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Israel’s Sovereignty Zionism/Nationalism

The Unknown Origin of Post-Zionism: The Flawed Conceptual Foundations of the State of Israel

Extracted (apart from the conclusion) from Paul Eidelberg, Demophrenia: Israel and the Malaise of Democracy, 1994.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, post-Zionism did not begin with the Oslo or Israel-PLO Agreement of September 13, 1993. Zionism ceased to activate Israel’s political elites immediately after the 1948-49 War of Independence.

To understand this phenomenon, we must go back even before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and examine the mentality of its ruling elites.

European education profoundly influenced the founders and faculties of Israel’s academic institutions. Historical or cultural relativism has ever flourished in Israel’s secular universities. Martin Buber wrote: “There is no scale of values for the [world-historical] function of peoples. One cannot be ranked above another.” It is in this light that we are to understand why this Hebrew University professor and his colleague, Dr. Judah Magnes (the university’s first president), favored a bi-national Arab-Jewish state in the land of Israel. In 1947, they declared in a joint statement:

We do not favour Palestine as a Jewish country or Palestine as an Arab country, but a bi-national Palestine as the common country of two peoples…. Palestine is not just an Arab land like any other Arab land, or just a Jewish land. For one thing, it is a Holy Land for three monotheistic religious, of which two—Judaism and Christianity—had their origin here, while the third, Islam regards Jerusalem as next in holiness to Mecca and Medinah.

Buber’s cultural egalitarianism logically denies the election of Israel as the “light unto the nations.” This denial permeated the mentality of those who founded of the modern State of Israel. They accepted uncritically the historical and democratic relativism that has dominated the modern era, in consequence of which they harbored no exalted view of the concept of Israel, of Israel as the truth-bearing nation.

Despite the Arab massacres and mutilations of Jews in 1929 and between 1936 and 1939, no less a “right-wing” Zionist than Vladimir Jabotinsky advocated this egalitarian policy: “In every Cabinet where the Prime Minister is a Jew the Vice-Premiership shall be offered to an Arab, and vice-versa.” Ben-Gurion had also written: “An Arab should also have the right to be elected President of Israel.” The ascendancy of democratic egalitarianism over political Zionism was thus in evidence before Israel’s rebirth in 1948. Israel has never had a really Zionist or authentic Jewish government.

Although Israel’s political leaders in Ben-Gurion’s time were more apt than now to speak the language of Zionism, Zionist ideology, Mordechai Nisan has observed, has never had much operational significance in defining national priorities or policies. In fact, Ben-Gurion had largely accommodated himself to the 1949 armistice lines as Israel’s final borders. He reportedly told Buber that Zionist thought is dead.

One might think, however, that the Six Day War of June 1967 would have breathed new life into Zionism. After all, in a miraculous victory over its enemies, Israel captured Judea and Samaria from Jordan, the Sinai and Gaza from Egypt, and the Golan Heights from Syria. But the war was unexpected. The Labor government had been oblivious of the possibility of war prior to May 1967. The government was ideologically unprepared for the war’s extraordinary consequences. Despite the frequency of border clashes with Jordan, of terrorist attacks from Gaza and the Sinai, and of artillery shelling from the Golan Heights, territorial expansion played no part in the government’s foreign policy. The government was preoccupied with domestic problems. Eitan Haber, a senior aide to Yitzhak Rabin, had this to say in The Jerusalem Post on December 18, 1990:

On the morning of the Six Day War, June 6, 1967, there was no operational plan at General Staff Headquarters for the IDF [the Israel Defense Forces] to conquer the Jordan-held areas west of the River Jordan, not even East Jerusalem.

From the outset, there was no intention to seize the areas. Levi Eshkol, as prime minister, and Yitzhak Rabin, as chief of the general staff, sent a message to King Hussein which said explicitly that no harm would befall him and his kingdom if he sat still. The outcome is known…

Even before then, in the early 1960s, there was only one IDF general who spoke at military gatherings of “the heritage of our forefathers” and “the captive City of David,” and expressed vociferous yearning to see the Temple Mount in our hands.

The general in question was Ezer Weizman, who, as Haber points out, “was harshly rebuked for [his pious utterance] by our first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion.” (This is the same Weizman who subsequently became a prominent “dove” and Israel’s president.)

Even the right-wing Herut movement and the two religious parties, Mafdal and Agudat Yisrael, which affirmed the right of the Jewish people to the entire, historic Land of Israel, were willing to accept the territorial status quo.

Israel’s stunning victory in the war seems to have left its political elites—notably Levy Eshkol, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, Foreign Minister Abba Eban, and Yigal Allon—ideologically dumbfounded. So decrepit was their Zionism that, eastern Jerusalem aside, the thought of retaining control of Judea and Samaria was based primarily on security, not on ideological, considerations. In fact, all but Dayan were prepared to give up Judea and Samaria for peace with Jordan.

As for Dayan, consider only this. On June 8, when the IDF captured the Temple Mount, Muslim clergymen, emerging from the Dome of the Rock, surrendered and asked that the Muslim shrines be unharmed. The request was granted on the spot. They then asked to be taken captive, in response to which they were told by the officer in charge that they were free to go home. When Dayan arrived on the scene, he ordered the removal of the Israeli flag from the Mount. A few days later he gave orders that control of the Temple Mount—the most sacred site of the Jewish people—be returned to the Waqf, the Muslim religious trust. Dayan’s decision was ratified by the Cabinet, which included Menachem Begin and the National Religious Party!

No one was more surprised by this Jewish self-abnegation than the Muslims, who fully expected their conquerors to reap the fruits of their victory. The political Zionism of the Ben-Gurion generation, however, was not only dead; it was metamorphosing into anti-Zionism. Israel’s enemies were quick to exploit the ideological anemia of Israel’s leaders.

Enter Ehud Olmert and the urgent need of nothing less than regime change. I have the plans. Lacking only are the resources.

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