Understanding Zionism’s Past, and Its Future

Sept. 26 2018

In 1959, the American rabbi and historian Arthur Hertzberg published The Zionist Idea, an anthology of major essays in Zionist thought spanning an era from before Theodor Herzl through the founding of the state of Israel. The book has been an invaluable resource for students and teachers for decades, but it is not without its flaws. In welcoming Gil Troy’s The Zionist Ideas (plural), meant to be a revised and updated version of Hertzberg’s work, Allan Arkush finds it has its own virtues and drawbacks:

Troy’s volume, like Hertzberg’s, has many merits. But . . . Hertzberg’s elegant and penetrating introduction to The Zionist Idea is one of the best essays on Zionist thought ever published. Troy, while acknowledging that it is “majestic,” has replaced it with a rather pedestrian mise-en-scène of the Zionist movement, one that celebrates more than it analyzes and one that leaves out much that is crucial. And he makes a lot of mistakes. For [one] instance, Moses Mendelssohn never uttered the words Troy directly attributes to him: “Be a cosmopolitan man in the street and a Jew at home.” When the 19th-century Russian Jewish poet Y.L. Gordon wrote something similar, he was not, as Troy maintains, echoing Mendelssohn but at most channeling him. . . .

Troy remedies . . . at least some of what [Hertzberg] leaves out about Vladimir Jabotinsky’s Revisionism. Instead of displaying only the spokesman for a Jewish state as he appeared before the Peel Commission in 1937, he allows his readers a glimpse of the militancy that no doubt discomfited Hertzberg, including Jabotinsky’s 1923 call for an “iron wall, that is to say the strengthening in Palestine of a government without any kind of Arab influence, that is to say one against which the Arabs will fight.”

Another virtue of the first part of The Zionist Ideas is its inclusion of pre-1948 voices absent from The Zionist Idea, among them a few women. (Hertzberg’s volume was all male.) . . . Having reduced Hertzberg’s more than 500 pages of documents predating Israel’s independence to 138, Troy has [also made] plenty of room for a large gallery of more recent Zionist thinkers and activists of all stripes, from the diaspora as well as Israel. Overall, his choices are good. . . .

The problem is that Troy has squeezed over a hundred of them into fewer than 500 pages. You can’t get very far into the complex arguments and ideas of Bernard Avishai, Chaim Gans, Ruth Gavison, Yeshayahu Leibowitz, Ze’ev Maghen, Simon Rawidowicz, Yael Tamir, or Ruth Wisse by reading a page (or three) of their work. In fact, at this soundbite length these very different thinkers tend to merge into each other, forming a vague, illusory consensus.

In the same essay, Arkush also reviews Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor by Yossi Klein Halevi, one of the contemporary thinkers excerpted by Troy:

Halevi’s new book is not so much an appeal from a Zionist to anti-Zionists as a call from a religious Jew to religious Muslims to accept the existence of a Jewish state on the grounds of a common faith in a beneficent God and humanity. Explicitly taking exception to the broader agenda of many faithful Jews, who see no room for compromise over the Land of Israel, Halevi hopes that his scaled-down, peaceable vision of coexistence in the Holy Land will find a ready hearing—or some hearing, anyhow—among the people whose calls to prayer regularly echo across West Bank neighborhoods to his own house on the outmost edge of Jewish Jerusalem.

Of the well-known obstacles that Islam places in the way of recognition of the legitimacy of any kind of Jewish state Halevi says nothing. He does, however, provide us with several examples of broad-minded Palestinians with whom he has interacted in the past, and he clearly hopes that there are more such people just over the horizon. . . . Will Yossi Klein Halevi’s book turn out merely to represent the hopes of a 21st-century liberal religious Zionist, or is it, rather, an early document of a new theological-political opportunity?

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Arthur Hertzberg, History & Ideas, Israel & Zionism, Vladimir Jabotinsky, Yehuda Leib Gordon, Yossi Klein Halevi

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela