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


How to Turn Palestinian Public Opinion Away from Terror

The Palestinian human-rights activist Bassem Eid, responding to the latest survey results of the Palestinian public, writes:

Not coincidentally, support for Hamas is much higher in the West Bank—misgoverned by Hamas’s archrivals, the secular nationalist Fatah, which rules the Palestinian Authority (PA)—than in Gaza, whose population is being actively brutalized by Hamas. Popular support for violence persists despite the devastating impact that following radical leaders and ideologies has historically had on the Palestinian people, as poignantly summed up by Israel’s Abba Eban when he quipped that Arabs, including the Palestinians, “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

Just as worrying is the role of propaganda and misinformation, which are not unique to the Palestinian context but are pernicious there due to the high stakes involved. Misinformation campaigns, often fueled by Hamas and its allies, have painted violent terrorism as the only path to dignity and rights for Palestinians. Palestinian schoolbooks and public media are rife with anti-Semitic and jihadist content. Hamas’s allies in the West have matched Hamas’s genocidal rhetoric with an equally exterminationist call for the de-normalization and destruction of Israel.

It’s crucial to consider successful examples of de-radicalization from other regional contexts. After September 11, 2001, Saudi Arabia implemented a comprehensive de-radicalization program aimed at rehabilitating extremists through education, psychological intervention, and social reintegration. This program has had successes and offers valuable lessons that could be adapted to the Palestinian context.

Rather than pressure Israel to make concessions, Eid argues, the international community should be pressuring Palestinian leaders—including Fatah—to remove incitement from curricula and stop providing financial rewards to terrorists.

Read more at Newsweek

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian public opinion