The Founding Myths of Israel: Nationalism, Socialism and the Making of the Jewish State

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Because nationalism took precedence over universal values, argues Sternhell, Israel has not evolved a constitution or a Bill of Rights, has not moved to separate state and religion, has failed to develop a liberal concept of citizenship, and, until the Oslo accords of , did not recognize the rights of the Palestinians to independence.

This is a controversial and timely book, which not only provides useful historical background to Israel's ongoing struggle to mobilize its citizenry to support a shared vision of nationhood, but also raises a question of general significance: is a national movement whose aim is a political and cultural revolution capable of coexisting with the universal values of secularism, individualism, and social justice? This bold critical reevaluation will unsettle long-standing myths as it contributes to a fresh new historiography of Zionism and Israel.

At the same time, while it examines the past, The Founding Myths of Israel reflects profoundly on the future of the Jewish State. Many of our ebooks are available through library electronic resources including these platforms:. Home The Founding Myths of Israel.

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Add to Cart. More about this book. First surprise: the stereotype of the soldier-peasant, which one associates with the Jewish society of Palestine before , masked a principle far-removed from the bucolic reveries of the 'founding fathers'. Popular Features.

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New Releases. Notify me. Description This text proposes a radical interpretation of the founding of modern Israel. The founders claimed that they intended to create both a landed state for the Jewish people and a socialist society, but this book argues that socialism served the leaders of the influential labour movement more as a rhetorical resource for the legitimation of the national project of establishing a Jewish state than as a blueprint for a just society.

The book demonstrates how socialist principles were consistently subverted in practice by the nationalist goals to which socialist Zionism was committed. Product details Format Hardback pages Dimensions x x His view is impressively informative, and this meticulous book is packed with information, anecdotes, insights, and quotations. Knowledgeable students of Israel, interested in its political and ideological history, will find Sternhell's book both highly useful and indispensable. This is a very important book, which raises historical questions of an ever-fresh political significance.

The central myth Sternhell attacks is that of the socialist, liberal and democratic values of Israel's pioneers. Labor Zionists oriented towards British and the U. The Revisionists made overtures to the Italian and German fascism. The Zionists tried to convince themselves that Palestine was an unoccupied land.

Yet for more than 1, years, a Muslim Arab majority--living side by side with Jews and Christians--had resided in the Ottoman province. In , Palestine held a population of 24, Jews and , Arabs. By , after more than two decades of Zionist-sponsored immigration, the country had a population of nearly ,, 89 percent of it Palestinian Arab.

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Zionists purchased land--and a foothold in Palestine--from absentee Arab landowners in the s. Later, in the s, rich Palestinians sold their land to Zionists. Individual Jewish "pioneers" didn't buy the land. Zionist organizations like the Jewish National Fund bought land to provide a foundation for Jewish settlement in the country. Zionists drove Palestinian peasants off their land, forcing them into destitution. British authorities assured the Zionists privileged access to water and other essential resources.

After establishing themselves in Palestine, the Zionists proceeded to set up a separate Jewish economy and government under the noses of British mandate authorities. They called their economic policy "the conquest of Jewish land and labor," a flowery description for expelling the Palestinians from the country's economic life.

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Under the slogan, "Jewish land, Jewish labor, Jewish produce," the Histadrut, the kibbutzim and the moshavim agricultural cooperatives proceeded to drive Palestinians out of their jobs and their livelihoods. Histadrut members acted as goon squads against Palestinians:. Members of the Histadrut would picket and stand guard at Jewish orchards to prevent Arab workers from getting jobs. Squads of activists stormed through market places, pouring kerosene on tomatoes grown in Arab gardens or smashing eggs that Jewish housewives might buy from Arab merchants.

The Palestinians fought back against their dispossession. In , Palestinian organizations launched a general strike against increased poverty, the Zionists and the Zionists' British sponsors. The strike and subsequent armed uprisings lasted for three years before collapsing under the weight of Zionist and British repression.

The Founding Myths of Israel - Nationalism, Socialism, And the Making of the Jewish State by Zeev

The Zionists' role in the Palestinian Revolt clearly showed that Labor Zionism had nothing in common with genuine workers' solidarity. The Histadrut organized scabbing against the strike. It worked with the British to replace Arab strikers with Jewish workers in the Port of Haifa and on Palestine railroads. The Revolt's intensity derived from the fact that the Zionist threat to Palestine was becoming clear in the s. Throughout the s, the Jewish population in Palestine exploded.

Between and , the Jewish population in Palestine swelled from , to , While Jews accounted for only one-third of the population of Palestine on the eve of the state's declaration in , they were a well-armed and powerful minority. As the Jewish population increased, so did Zionist provocations against the Palestinians. Without the Holocaust, the state of Israel probably wouldn't have been founded.

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Zionists recruited immigrants to the state of Israel from among the thousands of Holocaust survivors whose communities in Europe were destroyed. Perhaps more importantly, the Holocaust provided a convincing justification for a Jewish state. The Holocaust proved that Gentiles were inherently anti-Semitic, the Zionists argued.

Jews living in Gentile societies, therefore, faced the constant danger of extermination. By the end of the war, most Jews agreed with the Zionists. What was more, the Nazis' physical elimination of alternative political currents in Jewish society increased support for Zionism. While the Nazis willingly dickered with Zionist leaders throughout the s and s, they made sure to kill every communist, socialist or Jewish resistance fighter they could get their hands on.

The war forced the British to evacuate much of their empire, including Palestine. Britain left to the United Nations the task of deciding Palestine's fate. In November , the UN agreed to a partition plan. The plan granted the Zionists control of 55 percent of Palestine although they represented only one-third of the country's population. The Palestinian majority was left with 45 percent of their own country.

Jerusalem was to be an "international city" with equal access granted to Jews, Christians and Muslims. Zionist leaders accepted the UN Partition Plan in public. In private, they planned a military assault to seize as much Palestinian land as possible. Judah L. Magnes, president of Hebrew University of Jerusalem and supporter of a bi-national Arab and Jewish state, explained the Zionists' logic in A Jewish state can only be obtained, if it ever is, through war You can talk to an Arab about anything, but you cannot talk to him about a Jewish state.

And that is because, by definition, a Jewish state means that the Jews will govern other people, other people who are living in this Jewish state.

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Jabotinsky knew that long ago. He was the prophet of the Jewish state. Jabotinsky was ostracized, condemned, excommunicated. But now we see that the entire Zionist movement has adopted his point of view As Magnus predicted, the Zionist "right" and "left" united to hijack the country.

They used terror, psychological warfare and massacres to instill fear among Palestinians. In the most well-known massacre, the Revisionist Irgun and the Fighters for the Freedom of Israel militias--whose chief leaders were future Israeli prime ministers Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir--murdered the entire Palestinian village of Dir Yassin. The commandos "lined men, women and children up against walls and shot them," according to a Red Cross description of the massacre.

Israeli military commander and future Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin oversaw the expulsion of the Palestinian population of Lydda. He described the events:. Yigal Allon asked Ben-Gurion what was to be done with the civilian population. Ben-Gurion waved his hand in a gesture of "drive them out. Psychologically, this was one of the most difficult actions we undertook. The population of Lydda did not leave willingly. There was no way of avoiding the use of force and warning shots in order to make the inhabitants march the ten or fifteen miles to the point where they met up with the Arab Legion.

For years, Zionist history asserted a number of "facts" about the war: that little Israel faced overwhelming Arab firepower; that Palestinian leaders encouraged Palestinians to leave the country; that there was no Zionist plan to drive the Palestinians out; that Palestinians rejected partition and started the war.