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Zionism is one of the most misunderstood and controversial of all political doctrines. To the Promised Land illuminates its origins and developments and discusses its political theory through an examination of the ideas of Zionism’s leading thinkers.
David J. Goldberg’s detailed survey begins with Moses Hess, author of Rome and Jerusalem (1862), a seminal work in Zionist literature, and Theodor Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, who envisaged a new state in Palestine that would be an amalgam of the best of European culture. Others combined Zionism with a commitment to religious orthodoxy, socialism, communism or the redemptive effects of agricultural labour. In Palestine, the Zionist movement continued to gather momentum: Goldberg examines the personality and role of Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, and that of his great rival, the militant Revisionist (and mentor of Menachem Begin) Vladimir Jabotinsky.
Some of the Zionists’ most strongly held beliefs rested on highly debatable claims: that the Jews are essentially a single nation; that Jewish history since the fall of Jerusalem has been uniformly tragic; and that Zionist immigrants would be welcomed for bringing he benefits of Western culture to a barren, sparsely populated land. Yet it was also they who forged the modern State of Israel – an essential haven for the survivors of the Holocaust – out of very disparate groups of people who had not lived in their ‘homeland’ for almost two thousand years. This sympathetic but balanced account lays bare the paradoxes and the genuine achievements of a unique movement that has changed the course of Jewish history.
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