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Dream and Reality in Israel/Palestine: Excerpt from Marc Ellis’ ‘Future of the Prophetic’
Marc H. Ellis
June 30, 2014 33

The following is an excerpt from Marc H. Ellis’s new book Future of the Prophetic: Israel’s Ancient Wisdom Re-presented. You can read more about the book here.

In the seventh decade of the Israeli–Palestinian crisis, is there anything left to say, think, or do? Although many feel the possibilities for a solution to the crisis are exhausted, diplomacy continues. Yet diplomatic missions come and go. The Arab Spring has come and gone or, more to the point, has morphed into an almost fascist dictatorship in Egypt and mind-boggling violence in Syria. Israel-Palestine remains more or less the same. Or worse.

futureofpropheticWhen we think that the situation cannot get any worse, it does. Even when peace is “necessary,”“urgent,” and “right around the corner,” the plight of the Palestinians worsens. For years now, Palestinians on the West Bank have been refused entry into Jerusalem. Jerusalem’s Palestinian population continues to be evicted as Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem increase. Ostensibly temporary, the Apartheid Wall encircles the Palestinian population of the West Bank as a permanent boundary. Even the Palestinian Authority has offered a continuing Israeli military presence in Palestine’s Jordan Valley, along with a permanent stationing of American-led NATO military throughout the West Bank – all in hopes of gaining some limited autonomy. Hamas-led Gaza is often referred to as a vast prison camp. It is absent from the peace process. Gaza’s borders are rigorously controlled by Israel and Egypt. Even international aid has difficulty being delivered there.

Israel is triumphant, almost defiant, yet continues to fear for its safety and security. Israel lives crisis to crisis. Some believe that the crisis atmosphere benefits Israel’s plans to continue its expansionist policies at the expense of Palestinian sovereignty. Others believe that Israel would hardly know how to live if its borders were settled and peace reigned with its neighbors.

Israel is one of the strongest nations in the world, yet continues to depend on the United States to guarantee its security. With this guarantee, Israel stands strong. Yet beneath this exterior, dependence breeds anxiety. What if the United States commitment to Israel turned in another direction?

The Israel-Lebanon war in 2006 demonstrated Israel’s vulnerability. Lebanon was burning, as was Israel. Israel’s 2008 invasion of Gaza hardly made Israel more secure. Though a nuclear power, Israel threatens Iran because of its nuclear program. Iran threatens Israel – so Israel claims. Israel lives on the edge.

Fundamental issues lie at the heart of the Israeli–Palestinian crisis. Yet the foundational issue of the conflict, the 1948 war that founded Israel and dispossessed the Palestinians, remains outside the parameters of Jewish thinkable thought. At the same time, binational and homeland alternatives to state Zionism, exemplified in the work of Jewish luminaries such as Martin Buber, Judah Magnes, Hannah Arendt, and Albert Einstein, are buried. The silence surrounding the founding of Israel is connected with the silence on the historic alternatives offered to state Zionism. [1]

The past is the path to the present. The past may also open us to an alternative future. What options were there in the founding of the state of Israel? What choices were made during that time period? If the past related to Israel’s founding is virtually unknown to many Jews and non-Jews alike and the present is an emergency situation with dangers on all sides, a sense of fate pervades. The future unfolds with a logic that makes choices about the future seem naïve, even foolhardy.

To approach this subject of Israel is challenging. Every issue is fraught. Emotion and suffering color the pages of Jewish history. The passage of time limits haunts us. On 2013’s sixty-fifth anniversary of Israel’s birth and the ensuing Palestinian catastrophe, the lay of land and the political and intellectual discourse that survives was so different from what it was decades before that appeals to memory appeared out of place. In some quarters, such appeals were deemed irresponsible. On the seventieth anniversary, the passage of time will be acute.

Time passed is time lost. Still, in lost time there are messages for the present. Thinking through the past brings us back to the origins. The origins signal choice for the future. In the Middle East it is time to begin again. How can we break through the stalemate, anger, violence, and numbness that envelop Israel and Palestine?

Each people and community has a right to be at home. Home is part of the human quest. Peace, too, is a common aspiration, a necessary one. Our lives orient in the direction of home and peace. Despite great similarities with other cultures and communities, the Jewish journey features specific trajectories that set Jews apart. Jewish history claims an ancient origin and journey that begins with a world created by God and God’s choice of the people Israel to be God’s people.

In the biblical narrative, the main line of Israel’s journey unfolds. Through Abraham, the people Israel are called into being to inhabit a certain terrain. Israel descends into slavery in Egypt, is liberated with a promise of land, enters the Promised Land, settles there, and becomes a kingdom. When, through abuse of political power, injustice reigns, the prophets appear. Israel is chastened by the prophets. Exile from the land is penalty for this abuse.

Through repentance, Israel returns to the land, is exiled again for backtracking on its promised repentance, returns, and is exiled once more. Israel then begins an almost two-thousand-year sojourn outside the land. Israel is dispersed among the nations, its anchor being the ancient formative events that inspired it. [2]

Jews are commanded to remember their narrative prehistory as a clarion call to a unique destiny. Jewish destiny combines religious, national, political and cultural aspects of peoplehood—in the land and outside of it. The Jewish dream is birthed, struggled for, found, lost, returned to, lost again, seemingly forever. During that loss home is prayed for, often without a realistic hope of retrieving the dream and with much anguish. Many questions arise during this journey. Jews are shadowed by the land of promise that is beyond their grasp.

Questions facing Jews multiply with the passage of time. Why do Jews exist as a people through history? Why is the promise of land important, especially when most Jews live outside the land? Is there a specific Jewish destiny and is that destiny intertwined with this specific “promised” land? How do Jews fulfill their destiny in the land? How do Jews fulfill their destiny outside the land? What are the ends of Jewish history? Is there a bridge between the dream of the land and the reality of dispersion?

We know that fate does not have the last word. Destiny, however interpreted, is open. Changes of direction are possible. All religions invoke transformation as achievable. Judaism is no exception. The challenge is to act individually and in concert with others. Do I—do we—act as if transformation is possible?

In 2012, Jewish Voice for Peace, a dissident Jewish group and its Rabbinical Council, issued a Passover Haggadah that hopes for a collective effort by Jews to alter the direction of the state of Israel. Taking the tradition of breaking the middle matzah and hiding one half, to be found later as the afikomen, the Haggadah notes that once the matzah is broken it cannot be repaired completely—“irreparable damage has been done.” [3]

Nonetheless, the broken pieces can be reunited. The Jewish Voice for Peace Haggadah relates that reunification within past brokenness is possible in the present: “As we break the middle matzah we acknowledge the break that occurred in Palestinian life and culture with the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 when hundreds of villages were destroyed and hundreds of thousands of people displaced. This damage cannot be undone—but repair and return are possible.”

How does repair begin? First, Jews have to understand the history behind the present brokenness. There is no better season to explore this than Passover, when Jews relate their brokenness in slavery and delight in their liberation from bondage. The Jewish Voice for Peace Haggadah counterpoints Jewish liberation then with Palestinian dispossession now. Can Jewish liberation be celebrated today without the end of Palestinian enslavement?

Jews are commanded to place ourselves in the telling of Passover as if we are there—in slavery, in Egypt. But we are also supposed to be here, in the now. The subtitle of the Jewish Voice for Peace Haggadah is “Israeli and Palestinian: Two People, One Future.” The dating is 2012 and, with the long arc of Jewish history in mind, 5772.

Distance always exists between dream and reality. This is true for every community and religion. However, the issue remains as to how Jews bridge this distance. We long for a time when the dream of liberation and the reality of liberation, for Jews and for others, will become one.

The covenant at Sinai is the culmination of the liberating actions of God in forming and promising to be with the people Israel. As well, the biblical narrative evolves after God and Israel embrace the covenant. Inherent in the covenant is a back and forth between God and Israel, which unfolds during the course of Jewish history. It is evident in the Bible. It is true today.

From the beginning, ancient Israel is faced with recurring possibilities and pitfalls. In turn, archetypes emerge in Jewish history that continues to define the Jewish journey today. Listing a bare outline of these archetypes speaks of a significant history of interpretation and contestation. The embrace of the covenant, the commandment of remembrance, and mining the ancient canon for meaning and purpose – all are ancient and ongoing. Also included is the ability of Jews to argue with God—in essence, to contest God’s will—as well as the quest for justice on earth.

These contemporary Jewish concerns are already present in the Bible. Most importantly, in the Bible, wherever injustice rears its head, but especially among the people Israel, the haunting shadow of the prophets appears. The prophetic haunting of Jewish life has renewed itself in our post-Holocaust world. [4]

The pursuit of justice in and outside of the land is present from the beginning in the biblical text. There we find a canonical reading of justice-seeking in the dynamic interplay of the Sabbath, Sabbatical year, and the Jubilee. As well, there is a cycle of settlement, exile, and return revolving around the land. These are primal markers for the Jewish people.

In the Bible, we discover that the prophetic is indigenous to the people Israel. We know that the prophetic sensibility comes before the land and has priority over it because injustice judges Israel’s sojourn there. Through God, the prophets judge Israel’s record of justice. When the prophet’s judgment is damning and Israel refuses to repent, Israel suffers grievously. The Bible records the constancy of the prophetic—when it is convenient for Israel and especially when it is inconvenient.

All of this is foreground to contemporary Jewish life and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Is it relevant today? Many think that religion simply mucks up what is already a complicated issue. The entire world cannot bring the crisis of Israel-Palestine to closure. One doubts the Bible can.

From the beginning of Jewish history there is promise of a homeland. The homeland is the Land of Israel. In the biblical story, the Land of Israel remains the Jewish homeland whether Jews are physically present in the land or not. When Jews are not in the land, they are dispersed. The Diaspora is defined over against the Land of Israel—dispersion as exile, (un)home.

Exile from the land is bitter. Yet the Diaspora is the birthplace of Judaism. Judaism is the religion of Jews that emerges primarily outside the land. During the Roman occupation of Jerusalem in the first century of the Common Era, Jews revolted against Rome. They were defeated. The subsequent dispersion of the Jewish people from the land ends Israelite religion.

Israel’s religious law and obligations revolved around the land and the Temple in Jerusalem. Without either, Jews needed a new religion that, though connected to the old, responded to the reality of dwelling outside the land without access to the now-destroyed Temple. A new religious system, what we know as Judaism, responded to the historical catastrophe that befell ancient Israel. [5]

Judaism forms in the Diaspora. Over the last two thousand years, for the most part Jewish history takes place in the Diaspora. In Judaism, the longing remains for the land. In 1948, that dream becomes reality. The state of Israel is born. Some Jews feel that the rebirth of a Jewish state is the fulfillment of the longing of a dispersed and suffering people. Then again, promise often loses luster when reality intrudes. The backdrop to this return is ominous—the Holocaust.

To sketch the “dream” backdrop to the reality of 1948 is to enter an uneven history. In Jewish history, dream follows nightmare, nightmare follows dream. Often in Jewish history dream and nightmare are intertwined. It is complicated to untangle them. Should we try?

Even though the Hebrew calendar extends the time of the birth of Jewish history back to creation, in modern historical terms the time of ancient Israel to 1948 spans roughly three thousand years. This history is uneven. In the last two thousand years, for example, Jews have been accepted by and lived in harmony with their neighbors. Jews have been assaulted and forced to flee their native lands. At times, Jews who were forcefully expelled from lands are later welcomed back. Centuries later the heirs of Jews welcomed back were slaughtered. In Jewish history, hope and anguish encircle each other.

The Holocaust years arrive. For many Jews, the Holocaust is a novum in Jewish history. It is true that Jews suffered before. But after every disaster that befell the Jewish people, hope returned. Now the numbers—and geographical reach—multiply. The Holocaust is a global assault. Every living Jew is targeted. After the Holocaust, the prospect of hope is shadowed by the specter of mass death. Hope after the Holocaust is almost unbearable.

What should Jews do after the Holocaust? If there is hope, does hope need to be redefined? “Hope” after the Holocaust. “Liberation” of the death camps. The meanings of words change.

Downward Spiral

What does liberation mean—after? The “liberation” of the death camps seems an odd, if almost blasphemous, bonding. What is hope in light of the millions murdered and in the face of the starving survivors? Our vision has to readjust. What can the survivors of the Holocaust hope for? Jews had faced this dilemma before but not at this level. Systematic mass death is different than pogroms and expulsions. Exile is preferable to Auschwitz.

Because of this transposition of meanings, placing the Jewish journey in perspective is demanding. It is becoming more difficult for Jews with each passing day. On the international scene because of its policies toward Palestinians and the government’s bellicose pronouncements on world affairs, it is almost impossible to speak in positive tones about the state of Israel. But, even more alarming, it is increasingly challenging to speak in affirmative ways about Jews and Jewishness.

This awkwardness has to do with how Jews and Jewish history are interpreted in light of the creation and expansion of the state of Israel. What happened to Palestinians during the creation of Israel and, as much, what is happening to Palestinians today, colors the discussion of Jews and Jewishness. Because of the injustice done to Palestinians by Israel, for increasing numbers of Jews and non-Jews alike, the ancient promise of the Jewish people, as well as the dislocation and destruction of European Jewry, is consigned as a fading and irrelevant history.

Far worse, though, is when the defense of Israel becomes a slogan to mobilize Jews against others. Mobilizing Jews for Israel’s defense further denigrates Palestinians. It also denigrates the Jewish ethical tradition. Movements spring up to “rebrand” Israel, “defending” Israel and Jews against the “propaganda” of its enemies. Yet the rebranding of Israel as a positive force in the world is strongly contested by the facts on the ground that Israel is creating in its continuing occupation of Palestinians. [6]

Mostly because of the plight of the Palestinian people, the world is becoming less and less interested in Jews and Jewish discourse about itself and the state of Israel. Mobilizing Jews deflects from the confrontation needed within Jewish history. Rather than addressing the issues at hand, mobilizations for Israel in the Jewish community deepens the abyss that many Jews seem unwilling to confront.

In the contemporary discussion of the Middle East, Jews and non-Jews who oppose Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians are disparaged in public. To silence dissenters, the Holocaust is invoked. Jewish leaders especially warn that the Holocaust is part of the Jewish future rather than confined to history. In their view, weakening Israel inevitably leads to another Holocaust. In many quarters, the defense of Israel is akin to a religious commandment. The commandment has to be obeyed by Jews even if criticism of Israel is justified.

Dissenters against Israeli policies are lumped together. It hardly matters whether dissenters are Jewish or non-Jewish, American or European, Israelis who dissent within their own country or Palestinians who resist their dispossession. At one time, the Jewish establishment saw the threat to Israel as mainly coming from the Palestinians and Arab nations. At another time, the threat emanated from Lebanon and then Iraq. Then it was the Arab Spring. Now it is Iran. Separately or together, they are part of a second, seemingly eternal, another-Holocaust chorus. [7]

In turn, vilified Jews and non-Jews sometimes denigrate the promise and hope of ancient Israel. These critics single out for particular attention the use of violence in pursuit of that dream, at least as narrated in the Bible. The state of Israel is perceived as repeating the biblical pattern of ancient Israel cleansing the land of its indigenous inhabitants. Forgotten is that other ancient and contemporary histories are similarly filled with violence. A few scholars who think that the history of ancient Israel is connected to the present-day violence of Israel demand that the parts of the biblical scriptural narration be condemned. Israel’s narrative of its origins is transposed into modern history and judged from a contemporary vantage point. [8]

Disentangling the ancient and the modern, weaving and unweaving the tapestry of Jewish history and hope that can be embraced and acted upon in solidarity with others, is clearly a challenge. After the Holocaust, and after what Israel has done and is doing to the Palestinians, this task is even more challenging. Yet the challenge must be met forthrightly. Otherwise, the ethical history of the Jewish people will be consigned to the unspeakable. Antisemitism will also have its say.

As the situation in Israel and Palestine continues its downward spiral, mythic claims about Jews and Jewish history return. Once again, Christian antisemitism and Enlightenment suspicions about Jewish particularity fill the air. While the Jewish establishment exaggerates and exploits these fears for its own advantage, denying negative feelings about Jews is hardly the right response. Rather, sorting out truth and fiction is important.

Ancient conspiracy theories about Jews are being modernized. Jews are accused of controlling the media and the global economic system. The U.S. Congress is felt to be beholden to Jews. Some believe American Jews and Jewish Israelis orchestrated the tragedy of September 11th, 2001, to further Jewish interests. The list goes on. [9]

The debate about ancient Israel and its application to the modern world is also spiraling downward. Jewish history represents an important trajectory in world history. The attempt to demean and denigrate this history is misplaced. Instead, it is important to follow ancient Israel and the Jewish people through the complex maze of history. We glean positive lessons of a destiny Jews internally embrace and project in the world. Instead of demeaning, we should struggle to encounter Jews and Jewish history in a constructive way. In this encounter we are neither passive bystanders nor superficial critics. As Jews and non-Jews we come into a critical solidarity with the unfolding of Jewish life.

Solidarity means that all sides refrain from romanticizing embraces or demonizing cheap shots. The challenge is to enter into a people’s journey while maintaining a certain distance from it. Being with and outside of a people’s journey, as an insider or outsider, provides a vantage point to learn about the struggles of other peoples as well. Over the course of any history, no community, religion, or nation is innocent. Nor should any community be demonized. Entering into relation with others, a critical solidarity is necessary. Can it be any different with Jews?

The increasing inability to reason about contemporary Jewish life is worrisome. Jews are culpable in this difficulty precisely because the narrative of Jewish history is often presented as one of innocence. This innocence is then coupled with the right to aggress against others, as if aggression is also innocent. Aggression is redefined. Aggression isn’t aggression.

This “Jewish aggression in Israel against the Palestinians that isn’t aggression, thus Jews as innocent” bundle is presented as essential to secure Jewish survival in light of an ill-defined Jewish destiny. By constantly referring to suffering in the Holocaust – as if only Jews have suffered in history – and pretending to innocence in Jewish empowerment in Israel, Jews, most especially Jewish leadership, appropriate a narrative justification to use power over against the Palestinian people without accountability.

The Jewish establishment enables violence in the name of destiny, all the while claiming innocence. Others have used destiny as their raison d’etre to demean and slaughter Jews. They, too, claimed innocence in their pursuit of Jews, a claim that since has been convicted within the communities that once claimed it. Can Jews escape that very same judgment by others and even by Jews themselves? One day will Jews indict themselves in regard to the violence done to the Palestinian people? [10]

To get behind this narrative of innocence is important. Parsing Jewish culpability and the different choices that could have been taken is important. We can do this by paying attention to history. In this regard, a brief survey of the origins of the Zionist movement is fruitful. In the Zionist movement, we find innocence as well as an intense realism. We discover patterns of Jewish history as well as a people in need.

As the twentieth century dawned, the religious and secular wings of the Zionist movement began to settle Jews in Palestine. For Zionists, Palestine was the Land of Israel. In their settlements in the land, Zionists found fulfillment of their dream of return. The exile that seemed indeterminate and was increasingly dangerous might be coming to an end.

A minority of the Jewish settlers were religious. They sought an “ingathering” of Jews as a harbinger of messianic times. Most of the Jewish settlers were secular. They sought a safe haven that augured a “normalization” of the Jewish condition wherein Jews would be safe, secure, and self-governing. Dwelling among others had been dangerous. In the land of their own, Jews would determine their own fate. [11]

A small minority of religious Zionists were Orthodox Jews. They looked askance at the prospect of normalizing the Jewish condition. The Orthodox believed Jews were singled out for a specific destiny that would be fulfilled when Jews returned to the biblical land God promised to Jews. Settling in the Land of Israel was a commandment. The rest was left to God. Orthodox Jews believed that only God could initiate the messianic era. Religious Zionists had little desire to change the social, economic, or political conditions of Palestine itself.

Secular Zionists had a different vision. For secular Jews, normalization of the Jewish condition was the hope. Secular Zionists did not want to be set apart any longer. Their idea was to change the concrete material and political conditions of European Jews. In their Palestine, Jews would breathe free and develop their own way of life.

Secular Jews wanted to be free of Christian power and religion. They also wanted to be free of Jewish religion and the authority of the rabbis. To become free, Jews needed a state. Secular Zionists wanted a Jewish state for Jews like France was for the French and England was for the English. Since a Jewish state did not exist, it would have to be built—by Jewish hands.

Although Zionism was a minority position in the Jewish world, the energy surrounding the movement grew as the twentieth century unfolded. During these years, the pros and cons of Zionism were debated. Zionism became an organizing principle for Jewish uplift and self-sufficiency.

There was significant opposition to Zionism. Many Jews sought peace, freedom, and security in the lands where they lived. They viewed Zionism as a retrograde movement that sought a return to an outdated nationalism. It might even be dangerous for Jews. Jews were scattered all over the world and, at that, were a small minority of the world’s populations. Would the world tolerate a Jewish state and, in the end, what benefit would a Jewish state accrue to Jews who remained minorities in other nations? [12]

In the first decades of the twentieth century, Zionism’s ultimate direction and success was in doubt. There were contentious disputes within Zionism as to what Zionism should hope to attain. What would a successful return to the land mean in relation to Jewish identity for Jews who lived in the land and for those who continued to live elsewhere? If there was a return, how should Jews govern themselves? Should Jews live in the land with others or should there be a Jewish state? Should Jews go it alone in the land or Jews need a colonial sponsor?

Homeland Zionism was a dissenting form of Zionism. Unlike Zionists that wanted a Jewish state, homeland Zionists saw their mission as the development of an educational, spiritual, cultural, and linguistic center in the land for Jewish people everywhere. In their vision, some Jews would live in the Jewish homeland. Many Jews would continue to live in the Diaspora. Although homeland Zionists favored a homeland for Jews, the Land of Israel would be shared with the Palestinians. Palestinians would also have their own homeland there.

Homeland Zionists were against the creation of a Jewish state for a variety of reasons. They feared a state would corrode the ideals of Judaism and Jewish destiny. A Jewish state would create enmity with Arabs already living in Palestine. A Jewish state would need protection against outside forces, including the Palestinian Arabs, who would suffer from its establishment. A Jewish state would, of necessity, be militarized.

A Jewish state would become like any other state. In numerous ways, Jews would be recreating the states they lived within. Would such a state be an advance for Jews? Would Jewish energies outside the state also have to be devoted to the state for no other reason than its survival?

For state Zionists, homeland Zionists were idealists. Their ideals would recreate the instability of the Diaspora they were trying to escape. Homeland Zionists would exist within another alien environment, surrounded now by Arabs rather than Europeans. Since most Jewish settlers were European, the animosity of the Arabs might be even greater than the non-Jewish Europeans from which the Zionists were trying to remove themselves. Besides, as Europeans, state Zionists were trying to recreate the Europe they were escaping, this time under protected Jewish auspices.

State Zionists were interested in the Land of Israel because of its Jewish roots. As Westerners, they had a colonial sense of the backwardness of the East and of Arab culture. State Zionists wanted Europe in the Middle East. The thought of being Arabized filled them with foreboding. [13]

Enthusiasm within the various forms of Zionism increased as the Ottoman and British Empires diminished in power and authority. Enthusiasm increased further in the 1920s and 1930s as the world plunged into economic depression. With the ascension of the Nazis to power, and then the ensuing world war that culminated in the Holocaust, the Zionist movement coalesced. In 1948, just three years after the end of World War II, the state of Israel was born. State Zionism became the state of Israel. Homeland Zionism faded from history.

The Birth of Israel and the Palestinian Catastrophe

The disjunction of the Jewish dream and the reality is central to the state of Israel’s birth. It is impossible to approach this chasm of Jewish distinctiveness and normalization and the reality of Jewish life in Europe and Palestine without the perspective of Jewish history. Likewise, it is impossible to approach it without the prior history of those already in the land, the Palestinians.

With the creation of Israel, the Jewish dream of a state and the reality of Palestinian existence clashed. The collisions of two histories began. Each anniversary of the state of Israel also marks an anniversary of the Nakba, the Palestinian catastrophe. The creation of the state of Israel and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Arabs from their land go hand in hand. Historically, they cannot be separated. [14]

Zionism predated the Holocaust, the Jewish catastrophe. Nonetheless, the Holocaust provided the last push that brought fledgling Jewish settlements into a state formation. From the beginning, the clash of Jews and Palestinians was a catastrophe in motion. One catastrophe led to the other. Now they exist side by side.

The Holocaust, the creation of Israel, and the Nakba are beside one another. They cannot be separated. Nor is there an end in sight for their joint journey. We do not yet know whether Jewish Israelis or Palestinian Arabs will be the ultimate victims of this joining of catastrophes and state building—or even if there will be an ultimate victim.

Perhaps the original Jewish and Palestinians catastrophes will be transformed into a mutual justice that transcends the suffering of both peoples. Jews and Palestinians may one day develop a mutual solidarity that diminishes the catastrophes that befell both peoples. Absent a Palestinian state, though, another larger catastrophe might be in the offing. Both peoples may go down together.

As Jewish forces fought for a state in the wake of the Holocaust, the demise of the British Empire left the Middle East segmented and weak. The international community took note of Jewish suffering and supported the creation of Jewish state. There was also an awareness of the Palestinian question. This is evidenced in the United Nations Partition Plan and the subsequent involvement of the United Nations in the ongoing Israeli–Palestinian conflict. [15]

Jews on the ground were immersed in building and expanding Jewish settlements as their hope for the future. They were less interested in the borders the United Nations or other international actors proposed. After the dust of war cleared, Israel was born as a Jewish state. Jews had now become state actors themselves. The state of Israel conducted itself in the manner it saw fit.

During the war that gave rise to Israel, some 750,000 Palestinians were driven out of the boundaries of what became the declared Jewish state, leaving a Palestinian Arab minority of 150,000 or so within Israel’s borders. The Palestinian Arabs became citizens of Israel, though their citizenship is of a second-class nature, a further reminder that they are but a remnant in the land they once had lived as a majority. Along with the population, the geographic territory of historic Palestine also diminished. Thus was born the Palestinian refugee crisis. Today, Palestinian refugees number in the millions. Israel continues to expand its population and borders. Historic Palestine is disappearing. [16]

Like the refugee crisis, the reduction of Palestine has evolved over time. Yet the original question about the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians remains. How could Israel be a Jewish state if the majority of its citizens were non-Jews? The Palestinians were cleansed from what became Israel for that reason. But the formation of the state of Israel is still more complex.

There are various interpretations of the formation of the state of Israel. What happened on the Jewish and Arab sides during the war that surrounded Israel’s creation is hotly debated. One debate revolves around who accepted and did not accept various borders offered by the international community. Yet another debate centers around the issue of which side aggressed, invaded, or defended.

Although the debate continues, the result of the 1948 war is clear. Israel emerged the victor. Palestine was divided. A majority of the Palestinian population became refugees. The United Nations Partition Plan was overwhelmed and ignored by Israel’s victory. Subsequent United Nations resolutions with regard to the needs of the Palestinians have been disregarded by Israel. Israel has continually increased the size of its territory since its founding. The wars over the borders of Israel and the Palestinians continue. So, too, do the wars with Israel’s Arab neighbors. Since the formation of Israel, wars have been constant. With advances in modern technology, they are increasingly dangerous.

Despite the various peace plans offered, today Israelis and Palestinians are farther away from a “just” solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict than ever before. Continuing Israeli expansion in Jerusalem and the West Bank has led many Middle East experts to believe such a solution is foreclosed. The situation is so dire that some fear a new and unexpected uprising or, worse, a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions. Then all the players in the Middle East would have to find a solution to the impasse. But who hopes for a new beginning that might reduce Israel, the Palestinians, and the Middle East to a smoldering heap of ashes?

Whatever the Jewish dream, 1948 introduced a significant level of aggression, insecurity, and destruction in the Middle East which continues today. For many Jews, the 1948 war was a defensive war to create the Jewish state, and Israel has been engaged in a defensive strategy ever since. The Arab side of the Israel narrative is viewed through a different lens. Whatever the Arab world would have become without Israel, the cycle of underdevelopment and destruction that occasioned Israel’s creation and expansion has been extreme.

The Israeli perspective on the perpetual Arab and Palestinian opposition to the state of Israel is simple. The only reason to oppose Israel is a retrograde hatred of Jews. Therefore, it is counterproductive for Israel to search with Palestinians for a way beyond the nightmare that has evolved. This diminishes the argument among some that the Israeli–Palestinian crisis can only be seen through the aftermath of the Arab–Israeli 1967 war and the settlements that have been built in Jerusalem and the West Bank since. For these interpreters, Israel has been and will continue to be under assault by Palestinians and the surrounding Arab states simply because Israel is a Jewish state.

In Palestinian “terrorism,” Israel sees a conflict between the forces of light and darkness. Some Jews who live outside Israel agree with this analysis. Some do not. Within Israel there is an ongoing debate about this line of demarcation. Could it be, though, that resistance to Israel has to do with the dispossession of Palestinians and Israel’s continual expansion? Separating political grievances from antisemitism is almost impossible for many Jews.

Deflecting political grievances by charging antisemitism mobilizes Jews and others in the West to uncritically support the state of Israel. The Holocaust is used in this deflection as well. If Palestinian political grievances are reduced to threats of another Holocaust and antisemitism, the Palestinians are, by definition, antisemites. Why listen to the grievances of antisemites? Palestinians are further defined as the new Nazis. The logic unfolds: Why listen to destructive myths of the Palestinians when we know where that led during the Nazi era?

Regardless of where Jews stand on the trajectory of contemporary Israel, most Jewish analysis precludes the origins of conflict. Yet the reality of 1948 must be reckoned with. It is the time and place where dream and reality collided. What ensued is a cycle of violence and atrocity as yet without end.

Nonetheless, for some Jews concentrating on the establishment of the state of Israel begs the question. History is history, why revisited it? Move beyond the impasse. Start where we are. The facts on the ground are where we should begin.

By making 1948 the starting point, however, a different set of “facts” is placed in motion. In 1948, two suffering peoples exist at a historic crossroads. Their paths are possible to reconcile. Even today, Jews and Palestinians still live in proximity to each other. Israelis number more than five million. Within the territory controlled by the state of Israel—a territory that today stretches from Tel Aviv to the Jordan River—three remnant Palestinian populations remain. The first remnant comprises over a one-and-a-half million Palestinians who live with Jews within the state of Israel proper. The second remnant is more than two-and-a-half-million Palestinians who live with Jews in Jerusalem and the West Bank. The third remnant is in Gaza where more than a million-and-a-half Palestinians live. Because Jews and Palestinians are close in numbers and proximity there is still time to rectify the impasse and begin again. 1948 is long ago. 1948 remains present.

Too often, the catastrophe that befell Palestinians is obscured. The rhetoric of parts of the Jewish community in Israel and America makes sure that this continues. Obscuring rhetoric comes from a Holocaust consciousness that emphasizes how weak Jews were—which rhetorically posits that this weakness remains in the present. Obscuring rhetoric tells us how much Jews suffered because of that weakness—which rhetorically posits that Jews are either suffering today or will suffer in the near future. Ironically, but without the hint of irony, this argument is made in an era of unparalleled Jewish empowerment.

Holocaust consciousness views Jews as innocent in suffering and in power. It also perceives Israel as the bulwark against renewed suffering. Israel is Jewish redemption after the Holocaust. Israel is the state that keeps the Holocaust from recurring. An array of institutions, think tanks, media personalities, and academics spread this message of innocence and redemption. In what way, then, could Israel be culpable in 1948 or after? [17]

Keeping together what is defined in opposition is a challenge. On the one hand, the need for a Jewish safe haven after the mass killing of European Jews can be upheld. It is difficult to pass judgment on the survivors who made a home in what became the state of Israel. On the other hand, Palestinians have a right to object to the very idea of a Jewish state. There is no way around Jewish complicity in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

When catastrophes happen in history, questions of what is to be done in their aftermath take on urgency. With regard to Jewish suffering in the Holocaust, some Jews question whether Israel makes the world safer for Jews or more dangerous. Israel has certainly made the world more dangerous for Palestinians.

Yet the Jewish dream and the reality of 1948 remain largely unaddressed. This has to do with the desire not to rehash history and the inability to undo what has occurred. It also has to do with obscuring the reality of 1948 and emphasizing the Jewish need for a secure place to live after the Holocaust. Still, whether done purposely or not, the neglect of the formation of the state of Israel makes it more difficult to reconcile the wrong done to Palestinians. Without this recognition, Jewish culpability remains unaddressed. Jewish identity is built on a fractured foundation. What kind of Jewish future does this portend?

Remembering Homeland Zionism for the Future

Obscuring the catastrophe that befell the Palestinians limits the choices Jews have to change the present reality of Israel/Palestine. If Jews are without culpability, Jews have little reason to listen to those we harmed. If Jews are innocent in the creation of Israel, how can Palestinian justify their struggle to be free?

With the reality of 1948 obscured, Israel is viewed as defending itself against those Palestinians and the Arab world who seek to harm Jews. Palestinians and Arabs do not have a legitimate grievance against Israel. Nor do they have a legitimate grievance against Jews outside of Israel who offer unquestioned allegiance and aid to Israel’s policies. Instead, Palestinians pursue Israel and Jews because they are antisemitic. They become the heirs of Hitler, the new Nazis who seek to finish Hitler’s work. Do Jews really believe this?

The leaders of Jewish life today form an establishment. This establishment is Constantinian in form. “Constantinian” refers historically to Christianity when it was a minor and maligned religious community in the first centuries after Jesus. In the fourth century, the Emperor Constantine had a vision of Jesus shielding his forces in battle. Henceforth, he adopted Christianity as a viable religion. Under his successors, it became the religion of the empire.

Constantine’s Christianity entered into a working relationship with the government, ultimately becoming beholden to the government for property and a monopoly on religion. In return, Christianity did the empire’s bidding. The empire blessed Christianity. Christianity blessed empire. [18]

As with other Constantinian establishments before it, Constantinian Judaism links to power and empire. Although there are many differences with Christianity in its Constantinian formulation, the Jewish establishments in America and Israel have made their own empire deal. Jews are blessed in America. America blesses Israel. What is good for one is good for the other. For the protection American foreign policy offers Israel, Jews offer their support to the American government. [19]

A major desire of the Constantinian Jewish establishment is to obscure Israel’s present actions against the Palestinians. By obscuring Israel’s actions – and intentions – Israel remains above criticism. The Holocaust is used as a shield. So is antisemitism. The aim is to depoliticize Palestinian grievances, rendering them as unjustifiable emotional and irredentist lashing outs against Jews. In turn, the Holocaust and antisemitism are mobilized and politicized. They become the guardians of Israel’s innocence.

There are Jewish critics of the Constantinian Jewish establishment. They respond that Israel has done wrong but limit that wrong to the occupation and settlement of Palestinian lands after the 1967 war. This analysis is that of the Progressive Jewish establishment, with Michael Lerner and the Jewish journal Tikkun leading the way through the 1990s, but with the recent addition of a political lobbying group, J Street, now in the forefront. By limiting their critique to the post-1967 war period, Progressive Jews maintain Jewish innocence and the possibility that the state of Israel is redemptive. If only the sins of the post-1967 occupation of Jerusalem and the West Bank can be expiated, then Israel’s policies and trajectory can be righted. [20]

Progressive Jews find it difficult to address 1948. Like the Constantinian Jewish establishment, they declare it an act of treason to do so. Progressive Jews obscure the real problematic Jews need to confront. Wherever Progressive Jews move along the ever-changing Israel–Palestine crisis fault lines, they continue to avoid or minimize 1948. They cloak the same reality the Constantinian Jewish establishment does. Because of this, increasing numbers of analysts view Constantinian and Progressive Jews as fellow enablers of the dislocation of Palestinians and the destruction of Palestine.

At issue is freedom for Jews and others to think outside the structures that the Constantinian and Progressive establishments deem “authentically” Jewish. Progressive Jews define antisemitism and Jewish self-hate in similar terms to the Constantinian Jewish establishment. When Jews or non-Jews question the formation of the state of Israel or are insistent on the crimes committed against the Palestinian people, their integrity is questioned.

Jews criticizing Israel are open to harsh judgment. But who draws the red line and what interests are served when this line is drawn? On whose authority is the line drawn? If the red line moves one way or another, and the once condemned are now affirmed, who repairs the reputation of the ones that were so summarily disparaged?

Progressive Jews resent their pairing with Constantinian Jews. They see themselves in fierce opposition to Constantinian Jews. But their differences are often exaggerated. At the foundational level, what is allowable for Jews and non-Jews to think, speak, and act upon is similar. A return to the origins of the state of Israel in 1948 spells trouble. Too harsh a criticism of Israel means antisemitism is at play. The similarities between the two establishments are as important as their differences. It is best to think of Progressive Jews as the left wing of Constantinian Judaism.

There is another group of Jews—Jews of Conscience—who break with the Constantinian and Progressive Jewish establishments. Jews of Conscience recover both the dream and the reality of 1948. In doing this, they reject the notion of Jewish innocence in the creation of the state of Israel. They also reject the assertion that Israel is redemptive of the Holocaust and an answer to Jewish powerlessness. Instead, Jews of Conscience seek to understand the reality of 1948 and Jewish power in its various dimensions. This includes the catastrophe that befell the Palestinians and the Jewish establishment’s link with American power. Jews of Conscience view the catastrophe that befell the Palestinians as a catastrophe for Jews as well. They question what the linkage with American empire bodes for the Jewish future.

Jews of Conscience analyze the ideologies and theologies that obscure what is happening in the present. Revisiting the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948, Jews of Conscience understand the continuing dislocation and displacement of Palestinian population and land after the establishment of the state of Israel as a continuity of settler policies. Thus the aftermath of the 1967 war was a continuation of the wrong done to Palestinians. A truncated freedom in a further diminished Palestine is hardly the appropriate response to this historical wrong.

The Palestinian catastrophe is thus placed in a broader framework. Not only was Israel culpable in its origins, the central thrust of Israel today retains that culpability. The Palestinian trauma of dislocation and displacement is laid squarely at the feet of the Jewish establishments in Israel and America posing an urgent question. Since the Palestinian Nakba continues, Jews of Conscience ask what Jews are to do about this enduring injustice that is foundational to Israel’s existence. [21]

Jews of Conscience are horrified by the continuing war against the Palestinians. They believe that Israel’s behavior after the establishment of the state is best understood by coming to grips with the founding of Israel itself. The occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza after the 1967 war has a “before.” The “before” is the original settlements on the coast, then their expansion into the interior as Palestinians were cleansed from the land. The growth of the settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank is continuous with Israel’s founding, present, and future. “Before” is crucial to understanding the future trajectory of the state of Israel. [22]

Jews of Conscience believe that re-visioning alternatives to Zionism in its statist formulations—even the original opposition to Zionism itself—is crucial for the future of Jews and Palestinians. Without making a definitive judgment with regard to the historical moment of Israel’s founding, thinking through the variety of Jewish life at that time is crucial to imagining a joint life beyond the present divisions. Besides, all of these alternatives exist among some Jews in the present. One kind of view, state Zionism, has become dominant. Other points of view have to surface for an alternative and inclusive future to be envisioned.

Whereas after the Holocaust, a majority of Jews were soft Zionists, ranging from mildly supportive to indifferent to the movement, for Jews of Conscience it is important to remember homeland Zionism as an alternative to state Zionism. Alongside Judah Magnes and Martin Buber, two other important homeland advocates were Hannah Arendt and Albert Einstein. All were active in alternative Zionist movements before the state of Israel was created and continued in their opposition to state Zionism afterward as well. Magnes, who died as Israel became a state, spent his last years lobbying Secretary of State Marshall and President Truman against recognizing the declaration of Israel’s statehood and the partition of Palestine. Buber, Arendt, and Einstein continued their search for an alternative to state Zionism after Magnes’s death. [23]

Although they lost the battle in the political arena, homeland Zionism continues as a critique of the more militant policies of the state. It may stimulate thought about Israel’s future. Just as reckoning with 1948 forces Jews to understand that Arab and Palestinian opposition to Israel is more than a form of antisemitism, resurfacing the homeland option within Zionism reminds Jews that life in the land could have taken different directions.

By remembering homeland Zionism’s proposals for the Jewish community in Palestine, other avenues in the present come into view. The daunting question is whether there is the time and will within Israel and among its supporters to reconfigure the trajectory of the state toward justice and an ethical future. It may be too late.

Israel has conquered Palestine. The challenge is how the Jewish and Palestinian populations will live within this expanded Israel. On the seventieth anniversary of Israel in 2018, what relationship will Jews and Palestinians have? Will they be living together in justice or injustice? Divided as antagonists or united in a new project of mutuality and reconciliation?

If a massive transfer of Palestinian population from the three remnants of Palestinian life under the control of Israel is avoided, a reconfigured understanding of how Jews and Palestinians exist together in the land will have to be created. If more decades of occupation are to be avoided and a further ethnic cleansing of Palestinians to be circumvented, homeland Zionism needs a second look if only to open alternative modes of thinking. [24]

What does homeland Zionism look like when glimpsed through the lens of Holocaust consciousness and Israeli statehood? The Holocaust obscures the origins of the state of Israel and alternative approaches to Zionism as the state came into being. A comprehensive historical approach is needed here but, like the 1948 war and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, a general overview is enough to suggest future possibilities.

Homeland Zionism included binational, confederation, and federation approaches to Jews living in neighborly relationships with the Palestinian and the surrounding Arab countries. It emphasized the Jewish longing for a home in its place of birth and as a center for the Jewish people. As important, a Jewish homeland sought to renew life in the Jewish Diaspora. The Diaspora would have a center from which it could draw nourishment and strength.

Homeland Zionism envisioned the rebirth of Hebrew as a living and spoken language. The Jewish presence in the land would be a launching ground for specifically Jewish endeavors in education, culture, agriculture, and social organization. Cultivating these aspects of Jewish life, Jews could extend their contribution to the broader arc of humanity. Homeland Zionism proposed an institutional infrastructure that would receive Jewish refugees from a war-torn and devastated Europe. Jewish refugees would be settled in a peaceful and welcoming land. [25]

For homeland Zionists, a communal gathering of Jews in Palestine fulfilled the ancient Jewish promise of a homeland. In the emergency years of the Holocaust, the Jewish homeland would grant sanctuary for the dislocated Jews of Europe. As with the state Zionists, by the early years of the twentieth century, homeland Zionists feared that the specific Jewish difficulties in Europe would leave the Jews of Europe in dire political, cultural, and spiritual shape. As the Nazis came to power, these fears increased.

Perhaps the most eloquent spokesperson for homeland Zionism was Martin Buber, himself a refugee from Nazism. By the time he arrived in Jerusalem in the late 1930s, however, the die was already cast. State Zionism was ascendant. Or so it seems when looking back from our vantage point.

Buber, along with others like Magnes, argued passionately that their Zionism was the only way forward for Jews and Judaism. To choose a state was to choose a final division between Jew and Arab. A state necessitated a militaristic polity toward and a displacement of Palestinian Arabs. Displacing Palestinians would, in turn, lead to constant wars. Jews would be seen as perpetual foreigners in the region. With the birth of the state of Israel in 1948, Hannah Arendt predicted that the Jewish state would become a modern Sparta. [26]

If a Jewish state was created, Arendt believed an important opportunity would be squandered. The lessons of the Holocaust and the end of World War II provided a significant moment for Jews to adopt a politics of living with and among other nations. Instead of falling back on weakness and the charges of antisemitism, Arendt envisioned Jews as a political force, participating equally in a world where power was interdependent and evolving.

Jews had the advantage of being without a colonial past. Therefore, the Jews of Palestine could be a positive and innovative bridge between the East and West. Arendt hoped that the Jews and Arabs of Palestine would become a model of East -West cooperation in a world that had just emerged from a global war and was now entering the decades of the Cold War. [27]

Arendt thought that World War II was the end of Western civilization as it had been known and inherited. Everything that was believed about Western civilization had come toppling down over our heads. What the world needed were models of a new civilization, one that could sustain rather than destroy life.

In Arendt’s view, Palestine could function as a small experiential model serving a greater international need. Jews had suffered catastrophic losses in the Holocaust but now, back on their feet, Jews could become beacons of hope. Why squander a Jewish and global hope on what would be a small and embattled state?

Many of Arendt’s predictions came true. The views she shared with Buber, Magnes, and Einstein have transpired. Israel turned its back on almost everything homeland Zionists valued. Rather than pacific, Israel became militarized. The normalization of Jewish life that state Zionists longed for continues to elude Jews. The institutions of the state have rendered Jewish Israelis anomalies in the Middle East.

True, Hebrew is now a modernized spoken language, whereas before it was primarily used for liturgical purposes. But that Hebrew is also used in ways unforeseen by the early Zionist thinkers. Today, Hebrew is used to displace, capture, torture and murder Palestinians. In this and other ways, Israel has continued and has perhaps exacerbated Jewish abnormality. However, the abnormality is of a different sort than Jews previously experienced. The abnormality is one of Jewish power used against others struggling for their own justice.

Whereas Arendt and other homeland Zionists foresaw a center for Jews in Palestine as a bridge between East and West, today Israeli naval forces detain others who attempt to bridge the East–West divide. The Israeli Navy’s interception of the flotilla of boats carrying medical supplies and other necessities for Palestinians in Gaza is commonplace. The Gaza flotillas are similar to the bridge Arendt foresaw that Jews could be—exemplars of the need for justice and models of that very possibility in a world desperately in need of reconstruction.

Instead of welcoming the boats bound for Gaza as an opportunity to begin again, Israel deflects its injustices by asserting that the boats themselves symbolize a threat to Israel’s existence. Yet if Israel looked at the Gaza flotillas from another perspective, they might see them re-presenting the idea of homeland Zionism to a triumphant state Zionism.

The Gaza flotillas are a disturbing memory of what the Jewish return to Palestine could have been. They call Jews to return to a normality characterized by justice-seeking for Jews and for others as well.

In Jewish history, turning away from justice is considered abnormal. But, then again, when the abnormal becomes the new normal, the subversive memory of suffering becomes a defense against the hopes of a dispossessed people existing on the other side of Jewish power.

Still, the dispossession of the Other is the dispossession of the one who dispossess. So much so, that the oppressors’ memory of its dispossession is used as a—normal—weapon against others.

Copyright © 2014 Fortress Press. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of Augsburg Fortress. No further reproduction allowed without the written permission of the publisher.


1. For our purposes, diverse understandings of non-state Zionism—including those Zionists who saw a binational reality—will be gathered under the rubric “homeland Zionism.” For a current discussion of the diversity of Zionism, see Judith Butler, Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012). An example of non-state Zionism during the founding of the state of Israel can be found in Hannah Arendt, “To Save the Jewish Homeland: There Is Still Time,” in Hannah Arendt: The Jewish Writings, ed. Jerome Kohn and Ron H. Feldman (New York: Schocken, 2008), 388–401.

2. My rendition of the biblical narrative takes into account the scholarly literature critical of any overall historical sense of the biblical canon. Nonetheless, at the end of deconstructing the canon, the canon itself remains a force to be reckoned with, and not only in a critical way.

3. Passover Haggadah, 2012/5772, Jewish Voice for Peace,

4. For archetypes in Jewish history, see Efraim Shmueli, Seven Jewish Cultures: A Reinterpretation of Jewish History and Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008). For a post-Holocaust take on these archetypes, see David Roskies, The Literature of Destruction: Jewish Responses to Catastrophe (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1989).

5. Sholmo Sand disputes these historical renderings in his, The Invention of the Jewish People (Brooklyn: Verso, 2010) and again in The Invention of the Land of Israel: From Holy Land to Homeland (London: Verso, 2012).

6. One example of the rebranding is the publicity campaign arguing Israel’s liberality on gay and lesbian issues over against the more conservative Arab world. Even here, seemingly on safe ground, the claims are increasingly contested by Jewish gay and lesbian activists who do not want to trade one injustice for another. On “Pinkwashing,” see Sarah Schulman, “Israel and ‘Pinkwashing,’” New York Times, November 22, 2011. Also see her Israel/Palestine and the Queer International (Durham: Duke University Press, 2012).

7. Events such as September 11th also set off this discussion of anti-Semitism. For an interesting example of this genre see Gabriel Schoenfeld, The Return of Anti-Semitism (New York: Encounter Books, 2004).

8. Unfortunately, some of these works veer off into antisemitism, in this case defined as vilifying Jewish texts as Jewish though historically used by Christians in their violence against others. The late Michael Prior is an example. See his The Bible and Colonialism: A Moral Critique (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997).

9. For a more measured analysis on the history of antisemitism to contemporary times, see David Nirenberg, Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition (New York: Norton, 2013).

10. See one of my early books that references this theme: Beyond Innocence and Redemption: Confronting the Holocaust and Israeli Power (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1990).

11. On a history of Zionism, see David Vital’s multivolume work, The Origins of Zionism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980); Zionism: The Formative Years (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982); and Zionism: The Crucial Phase (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987).

12. One case study of dissent against Zionism is found in Thomas Kolsky, Jews Against Zionism: The American Council for Judaism, 1942–1948 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992).

13. For a view of non-European Jews on the state of Israel, see Ella Shohat, Taboo Memories, Diasporic Voices (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006), 201–232, 320–58.

14. For a recent perspective on the Palestinian Nakba, see Nur Marsalha, The Palestine Nakba: Decolonising History, Narrating the Subaltern, Reclaiming Memory (London: Zed Books, 2012)

15. For an interesting take on the international community and the formation of Israel, see The Palestine Question in International Law, ed. Victor Kattan (London: British Institute of International and Comparative Law, 2008)

16. See Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (London: One World, 2007).

17. On the development of Holocaust Theology, one variant of Holocaust consciousness, see my Toward a Jewish Theology of Liberation, 3d and Expanded Edition (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2004), 13–28.

18. Though Constantine started the evolution of Christianity into a state religion, it would become the state religion with the Edict of Thessalonika in 380 ACE after Constantine’s death. For our purposes, however, we use the known terminology, Constantinian Christianity and apply it a type to a Jewishness benefitting from and supporting state power. See James Carroll, Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews: A History (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001).

19. For a take on Constantinian Judaism as well as their relationship to Progressive Jews, see my Judaism Does Not Equal Israel (New York: New Press, 2009).

20. A good snapshot of the strength and limitations of Progressive Jews is found in Michael Lerner, Embracing Israel/Palestine: A Strategy to Heal and Transform the Middle East (Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2011).

21. The analysis of a radical Jew of Conscience can be found in Ronit Lentin, Co-Memory and Melancholia: Israelis Memorialising the Palestinian Nakba (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2010). For an interesting and controversial take on life within Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories by a Jew of Conscience see Max Blumenthal, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel (New York: Nation Books, 2013.)

22. This continuity of settlements is discussed in Rafi Segal and Eyal Weizman, A Civilian Occupation: The Politics of Israeli Architecture (Brooklyn: Verso, 2003).


Magnes is quite interesting here. For a biography of him, see Daniel P. Kotzin, Judah L. Magnes: An American Nonconformist (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2010). For more on Magnes and his interaction with the American recognition of Israel as a state see John B. Judis, Genesis: Truman. American Jews and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2014).

24. For one such look, see What Does a Jew Want? On Binationalism and Other Specters, ed. Udi Aloni (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011).

25. The positive elements of homeland Zionism are exactly what Hannah Arendt thought would be lost in the formation of a Jewish state. See her “Zionism Reconsidered,” in Jewish Writings, 343–74.

26. Arendt, “Jewish Homeland,” in Jewish Writings, 388–401.

27. For a fascinating contemporary take on Arendt’s understandings, see Judith Butler, Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012), 114–80.

About Marc H. Ellis
Marc H. Ellis is retired Director and Professor of Jewish Studies at Baylor University and author of Future of the Prophetic: Israel`s Ancient Wisdom
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