-driven system imaginable. Collective agriculture - the jewel in the crown - was based on two principles: control of the settlements by a central administration and the absolute dependence of the individual on the system. Outside the collective settlements, an ordinary capitalist society grew with the full encouragement of the labor movement. The likelihood that the entire new Jewish economy wo be reorganized on cooperative lines was no greater than the likelihood that it would be the arena of a liberating class struggle.

{p. 122} Ben-Gurion was apprehensive about the individualistic tendencies revealed in the demand to set up moshavim, and he feared the emergence of sectorial interests, which would lead moshav memhers to adopt positions similar to those of the farmers of the First Aliyah. These too had been Zionists, but they had yielded to their private economic interests. Ben-Gurion therefore wished to form an organized army of labor subject to the discipline of a general command, with a collective way of life that would facilitate mass colonization, a primary Zionist objective that, he believed, was impossible to achieve within the framework of the moshav. ...

Indeed, Ben-Gurion wanted to regiment the Histadrut in order to make it into an elite of public servants free of special interests. Anyone who reads young Ben-Gurion's writings with perception will have a better understanding of the well-known liking of the first prime minister of Israel for Plato. If it were up to him, Ben-Gurion would have established the Histadrut society on the lines of the guardians in The Republic; that is, as an elite group without property, living a communal existence and dedicated to community service.

This state builder understood from the beginning that a strong economic infrastructure was essential to the realization of political objectives. The economy had to absorb immigration; for this purpose, the leadership of Ahdut Ha'avoda favored the purest form of collective settlement, the kvutza or the kibbutz. From the beginning it was clear that the kvutza and the kibbutz, with their disciplined members and fully cooperative forms of life, constituted unique "regiments"; moreover, they were unrivaled political tools. ...

Ben-Gurion not only opposed moshavim but also refused to grant collective settlements their independence. ...

{p. 123} Hence the opinion he expressed in writing at the second convention of Ahdut Ha'avoda in September 1921. The Histadrut, he wrote, should be "the sole contractor of all public and private work in the county," and it should he organized as a "disciplined army of labor" in which all Ahdut Ha'avoda members would he immediately enlisted. They should he "irreversibly committed to carrying out any task that the leadership of the army of labor deemed necessary, and in any place they decided." To facilitate this, Ben-Gurion declared that "agricultural collectives and urban cooperatives should become the sole property of the Histadrut, and the produce of these enterprises should belong to the Histadrut." "All those working for the government, the Zionist Organization, the national enterprises, and the private sector would be working for the Histadrut, and their salary would go into the Histadrut fund. All the needs of the workers - food, clothing, housing, culture, children's education, and so on - would be provided by the Histadrut." ...

{p. 160} Thus, in the l920s, the idea of a socialism of national unity, or "constructive" socialism, attained its final form. It had a decisive influence on the development of the labor movement, and both theoretical and practical consequences. ...

{p. 161} A definition of socialism in terms of production rather than of distribution was already well known in Europe. It derived from a turn-of-tne-century revision of Marxism, which was based on two assumptions: there was no alternative to a capitalist economy, and the true opposition of social forces followed not the traditional Marxist pattern of a division of classes into the proletariat and the bourgeoisie but a division into producers and parasites. According to this view, the producing class was made up of all sectors that shared in the process of production, from the workers standing in the production line to factory owners and shareholders. This was also the nature of the distinction betwen productive capital and parasitic capital. Productive capital was capital invested in an enterprise. Such capital contributed to an increase in national wealth; it created jobs and competed with foreign industries. Thus, the productive worker had an interest in the success of the factory in which he worked, ancl there came into being a communion of interests between all the productive elements in society. Thus true class polarity was not between the possessors of the means of production and those without such means but between producers and parasites. This was the contribution of the European revolutionary syndicalists to the revision of Marxism and the retreat from it.

This conception of social divisions and the role of capital contradicted European social democracy and was well suited to a view of the nation as one's primal object of allegiance. If a man's position in the social order is determined not, as traditional socialism claimed, by ownership of the means of production but by his contribution to the increase of national wealth, then ethnic, national, and cultural affiliations once again become relevant and are of primary importance. This is how the meeting between socialism and nationalism came about, and on this basis a new synthesis arose. The originators of this synthesis also did not see a contradiction between socialism and nationalism. From their viewpoint, they were right. There was indeed no contradiction between socialism, in the sense they gave this concept, and nationalism.

{p. 165} This attitude to the middle classes that worked or that supplied work was in keeping with nationalist socialism. Like the workers, these bourgeois belonged to the class of producers. Katznelson's understanding of the working class was also identical with that of other nationalist socialists, and it was the opposite of the definition of class prevailing in the socialist movement at that time. Between the two world wars the accepted definiton of class was still faifthul to Marx's thinking. A class was a group with a common relationship to the means of production, a relationship that brings it necessarily into conflict with another group, which has a different relationship to the same means of production. By definition, an owner of the means of production and a person only using the same means of production could never belong to the same class of producers.

{So why have Jews, so often, been encouraging non-Jews to do the opposite: engage in class war, sex war, etc.?}

By contrast, all nationalist socialists regarded the urban worker, the farmer who owned his land but lived by the sweat of his brow, or the bourgeois whose small factory created employment and contributed to national wealth as the backbone of the country. The farmer always had a privileged place in nationalist socialist mythology; all nationalist socialists abhorred parasites and exploiters, and saw simple toiling folk, linked to the land and its scenery, as the eternal embodiment of the nation. Katznelson, too, asked his friends to strive to be "faithful representatives of Jewish history." He believed wholeheartedly "that our movement is responsible for the implementation of Zionism, for a people's destiny."

{p. 173} Contrary to the impression one might gain from a cursory reading, Katznelson was not a naive person, and he had few illusions about the relationship between the Jews and the Arabs. He regarded Zionism as a movement for the conquest of the land, and he had no hesitation in blacketing it together with other movements of conquest, although he always insisted on its special quality. "We knew," he wrote, "that one cannot deceive history. We knew that we would not he able to deceive the Arabs, nor did we have any wish to deceive ourselves. We knew that if there was ever an agreement between ourselves and the Arabs, it would be on the basis of not a curtailment of Zionism but the implementation of Zionism."

He said this at the beginning of the 1940s, but ten years earlier, after the Arab revolt of 1929, he had already fixed his attitude toward the Arab problem. First, he declared, one should not approach this question "with a sense of inferiority and a troubled conscience"; there was no intention of dispossessing the local inhabitants. He claimed that after hundreds of years of European colonization in Africa and Asia, the Jews were "the first people who came to one of these countries and said to its inhabitants, 'There is room for you here, and room for us as well.'" Moreover, far from harmling the local population, the Yishuv helped them economically "by giving them new means of subsistence." Thus, Zionism "could stand up and say to the socialists: from the time that Europe began to colonize and spread its culture, there has never been a colonizing enterprise as typified by justice and honesty toward others as our work here in Eretz Israel ... We have never been a colonialist movement; we are a movement of colonization." The difference between the two was reflected in the absence of a relationship of overlordship and exploitation between the Jews and the Arabs. "The term 'conquest of labor'" he wrote, "stems from the purity of our desire for a just relationship with the neighboring people." The very existence of a "Jewish working class ... should be enough to silence all those who wish to lead the Arab orkers astray." From this Katznelson drew the conclusion that Zionism had not only the right but also the duty to instill in Jewish youth "the feeling that absolute justice is on our side."

{p. 184} The Histadrut was held to be "the very embodiment of the process of rebilitation of the Jewish people," and already in 1925 Ben-Gurion was able to describe the form this process should take. ...

{p. 185} Most of all, the founders were aware of the supreme importance of economic control. They realized, from their experience in the dars of the Second Aliyah, that because of conditions in Palestine economic control was essential to political power: Economics was never an aim in itself; the ultimate goal was political. Consequently, the labor movement was built as a mixed system in which the economic aspect was used to enlist members and as an operative arm. Decision-making power remained with the hard political core. The political figures headed the system as well as its secondary organizations.

{p. 224} From the very beginning, the movement saw itself as bearing responsibility not only for the fate of the laborer who had immigrated to the country but also for the man with capital who built a house, planted an orchard, or built a factory. Ben-Gurion repeated this idea endlessly, and his struggle with the middle classes was never more than a dispute about control of public funds. Similarly, the middle classes, as Ben-Gurion knew very well, did not deny the value of national funds - money collected by Keren Hayesod (the Jewish Foundation Fund) or Keren Kayemet (the Jewish National Fund) - but objected only to the use that was made of them. In general, one can say that the political representatives of the middle classes objected to the exclusivity claimed by the Histadrut in the use of the national funds.

In explaining the nature of this struggle, Ben-Gurion revealed the significance he gave to the concept of class. "The debate concerning capital," he wrote, "the cause of the strife and opposition between the classes, is only about the use of capital. The question is not whose capital, but capital on whose behalf. It is not capital itself that is the subject of dispute, but only its destination." The middle classes wanted national funds to be made available to the private sector, and the Histadrut needed them for its own purposes, especially for collective settlement. Ben-Gurion described this struggle over resources, which was also a struggle for economic control and hence for political control, as class warfare. It is no wonder that the sections of the Zionist Organization concerned with settlement supported the position of the Histadrut with regard to colonization. They all knew that financing the activities of the Histadrut had nothing to do with class warfare in the usual sense or the socialization of the means of production. They all realized that the term class warfare, as used by Ben-Gurion, was only a code word for closing ranks in the internal power struggle in the Histadrut and in the struggle for political domination of the Yishuv and the zionist Organization.

Thus, Ben-Gurion was able to claim that class war was simply a struggle for the wholeness of the people, for its 'absolute and complete unity.'

{p. 225} Thus, the basis was laid for the great alliance with and division of labor in the middle classes.


An especially close relationship soon developed between the labor movement and the liberal or "leftist" branch of General Zionism, and between the labor movement and the part of the Zionist leadership that bore direct responsibility for the Zionist enterprise.

{p. 241} Glickson, the prinxipal spokesman of the liberal wing ... also encouraged labor to continue with its policy of interclass collaboration, One of the chief matters discussed at the third Histadrut Convention was the inclusion of Arab workers in the Histadrut. The General Zionist leaders urged the labor leadership not to make common cause with the extreme left on the basis of class conflict, but to concentrate instead on joining forces with the Jewish people at large rather than with the Arab workers.

{p. 243} Glickson unquestionably recognized the supremacy of the labor movement as the vehicle of national enterprise. ... and vigorously asserted that "zionism will not be implemented without the joint efforts of all classes and social segments."

{p. 269} An organization whose institutions were entirely made up of professional politicians, or functionaries dependent on each other for their political future, could not be receptive to criticism from the rank and file. These people felt too sure of their position, too protected by their friends who were also their employers or employees to the satisfaction of both sides. They did not have to stand continually for reelection, and over time they lost all sense of the need to struggle to maintain their position. This was the situation in the labor movement since the founding of the Histadrut. At the same time, the top leadership never renounced the humble title of "representatives of the community" ...

{p. 270} This playacting by the "comrades" was an integral part of the labor movement's political culture, but nobody was deceived by it. Everyone knew that the party and the Histadrut were led by a handful of professionals appointed by committees. In the 1930s this oligarchic arrangement was a major source of tension, bitterness, and frustration. In the Histadrut and Mapai, the elected person's dependence on voters was replaced by a universal dependence on the system. Thus, as long as the leadership was able to close ranks, there was no means of ejecting people from their positions. There vas also a sharply defined limit to criticism. As long as dissensions remailled in the ideological sphere and there was no threat to the system, freedom of expression was pemlitted and practiced, but as soon as there was a real danger, nonconformists were eliminated without mercy. ...

{p. 281} The Histadrut had no use for egalitarian utopians, charismatic workers' leagues, and rebels against the existing order, yet this was the type of people springing up in the Tel Aviv branch of Mapai. From the point of view of the organization, these were dangerous characters who disturbed the smooth functioning of the chain of command. The organization could not fulfill its objectives as a state in the making unless all those within it were ready to serve as a relay belt for policies decided at the top. ...

Thus, the leadership was suspicious of democracy and felt it was a nuisance endangering the stability of the entire enterprise. Katznelson claimed that the idea of submitting the labor agreement with the Revisionists to a referendum was "abandoning it to blind destiny," and Ben-Gurion openly demonstrated his disdain for democratic order: "An agricultural convention has not been held for six years. So what? In the last twelve years, there have been only two Histadrut conventions, and yet the organization hasn't been destroyed. At any rate, the lack of conventions has not prevented it from growing."

{p. 285} During the economic crisis of the second half of the 1930s, social differences in the Histadrut, which by now had become flagrant, gave rise to a bitter open confrontation. At the end of the 1920s, great discrepancies had arisen in the standards of living of the senior Histadrut bureaucracy and the agricultural workers or construction workers in Tel Aviv, but the crisis of the 1930s brought matters to a head. At the end of the decade, there was as much class warfare in the Histadrut as in the society as a whole. Thousands of hungry unemployed people with malnourished children were incensed at the Histadrut bureaucracy and those with permanent jobs. The top stratum of the bureaucracy enjoyed a standard of living that was by no means inferior to the higher bourgeoisie in general. Its members were the object of an animosity often bordering on hatred, due not only to the desperation of the unemployed but also to the deep resentment of those workers whose livelihood was more or less assured.

{p. 295} Ben-Gurion never saw any inconsistency in the fact that his apartnent in Pinsker Street in Tel Aviv, with its four large, attractive rooms, in which he went to live in 1927, (his family had moved thre from Jerusalem two years earlier), cost him ten pounds a month, two or three times the monthly salary of an agricultural worker ...

{p. 334} The charismatic minister of defense, Moshe Dayan, the legendary chief of staff of the 1950s, also supported the settlenlent, although in his usual cautious way. Dayan's basic position was similar to Allon's. "All the areas we have taken, including Suez and the Golan Heights, are dear to us," he said in August 1967, "but not like the cradle of our history, Hebron, Shilo, or Anatoth. This is not a question of extending our borders or Lebensraum. It goes much deeper than with areas we have merely conquered." And Dayan expressed himself in similar terms, but even more sweepingly and comprehensively, on 3 August 1967, when he mourned those who fell in the battle for the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jemsalem in 1948:

{quote} Our brothers who fell in the War of Independence - we have not abandoned our dream, nor have we forgotten your lesson. We have returned to the Temple Mount, to the cradle of our people's history, to the heritage of the Patriarchs, the land of the judges and the fortress of the kingdom of the House of David. We have returned to Hebron, to Shechem [Nablus], Bethlehem and Anatoth, Jericho and the crossings of the Jordan. ... Brothers, we carry your lesson with us. ... We know that in order to give life to Jerusalem, we have to station the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces and its armor in the mountains of Samaria and at the entrance to the Jordan bridges. {endquote}

{p. 336} Whereas the conquests of 1949 were an essential condition for the founding of Israel, the attempt to retain the conquests of 1967 had a strong flavor of imperial expansion. ...

Ben-Gurion, for his part, wrestled with whether the opportunity was not too good to be missed. In November 1956, when the Sinai desert was conquered during the Anglo-French-Israeli campaign, the Israeli attack on the Egyptian army was interpreted as a return to roots. The Gulf of Sharm el-Sheikh was now called Mifratz Shlomo (Gulf of Solomon), and the prime minister declared the whole war to be a "new Sinai revelation."

{p. 337} The solution found for Hebron was also applied in Sebastia. Rabin, like Eshkol before him, was aware of the grave error of settling in the heart of the thickly populated West Bank, but he too was unable to stand against those who insisted that he should be true to the principles of Zionism. He yielded to Peres, not only out of weakness but because the leadership of the Labor Party did not succeed in resisting the Zionist fervor ... Peres not only hoped to reap a political reward for his support of the Right but also saw himself as a sort of successor to Dayan ...

{p. 338} History and religion played the same role in Zionism as they did in all national movements of the nineteenth century. In Western Europe the importance of these antiliberal elements was considerable; in Central and Eastern Europe it was alwavs crucial.

{p. 340} At the end of 1995 many Israelis hoped that when Rabin and Peres would conclude the peace negotiations with the Palestinians, Israel would finally have come of age. ...

Rabin's assassination on 4 November 1995 was an act of resistance against that process of passage to normalcy. Rabin was a victim of the opposition led by the religious nationalist Right, firmly backed by the hard core of its secular counterpart. Indeed, in more than one respect, the changes we are witnessing in Israeli society today are more significant than those in its first revolution, the national revolution described in this book.

The religious nationalist Right has reasons to represent itself as the guardian of the original Zionism. Today this integrist Right is the only political and cultural movement to offer a different path from the one taken by a large group of the Israeli population and the great majority of the Jewish people.

{p. 343} TThe one-dimensionality of Zionism was one of the reasons for its success. ... Precisely because it represented a single vision did the movement permit the cohabitation and collaboration of religious and secular Zionists. Thus, and only thus, can the famous "historical alliance" of the labor movement and the national religious movement be explained. From 1919 to 1977 the National Religious Party was included in all governments formed by Mapai and its successor, the Labor Party.

As long as the labor movement remained true to the tribal nationalism of the founders, the disciples of Rabbi Kook welcomed and respected it as an ally. But as soon as a truly liberal tendency! began to manifest itself in the labor-Zionist camp, as soon as the idea began to gain credence that the individual is not just a soldier in the army of national revolution, as soon as Zbegan to be heard condemning the aggressive egocentricity that appeared after the Six-Day War, the alliance was no longel possible. And indeed, peace is a mortal danger to the Zionism of blood and soil, a Zionism that cannot imagine willingly returning even all inch of the sacred territory of the land of Israel. ...

Shmuel Yosef Agnon, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1966, and Nathan Alterman, a towering figule in Hebrew poetry, both founders of the Movement for a Greater Israel after the Six-Day War, were close to the circles in which religious Zionism was formed ...

{p. 344} For years the settlers have prepared for an out-and-out war against what they called the second Hellenization of the people of Israel, a process of cultulal assimilation of far greater seriousness in their view than the one the Jewish people experienced in antiquity. ... For the radical Right, the settler with a gun in one hand and a Bible in the other is the trustee of the people's future. For the radical Right, the repopulation of the occupied territories with Jews is the touchstone of Zionism, and leaving the heights of Judea and Samaria is tantamount to moral suicide.

For this religious Right and this supposedly secular radical Right, a new front against Zionism was opened on the day the Oslo accords were signed. Rabin had become an enemy of the nation, a traitor to his people and its history. As far as they are concerned, the fifth column showed its true colors in Oslo. Rabin's assassination was the work of a very small group, but it gave a tragic dimension to a fact that many people refused to acknowledge until then: Israel too has its Brownshirts, not only consisting of settlers in Judea and Samaria.

But even worse was the fact that the violent struggle against the Oslo agreements enjoyed the passive support and tacit consent of the official, respectable Right. On October 1995, exactly one month before the night of the murder, a large demonstration of all factions of the Right was held in Jerusalem. On a balcony overlooking Zion Square in the heart of Jerusalem, the whole opposition leadership was gathered around Benjamin Netanyahu, from the former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir to members of the government set up in June 1996. Facing the leaders of the opposition - today's government - placards denouncing the "traitor" Rabin dressed in the uniform of an SS officer were waved high above the heads of the demonstrators. Not a word of protest was heard fiom the speakers' platform, and the man who is prime minister at the end of 1997 never batted an eyelid. For the Right, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres were comparable to the worst

{p. 345} enemy the Jewish people ever had. That is how the matter was understood by those present at the demonstration that night, by those who sat opposite the television screens and watched the leaders of the Right stirring up the crowds, and by those who read about it in the newspapers the next day. That is also how it was understood by the man who four weeks later pulled the trigger. Israel was the first democratic state - and from the end of the Second World War until now the only one - in which a political murder achieved its goal.

Today, more than ever, settlement in the territories endangers Israel's ability to develop as a free and open society. But like all previous attempts at colonialism, the one the Israeli Right wishes to impose on the Palestinians is sure to come to an end. The only uncertain factor today is the moral and political price Israeli society will have to pay to overcome the resistance that the hard core of the settlers is bound to show to any just and reasonable solution.


"Nationalism for themselves; Internationalism for everyone else" ... was this diagnosis not first pronounced by Nesta Webster?

Moses Hess - founder of Israeli National Socialism: avineri.html.

More on kibbutzes:  engagement.html (scroll towards the bottom of that article).

Roger Garaudy wrote a book of a similar title, The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics; it is at http://codoh.com/zionweb/zionmythgar.html.

Arthur Koestler on the Histadrut: koestler.html.

Uri Davis' book Israel: An Apartheid State - about the Histadrut: return.html.

To buy Zeev Sternhell's book The Founding Myths of Israel new: http://www.anybook4less.com/detail/0691009678.html.

To buy second-hand:

More on Zionism: zioncom.html.

Write to me at contact.html.