Twin Impulses of Beseiged Zionism

Consuming any issue of the Washington Monthly involves tucking in to tasty book reviews, and the current issue is no exception. Anyone interested in the complex background to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should read Jacob Heilbrunn’s review of two books on two great rivals of Zionism and their shifting legacies today.

Hillel Halkin’s biography of Vladimir Jabotinskly, the leader of “revisionist” Zionism, and Seth Lipsky’s biography of the American socialist Zionist Abraham Cahan, take us back to the old but evergreen arguments about the best way for Palestinian Jews, and later Israelis, to deal with hostile Arab neighbords. As Heilbrunn notes, Rabotinsky’s blunt faith in nationalist force instead of mutual aid or “co-prosperity” almost seems more modern, given its adoption by Bibi Netanyahu, the son of one of his proteges. But Cahan’s point of view points to many paths not taken by the Zionist enterprise, including a less aggressive assertion of exclusive statehood.

If it sometimes seems nothing new is ever said and done in the dispute between Israel and its Arab neighbors, it may be best to look back a bit further, when intra-Zionist disputes were more robust and less fraught with immediate peril (except, of course, for the many souls that might have escaped fascist terror had the situation in Palestine been more settled).

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.