Zionism’s Secular Promise of Spiritual Redemption

In Zionism’s Redemptions, Arieh Saposnik explores the way that early Zionists not only sought a political solution to the “Jewish question,” but entertained more ambitious visions of salvation, even if they conceived these visions without reference to divine providence. Allan Arkush, in his review, takes as illustrative the case of Nahum Sokolow:

A thoroughly secular Jew, Sokolow nevertheless had no compunction in arguing that “Zionism is the direct heir to the biblical promise and to Jewish messianic expectations.” What distinguished it from earlier Judaism, he believed, was its activism. And the “first to transform traditional messianic longing into the makings of modern politics or, in a word, into modern Zionism” was, in Sokolow’s eyes, not Herzl or any other 19th- or 20th-century figure; it was the 17th-century Dutch rabbi Menasseh ben Israel. Sokolow argued that Menasseh’s famous attempt to further the admission of Jews into England was intended as a step toward his messianic vision “of an ultimate Jewish return to the Land of Israel.”

At the book’s end, Saposnik expresses the hope that some of this bygone Zionist fervor can be recreated in modern Israel. Arkush is skeptical:

For those who are under the sway of a far more colorful religious vision, it is unlikely to have much of an appeal. Nor can it provide much guidance for those who are thoroughly ensconced in [what Saposnik calls] a “post-truth, post-ideology, and post-vision world.” But even those who haven’t given up on the search for truth need something more than a historical picture. They need an argument that persuades them that the picture they are looking at is rooted in the truth and represents the good. Saposnik knows that this isn’t what he has done, but he hopes nonetheless that our present historical moment is not irredeemable and that his evocative exploration of overlooked corners of the Zionist past may help those who have lost their way.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: History of Zionism, Messianism


Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University