From a review of Amnon Rubenstein's The Zionist Dream Revisited in the Summer 1984 issue of Foreign Affairs:
"Ever since the war of 1967, and especially since that of 1982, the old questions of the meaning of Zionism and Jewish destiny have become the subject of increasing concern and debate in Israel. Rubinstein, a member of the Knesset from a small party, shows how the concept of a model, secular nation-state, formerly generally accepted, has been undermined and challenged by new developments. The revival of religious fundamentalism and the rise of Likud especially have contributed to this and have brought the country to the status of international pariah, to match that of Jewish communities in the old diaspora, and sparked the revival of anti-Semitism in the world. He acknowledges disappointment and failure but retains the belief that Zionism came to Palestine to build a home, not a temple, and must seek to make Israel "a good neighbor, not a recluse destined and willing to reside alone."
Chapter 3, "Religious Versus Secular Tensions."
In this chapter, Rubenstein presents a history of the theological and ideological strands that have guided the development of Judaism and Zionism. He shows how tensions have existed between the concept of Jewish chosenness and universal human equality (specifically, Jewish equality with others) since the Jews first became "a people" (p 35).
Rubenstein stresses the ancient origins and endurance of the Jews' historical sense of themselves as God's chosen people, "separate from the 'Gentiles of the earth'" (p 35), in other words, everybody else. The Jews were nationalist before the eighteenth century saw the rise of nationalism, in addition to being monotheistic before monotheistic religions became the world's dominant forms of religion. However, many "modern Jews" (p 36) responded to the passing of the pagan world and rise of European nation states by abandoning the concept of chosenness, consigning their Jewishness to the realm of private religious practice, and turning to secular assimilation. Thus, while doctrines of gentile racial superiority were developing across Europe, "toward the end of the 19th century, the enlightened jews were the vanguard of universal equality and ecumenical fraternity" (p 37).
He next explores the unique nature of Zionism as a "total entity," (p 37) that fully and totally combines nationalism with religion. I feel this point is crucial to any understanding of Zionism's seemingly fanatical endurance as a movement over time. Rubenstein explains how both political and religious Zionists were able to co-exist with one another during the years leading up to Israel's establishment (and for at least the first two decades of its existence). In the eyes of both political and religious Zionists, the religious component of Judaism had become "naturally dominant in exile" (p 39), while the nationalistic component had faded. Then, modernization and the development of competing doctrines concerning the purpose and explanation of life (such as socialism) began threatening adherence to Jewish religious traditions. A revived nationalism was seen as the key that would simultaneously end anti-Semitism while sparking an overall Jewish cultural and religious revival and fulfilling the Jews' long awaited "Return to the Holy Land" (p 40).
Unfortunately, this convergence of Zionist political and religious interests did not last forever. "The great majority of political Zionists (became) involved...with the practical hardships of turning a dream into reality...their principal goal was to save the Jews from their misery...(and make) Israel a nation of healthy, liberated people" (p 41). In the process, critics such as Judah Leon Magnes and Martin Buber suggested that too great a focus on nationalism would lead to disaster, make Israel just like every other nation, and destroy the very covenant with God that had made the Jews a chosen people. As Magnes described Zionism in a 1929 pamphlet entitled "Like All the Nations":
"The desire for power and conquest seems to be normal to many human beings and groups, and we, being the ruled everywhere, must rule; being the minority everywhere, we must here be in a majority." (p 42).
However, "the Holocaust and Israel's emergence finally relegated (these) views of an extra-nationalist Zionism into oblivion" (p 42). The opposing, "radical labor view" (p 43) was for Israel to pursue total normalization. A middle ground Zionism developed, characterized by "a need for adherence to Jewish heritage, and the singularity of the future state as an exemplary model society" (p 44). But tensions remained. Under the leadership of Mapai, Labor Zionism gradually replaced the role played by "traditional scripture and prayer books (with) new writings which spoke with messianic passion about a new millennium: a classless society, the religion of work...the communal settlement experience...the kibbutz...the Histadrut as a workers' society" (p 45).
He says that if "political Zionism sought to return Israel as a normal nation to the international fold and thus establish equality on a national basis, Labor Zionism wanted to turn Israel into a moral leader" (p 46). In doing so, both Zionist "factions" drew on the historical conception of Jewish chosenness to create an overly nationalistic, chauvinistic, self-righteous society that naturally began neglecting "the rights of minorities and the liberties of the individual" (p 49). Rubenstein is identifying what he sees as the fatal flaw of modern Zionism - that over time it has warped the traditional theology of the Jews as a chosen people into a doctrine of Jewish superiority over others, and specifically, over the Palestinian Arabs who provide Israel with a ready made minority population to oppress.
Chapter 6, "The Six-Day War: An Ideological Watershed."
Here, Rubenstein makes a convincing case for seeing the events of 1967 as watershed developments. In large part they set the stage for the current chapter of Arab-Israeli conflict over Palestine. Again, he combines analysis of religious with secular developments to provide a deeper understanding of Israeli behaviors and policies from 1967 to the present.
In the weeks leading up to the June War, Israelis perceived that the military might of the surrounding Arab nations threatened them with a second Holocaust and that the outside world was once again abandoning them to their fate (pp 76-77). These perceptions, combined with Israel's "stunning victory" (p 78) in the fighting and "harsher reactions from outside" (p 79) as Israeli control over the occupied territories increasingly assumed imperialist dimensions, created a new national mood in Israel. "(Israel) inherited the mantle of the rejected Jew, differing only in its ability to be defiant. This ideology started in hubris, but ended in despair" (p 80). As Rubenstein sees it, "the suspicion of the outside world implanted during that period (1967-1977) affected the national psyche" (p 81), helped erode the "traditional, liberal, and humanitarian concepts of historical Zionism" (p 81), and paved the way for the Likud victory of 1977 (p 88).
Rubenstein identifies another trend which caused increasing conservatism on Israel's part in the decades following 1948: a gradual popular rejection of the universal ideals of Labor Zionism and its socialist emphasis, evidenced by "a drift towards religion (that) took place within the secular majority" (p 95). This trend has experienced ebbs and flows. For example, although the occupation of the West Bank and with it, Israeli control over the holy places of East Jerusalem helped create a short-term religious revival of "born again Jews" (p 78), Rubenstein feels that "growing materialism and hedonistic permissiveness" (p 78) came to characterize post-1967 Israeli society, until the 1973 October War disrupted the country's economic boom. Partially in reaction to this new hedonism, partially a result of increasing international criticism, including a rise in anti- Semitism "in the guise of anti-Zionism" (p 83), partially due to long-term trends in Israeli religious behavior, it was inevitable that "the small, determined minority of religious- nationalist zealots would increase their hold over Israeli society" (p 82).
Finally, Rubenstein explains how the historical example of the "blood libels" was used by condition the Israeli public against being overly concerned by growing international criticism of its treatment of the Palestinians. The blood libels were nineteenth century anti-semitic accusations "against Jews for allegedly using Christian victims' blood for baking Passover matzoth" (p 85). He goes on to claim that medieval anti-Semitism, which "contained some guarantees for Jews and had a theological raison d'etre" (p 87), was actually less of a danger to the Jewish people than the modern variant. As he sees it, the "modern day monster" (p 87) confronting the Jews is a "secular and racial anti-Semitism" (p 87). This is confusing, because it negates the character of anti-Zionist sentiments as experienced by Palestinian Arabs, who in their hatred for Israel are responding to several generations worth of violations of their individual human rights, communities, and national sovereignty.
Source: The Zionist Dream Revisited (1984), by Amnon Rubenstein.