In this 1996 essay, written in the wake of the Oslo Accords, Yoram Hazony traces the history of post-Zionism in Israel, from its origins among artists and authors to its flourishing among academics, and ultimately to its employment by members of the government and in the education of the young. He fears that the attack on Jewish nationalism—if it succeeds in getting into the hearts and minds of Israelis—will mean the end of the Jewish state.
To prevent this “calamity of unfathomable proportions,” Hazony proposes fighting a war of ideas. This fight will be waged, he explains, through think tanks, colleges, and publishing houses, and by educating Israelis in the classics of Western thought. The outcome of this battle for the hearts and minds of Israel is still being determined.
This means that, in spite of all the hardware procured over the last fifty years, the Jewish state will have to wage and win its next war, the war of ideas, outgunned again. Yet in this fight Israel’s Jewish nationalists have a hidden advantage: No people gives up its identity and life-meaning too easily, least of all the Jews. Indeed, it is just such conditions of intellectual wilderness and danger which bring the most creative and powerful aspects of the national character to the fore.
Consigned to political opposition for the first time during the last four years, Zionism has now become a conservatism. But just as it was the taste of annihilation that taught the Jews the need for physical defenses, it may be that this brush with ideological decay was needed for the Jews to learn the importance of the national idea—and of the political conservatism which protects it—for the survival of even a “normal” people.
More about: • Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism • Jewish Political Thought • Zionism
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