Page 30 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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tenets o f Zionism are conclusive. At the same time, he canno t
write Zionist history from a didactic o r moralistic and idealistic
viewpoint alone. Since Zionism is g rasped as an epoch-m ak ing
movement, it follows tha t it is many-sided and th a t it has also a
“d a rk side.” Such a non-idealistic dep iction does no t and canno t
lessen on e ’s positive a ttitude to Zionism as ideology, movem en t
and historic unde r tak ing . T h e r e are those, however, who accuse
m ode rn Zionist h isto riog raphy o f a tendency to seek ou t the neg ­
ative aspects o f the movem en t.5
Such analyses, say the critics o f this tren d , fail to take into ac­
coun t the basic fact tha t the Zionist movement did succeed in the
almost impossible task o f establishing a “national hom e” and a n a ­
tional state in Eretz Israel. T h e fulfillment o f such a s tupendou s
goal involving imm igration , settlem en t and nation -bu ild ing in a
comparatively sho rt period would be h a rd to imagine w ithou t
some failures and setbacks. I t appea rs tha t a “U top ian” app roach ,
which sees Zionism as a purely “idealistic” movement, influences
both the critics and those who are the bu tt o f th e ir criticism. We
o ften find tha t attitudes a re based on fond hopes o r on historic
distortion . T h e re a re those who feel th a t Zionism was capable o f
fulfilling all its avowed aims bu t th a t its failures and weaknesses
were the reason fo r its e rro rs and partial accomplishments. All
this fails to take into account the basic and essential weakness o f
Zionism th ro u g h o u t the en tire m anda to ry per iod (and certainly
p r io r to it), which created a deep chasm between the vision and
the practical means o f fulfillment. Be this as it may, one canno t
de te rm ine whe ther, as some would have it, the critical historiog­
raphy is testimony to Israeli society’s in n e r fo r titud e which en a ­
bles it to view its immediate past critically, or, as o the rs m aintain ,
w he the r it points to uncertain ty , lack o f in n e r security and d isap ­
po in tm en t in the Zionist und e r tak ing and its historic justification .
T h e main characteristic o f Zionist h is to riog raphy beg inn ing with
the sixties is seen in its e ffo r t to arrive at a coh e ren t and critical
5 A case in po in t was the controversy con cern ing Yonathan Shap iro’s
sociopolitical study,
The Formative Years of the Israeli Labor Party, 1919-1930
(London/Beverly Hills, 1976), which examines the history o f the Mapai as a
ruling party. See also Shlomo Swirsky,
Orientals and Ashkenazim in Israel, The
Ethnic Division ofLabor
(Hebrew: Haifa, 1981), which attributes ethnic discrimi­
nation to social, economic and cultural pressures.