Zionism has always displayed a complicated relationship with the Temple Mount. While secular socialist Zionism wanted little to do with the site for pragmatic reasons, right-wing and guerilla Zionist groups considered it, before the founding of the state, as the embodiment of Jewish sovereignty over the Holy Land. And although Religious Zionism, until very recently, shied away from the site, over the past decade tremendous changes in this public’s attitude have taken place, leading to intense interest and activity concerning it. This article surveys past and present attitudes toward the Temple Mount, studying its recent rise as a focal point for ethnonational yearnings, and analyzing these developments vis-à-vis the secularization process.
Ethnocentrism and the Temple Mount
Rabbi John Rayner was an eminent proponent of ethical Zionism. His views about Israel are related in this article to his views about Judaism and Jewish ethics. The three pillars of Judaism are: truth, justice and peace. Rabbi Rayner personified these values to a remarkable degree. The common thread that runs through his countless sermons and articles was the emphasis on the gentler and more outward-looking values of Judaism. It is by cultivating and exemplifying these values, he believed, that Jews could best help humanity find signposts to justice and peace, not only in the Middle East but everywhere. Ethical Zionism, as understood by Rabbi Rayner, is based on Jewish values. The State of Israel is the main political progeny of the Zionist movement. It follows that the State of Israel ought to reflect Jewish values in its external relations. In the event of a clash between Israeli behaviour and Jewish ethics, Rabbi Rayner invariably came down on the side of Jewish ethics. He consistently placed principle above pragmatism and morality above expediency. He was an honest and courageous man who always spoke truth to power.
Contrasting Representations of Irish and Zionist Nationalism in British Political Discourse (1917-1922)
The Irish struggle for independence (1917–1922) coincided with the beginnings of the mandate in Palestine, by which the British government sought to encourage the establishment of a Jewish National Home. Analogies between these two territories regularly surfaced in the papers of British officials and policy makers. Universally perceived as a paradigm of nationalism and insurrection, the Irish precedent colored the British understanding of Palestine. Essentialist representations of national groups such as the Irish or the Jews were also common as the British government lent support to various nationalist movements in order to further strategic objectives during the Great War. However, British attitudes toward Irish nationalism and Zionism varied widely. A careful examination of Arthur James Balfour’s representations of the Irish and Jewish nations reveals that nationalist ideology, far from relying on a coherent and systematic understanding of national groups, shifted depending on Britain’s geopolitical interests.
Israeli poet Yonatan Ratosh was the leader of the Young Hebrews, a nationalist group active from the 1940s to the 1970s. Despite his opposition to Zionism and his aspiration to revive the ancient Hebrews’ premonotheistic civilization, Ratosh shared Zionism’s ambition to elaborate a new Israeli identity. One prominent act of this mission involved enlarging the literary corpus in Hebrew through translation. Although initially a means of income, for Ratosh translation increasingly came to be a way to express his ideological position and his self-image as an intellectual. Thus, Ratosh provides an example of how developing a national identity can coincide with appropriating foreign literature. With his regular exhortations that Hebrew readers attain knowledge of foreign cultures, Ratosh did not intend to promote cosmopolitanism. Rather, he considered these endeavors as ultimately reinforcing a “Hebrew” identity.
Ernest Gellner notes that the quarrel between himself and Anthony Smith could be summarized by the question: do nations have navels? According to his modernist outlook, while some nations might have navels, others do not, and in any case it is not important; while in Smith's conception, navels constitute an 'ethnic core', essential for nation-building. Yet in the pre–independence nation-building process, what Smith considers Israel's ethnic core—mainly the concepts of the 'Chosen People' and 'Holy Land'—either did not have the same meaning or did not play the important role that Smith attributes to them. Indeed, Smith's account of Zionism is a post–independence invention and in this respect a further corroboration of modernism.
This article deals with the relation of Micha Yosef Ben Gurion (Berdichevski)—one of the central formulators of the Zionist idea and of modern Hebrew literature—to the Zionist political sphere. As a wordly Jewish intellectual, Berdichevski attempted to establish a kind of Zionism that would allow Jewish individuals to engage in it as an act of their desires. In exploring how his carnal inclinations affected his vision of the political, I argue that Berdichevski's perception fails qualitatively by transposing its guiding sensual approach to the formulation of the new Jewish political sphere. As this article will show, Berdichevski's relation to the Jewish political revolution reveals a sometimes limited perception regarding the possibilities of freedom inherent in political activity and often contradicts his own aspiration to nurture the liberty of Jewish individuals.
A Paradigm Shift in Israel Studies?
In 2010, more than two decades after the first post-Zionist studies rattled Israeli academe, Asaf Likhovsky (2010) suggested that several studies that were published in the first decade of the current century are perhaps pointing at a new direction in the field of Israel and Zionist studies. Likhovsky described these studies as a third wave in Israeli historiography and referred to the scholars who produced these studies as “post-post-Zionists.” While older historians of Israel and the Yishuv as well as their post-Zionist critics were primarily interested in the grand political themes of the Zionist era, Likhovsky (2010: 10) identified a series of studies that, as he put it, “are interested in mentalities, rituals, mannerisms, emotions; the trivial, private, mundane; the body and soul and their social construction; in disgust and desire; in attitudes to garbage and hair; in views of food and consumption; in statistics and vaccinations; in the ideas of housewives, but also lawyers, statisticians, psychoanalysts, and nurses (but not the politician, the soldier, the general).”
Jacqueline Rose, The Question of Zion (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005).
Mira Sucharov, The International Self: Psychoanalysis and the Search for Israeli-Palestinian Peace (Albany: SUNY Press, 2005).
An Interpretation of Changing Realities and Changing Histories
This article surveys changes and arguments in the historiography and politics of Israel especially in the post-1977 period, ranging from the New Historians through recent discussions of Mamlakhtiyut (statism), an ideological term for the policies pursued in the early years of statehood by David Ben-Gurion. The article is especially concerned with social democratic or socialist questions, as Mamlakhtiyut subordinated institutions of the Labor movement to those of the state. The article suggests that there were alternatives to Mamlakhtiyut in the 1950s that ought to be reconsidered today. This is especially so given the contemporary political dominance of Labor's traditional foes and new realities faced by states in a “globalizing” world. The article suggests that aspects of recent historiography can be seen as descending from the mental universe of Rafi, the breakaway party Ben-Gurion formed in 1965 after splitting from Mapai. Parallels to other political developments and alternative historiography are suggested. This article revises and expands the “Postface” (Afterword) for the new second French edition (2014) of the author's Zion and State (originally published in 1987), which presented a critique of Mamlakhtiyut.
The Consolation of History in a Paris Exile
Patrick H. Hutton
Walter Benjamin, a Jewish German literary critic of modest reputation during the interwar years, has become an intellectual celebrity in our times. In flight from Nazi Germany, he took refuge in Paris during the 1930s before dying in 1940 in a vain effort to escape to America. In this essay, I analyze his ideas as conceived in his Paris exile, with particular attention to his turn to the topics of memory and of history and of the relationship between them. I close with some thoughts on how his ideas about memory's redeeming power played into the humanist Marxism of the intellectuals of the 1960s and subsequently the preoccupation with memory in late twentieth-century scholarship.