In memory of Amichai Katz z”l
“It is another property of the human mind that whenever men can form no idea of distant and unknown things, they judge them by what is familiar and at hand.”
(Giambattista Vico, 1774)
“All democratic leftists venerate Rosa Luxemburg’s famous ‘Freedom is freedom for those who think differently.’ Perhaps the time has come to shift the emphasis from ‘differently’ to ‘think’: ‘Freedom is freedom to for those who think differently – only for those who really think, even if they think differently, not for those who just blindly (unthinkably) act out their opinions.”
(Slavoj Žižek, 2004) 
1. Thinking the unthinkable? Moving beyond Judt’s Complaint
Israel, the late historian Tony Judt provocatively declared, is a miserable anachronism: If at the dawn of the 20th century, when Europe’s multinational empires were crumbling and the dream of forming sovereign nation-states was on everyone’s lips; it is the exact same dream that any reasonable, progressive-minded citizen, would and should prefer to discard today. Judt’s J’accuse – entitled “Israel: The Alternative” – was a powerful one: “The very idea of a ‘Jewish state’– a state in which Jews and the Jewish religion have exclusive privileges from which non-Jewish citizens are forever excluded–is rooted in another time and place,” Judt announced. There is no room for separatist nationalist movements in today’s world, he argued, “a world where nations and peoples increasingly intermingle and intermarry at will; where cultural and national impediments to communication have all but collapsed; where more and more of us have multiple elective identities and would feel falsely constrained if we had to answer to just one of them.” The nationalistic ideas on which the State of Israel was founded were not simply impractical or dysfunctional. They revealed themselves as dangerous and immoral when applied on the ground. Their outcome is contemporary Israel – an excessively chauvinistic state, swamped by “irredentist eschatology” since 1967, which “has lost everything in domestic civility and international respectability, and has forfeited the moral high ground forever.” The anachronistic idea called the Jewish State, in short, is both a crime against the rules of history and a crime against humanity. It is about time that Israelis, Judt famously concluded, would start “think[ing] the unthinkable”: abandon the archaic ethno-national statist model and mover towards a bi-national state in which Jews and Arabs share political power and authority as equals.
The aim of this collection of essays is to open a space for reflection that would allow us to “think the unthinkable.” Can historians contribute to the effort? We believe they can. But our approach should be distinguished from that of the high-profile intellectual and the public moralist. It is one thing is to demand from Israelis that they be more imaginative when thinking about their future; it is another thing to remind them of their own past, help them look at it with a fresh, unprejudiced eye, and to uncover the wide range of historical possibilities and alternatives it conceals. The aim of this essay – that should be read literally as an essai, an attempt at an imprecise experiment – is to direct our thoughts toward this unhindered thinking. We chose to shed light, to paraphrase Robert Frost’s oft-quoted poem, on the roads not taken, or at least the ones less traveled by, the mainstream Zionist movement. We do so by shedding light on few key debates in the history of Zionism and on the ideas of Zionist thinkers and activists who scrutinized and challenged the very parameters of the Zionist project from its inception.
Doing so, we can invite our readers to discard some of the truisms and clichéd descriptions of the Zionist history. And especially those descriptions that yield to a very teleological historical narrative, turning the story of the past into a story of unfolding into an inevitable present. Moreover, we offer here the outlines of an alternative, consciously anti-essentialist narration of the history of Zionist ideas: Instead of assuming an existence of a “core” Zionist idea or doxa constituting a hermetic ideology, we prefer to see Zionism as a cluster of ideas, as a bundle of various kinds of utopian visions, political programs and idealistic inspirations. What unites the different episodes and case studies we bring here, therefore, is that they challenge the conventional generic definitions of Zionism as ethno-national statist and territorialist ideology. When these incompatible visions are examined together they offer a richer, more nuanced understanding of the history of Zionism. It is a history of ideology that nonetheless resists the one-track retrospective illusion which presents the creation of the Jewish nation-state as the fulfillment of a “project” stretching over half a century. Although commonly used today, this sort of perspective, we argue, flattens ideological diversity, and cannot allow us see the past in its own term, as a context separate from our own experience. In that respect we are bold historicists: The past, we argue, should be seen as a foreign land and understood in its own terms. The past, moreover, is regarded by us as a space of contingency and theoretical diversity, even chaos, permitting a plethora of hidden possibilities, theoretical visions and political programs to coexist and capture the imagination. Such an epistemological shift allows us to see that the theoretical alternatives to what is conventionally seen as the core of the “Zionist ideology” were imbedded in the story of Zionism itself. From that perspective, the idea of a Jewish nation-state – understood in Weberian terms as that organization which retains a monopoly on the legitimate use of force and violence within a given “sovereign” territory, which assigns right, duties and membership according to ethno-religious parameters which distinguish “citizens” from other “peoples” – is only one option among many alternatives.
This historicist approach makes our attempt to “think the unthinkable” fundamentally different from the modus operandi Judt had in mind. Among recent writers, Judt was undoubtedly the most eloquent defender of an ideal that is in itself somewhat anachronistic, or at least utterly nostalgic – the notion of the engaged intellectual. What does this intellectual responsibility consist of? A fearless dissenter standing in the way of the illegitimate exercise of political power is not enough. Nor is it sufficient to be a defender of universal, timeless moral principles. True intellectuals, Judt believed, are those rare individuals who are capable of doing two things simultaneously: first, to think outside the box, to imagine alternatives to our meager, droll, puzzled, and violent present and, second, to disturb “the easy peace of received opinion.” In his writings and public addresses he described them as the courageous swimmers against the current, the few who dare to think unconventionally, those who look into the dim, uncomfortable corners that everyone else prefers to ignore, and, moreover, as the agents provocateurs, the ones who consciously irritate. To be sure, this idealized view of the role of the intellectual was not disconnected from Judt’s criticism of Israel and the Israelis. “Organic” intellectuals, Judt believed, are incapable of being provocative critical thinkers. “If identification with a community of origin was fundamental to my sense of self, “ Judt wrote in one of his autobiographical sketches, “I would perhaps hesitate before criticizing Israel—the ‘Jewish State,’ ‘my people’—so roundly. Intellectuals with a more developed sense of organic affiliation instinctively self-censor: they think twice before washing dirty linen in public.” Maybe we Israelis are conformists, stranded by our own collective convictions; maybe blown up anxieties, hysterical fears that Israel would be wiped up off the face of the earth are what encumber us; or maybe we are simply too confused, so disoriented that we are unable to think differently. Either way one thing is clear: currently, we have huge difficulty even imagining an alternative to the way we live now. Only “edge people,” who do not wear the proud badge of communal identity but live in-between, next to the tectonic stitches “where countries, communities, allegiances, affinities, and roots bump uncomfortably up against one another” may miraculously develop this rare capacity to think universally, to break away from the conformist and particularist norms imposed by the tribe.  The insiders, those who feel at home, are curiously and conspicuously silent. The disillusioned lovers, the dissenters, contrarians and dissidents are more likely to offer humanity a hope.
The underlying assumption, that “rootedness” and “criticism’’ are effectively irreconcilable can and should be scrutinized. Judt may very well be correct in arguing that the quintessential problem of our age is that we simply do not know how to talk about a different sort of society other than our present, and unfortunately defective, one. Yet the suggestion that only the outsiders, the non-members, those who opt out and burn the bridges behind them, or those who are pushed out of their comfort zone would we dare to think differently rests on shaky ground. First, because critical distance, after all, has very little to do with geography: the ability to distance oneself, in order to see how strange, contradictory, and disturbing your own culture can be, does not require a travel in space. As Hans Speier, himself a émigré intellectual commented in 1937: “Detachment is necessary to recognize any truth; but it is a mental rather than a physical process. One may travel around the world and return as provincial in his tastes and judgments as when he departed. One may stay all his life in the town where he was born and yet be a humanist.” Second, there is an empirical ground to argue that throughout history people found much more space for maneuvering than Judt assumes is possible, and dwelled in zones of inside-ambivalence that permitted them to belong and feel alienated at the same time. The short episodes collected here offer some examples: We cherry picked the cases in which historical actors who considered themselves and were seen by their peers as Zionists thought the unthinkable, and came up with plans and visions (bi-nationalism being only one of them) that Judt erroneously assumed that only outsiders were capable of developing. These Zionist actors operated, to use Michael Walzer’s terminology, as “inside critics,” that is a company of critics who challenged the predominant convictions and sought to develop alternative visions but did so in the name of the values recognized and shared within that society. Such critics were “[a] little to the side, not outside” the society and ideology they scrutinized, and their critical distance was not a product of complete alienation, detachment or enmity, but many times quite the opposite – an attempt to restore the ideology to what they considered to be its key values and stood as its foundation.
2. Nathan Birnbaum and the question of Jüdische Renaissance (Jewish Renaissance)
It would be difficult to ignore the numerous points of resemblance tying Nathan Birnbaum (1864-1937), the unreconstructed cosmopolitan from Vienna who coined the term “Zionismus” in 1890, to Theodor Herzl, founder of the first Zionist Congress and the crowned leader of the movement in its early dramatic phase. Indeed: both were Austro-Hungarians, citizens of a yet still powerful multiethnic empire, operating at that fascinating crossroads where East and West bounced each other and intermingled; both were acculturated Jews who were able to enter into the prestigious University of Vienna; and both reached almost at the exact same time a similar conclusion – that thinking about Jews as a national group would be the first step towards solving their misfortunes as a group What explains the fact that eventually the two came up with such different, ultimately incompatible visions of Jewish Renaissance and resettlement? One way of answering this question would be to point out their different conceptions of traditionalism and modernity, East and West, and the implication these different cultural binaries had on the way they thought about the Jewish question. After all the notion of a Jewish Renaissance –becoming increasingly popular in fin-de-siècle discussions – implies an ideal of resurrection, of reemergence from death to life. Once thinking in these terms one could not avoid asking himself what is dead and what is living in Jewishness of the time. And here the two differed fundamentally on the very understanding of what “Jewish Renaissance” means, on the practical ways of achieving it, and on the question who would bear it into the future.
If one had met the two at the University of Vienna in 1882 he would have undoubtedly perceived these differences. Herzl, a law student, had not yet discovered Jewish nationalism and instead was mesmerized by a Wagnerian type of German nationalism celebrated by the members of Albia, the Burschenschaft (student fraternity) he belonged to at the time. Around the corner, at the very same time Birnbaum join forces with two other Jewish students of the university to found an alternative student organization, the A.V. Kadima Wien, being the first organization of Jewish nationalist students in the world. As Herzl’s biographers point out, Herzl developed his ideas without knowing of the very existence of Russian-Jewish Hibbat Tzion movement and its ideals, and his diaries confirm that: the name of Leo Pinkser, the author of the famous 1882 pamphlet advocating Auto-Emanzipation (self emancipation) which triggered the movement, appears in Herzl diaries very late, only in 1895. Birnabaum, unlike him, was much more attentive to the winds blowing from East Europe: as soon as 1884 he founded and edited Selbst-Emancipation! (“Self-Emancipation!”), a periodical whose name was derived from Pinsker’s famous pamphlet, which advocated Jewish resettlement in Palestine. From that very early stage it was clear that Birbnbuam’s belief in the revival of Jewishness had a strong counter-cultural dimension, and was much informed by a sense of alienation from the dominant trends of Habsburg Jewry of the time. As a member of Kadima – a Hebrew name capturing a significant duality by denoting both “to the East” and “Forward” – he worked closely with the Russian-Jewish writer and essayist Peretz Smolenskin, who, albeit being a proponent of Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment) ideals among East European Jews, was utterly disenchanted by the Berlin Haskalah and the German-Jewish ethos that developed subsequently from it. Smolenskin’s Zionism was radicalized by Birnbaum. Taking these ideas one step further, he began scrutinizing the conventional Jewish-liberal opinions of his time by writing inflammatory pamphlets aiming to fight what he considered to be an excessive, ultimately self-negating attempt by Jews to integrate into non-Jewish society.
Birnbaum was not alone in thinking that only through radical reaffirmation of Jewishness would Jews be able to rid themselves from what he provocatively called Die Assimilationsucht (“The Assimilation Disease/Mania”). But what gave Birnbaum his distinctive quality is the fact that probably more than any other member of his social milieu it was he who made the Ostjuden, East-European Jewry, the symbol of this alternative. In 1901 he stood in the center of the group that formed around the periodical Ost und West (East and West) that was dedicated to creating a cultural rapprochement between German and East European Jewry. East Europe’s traditionalist communities became for him a harbor of Jewish authenticity, religio-communal natural existence and cultural vibrancy. At the time when many German-speaking Jews of the Bildungsbürgertum (educated, urban bourgeoisie) had consistently regarded Yiddish as a vulgar, mongrel jargon, Birnbaum began translating the Yiddish masters Y. L. Peretz and Sholom Aleichem into German for the Western reader. He took the search for authenticity seriously. Even Martin Buber, who was equally mesmerized by East European Jewish folklore, was criticized by Birnbaum when he published his freely retold collection of Rabbi Nachman of Braslav’s tales. Despite, or maybe because of, their romantic allure, Buber’s stories could not capture the intimate vibrancy of the Ostjuden cultural life and remained “external” reports of an anthropologist who looks with curiosity at a primitivist society, incapable of penetrating it and truly appreciating it.
Unsurprisingly, Birnbaum had little patience for Herzl. Or more precisely, towards the Herzlian attempt to make Zionism a movement of Western, civilized gentlemen, engaging in high diplomacy and negotiating with world powers, rather than thinking seriously about the cultural Jewish renaissance. He found little sympathy in his heart for the idea that Zionism should aim at creating an Alteneuland, a European-style state on the shores of the Mediterranean. Something about Herzl’s envisioned society and culture resembled too much the liberal Viennese-style bourgeoisie he wanted to be part of. But the problem wasn’t only that Herzl hijacked the term and the movement. Even Ahad Ha’am and the so-called “cultural Zionists,” Birnbaum believed, erred in their discussions of Jewish revivalism, for their entire discussion rested on the assumption that at that time there was no functioning, creative Jewish culture which constituted the foundations of the Jewish volk. The alternative was represented by the Ostjuden. Eastern European Jewry, and the thriving Yiddish culture and language, were for him quintessential Jewish nationalism, without which any real Jewish Renaissance would be impossible. These were not dead relics of an extinct civilization, but the true carriers of nationalism. Yiddish for Birnbaum was therefore much more than a language. He considered it to be an autonomous, valuable linguistic vehicle with which Jews could express their unique experience and cultural values. Neither the German-Jewish Deutschtum nor the utopian dreams of revivalism of Hebrew captured that trivial and fundamental fact.
This Yiddishist belief became a central tenet of Birnbaum’s worldview, especially after he moved from Vienna to Czernowitz, on the far eastern frontier of the Empire. It was there that he dedicated much of his time and energy to convene a Conference on Yiddish attended in 1908 by leading Yiddish writers, which proclaimed Yiddish as a national Jewish language, and it was from that point on that he became a vocal critic of Zionism. To be sure, his curious transformation perhaps marked his final departure from Zionism, but was in no way accompanied by the idea that Jews were not a nation. The crux of his new vision was the idea that a proper understanding of the Jewish nation cannot ignore the fact it is a Yiddish-speaking volk. Politically, this meant one had to fight for the cause of Yiddish-based Jewish autonomy. Ideologically, it meant that one had to promote an alternative type of Jewish nationalism, namely – “Galut nationalism.”
Despite the reaffirmation of Galut, Birnbaum did not abstain from advocating Aliyah. His trilingual pamphlet, Divrei Ha-Olim (“The words of the Olim,” the latter understood as spiritual ascenders to Zion) calling for small groups of committed believers to “ascend” – make Aliyah – to Palestine, where they would live in religious communities, separated from the organized Zionist Yishuv, in which they would dedicate their life to raising spiritual awareness within the larger Jewish community. But the very understanding of the term Aliyah already rested on a new set of assumptions, namely neo-Orthodox ones, which Birnbaum acquired around the time of World War I, if not earlier, as he abandoned his secular outlook, eventually becoming a Baal Teshuvah (a person who returns to the Jewish faith). This spiritual-existential quest was not devoid from politics. And indeed, soon after embracing Orthodox Judaism, Birnbaum served for a short time as the first Secretary General of the Agudath Yisrael Organization, and it was roughly around that time that he became a bitter foe of Zionism. For Jews, the late Birnbaum wrote, are after all Gottesvolk (“God’s People”) and the essence of Zionism was the denial of religion. The very idea of cooperation with Zionists would provide a hekhsher (a stamp of religious approval) to a Godless project.
Birnbaum offers an extreme example of radical reconsideration that transforms into dissent. It may seem paradoxical that the person who coined the term Zionism found himself its bitter foe. Yet there was a certain consistency in that paradox, an internal logic to what seems to be a chaotic spiritual quest. The post-Holocaust perspective on these questions is bound the raise anachronism. And indeed, much of Birnbaum’s Yiddishist Galut nationalism seems remote and obsolete from today’s vantage point. His transmutation into a militant anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox Jew, however, finds echoes in today’s brawling political and public intra-Jewish discourse. And this breach, this quarrel about the authenticity of Jewish identity lives with us today. It accompanies contested visions of Jewishness and it serves as an important reminder that the fundamental question – what would be the organizing principle of a Jewish revival – is as old as Zionism itself.
3. Geography, Landedness, Identity: Territorialism, Pan-Semitic Zionism and the Canaanite defiance
Was there one and only way of thinking about the relationship of Jews’ to geography, territory and land in Zionism? After all, if there was a “Zionist dogma” that established the primacy of Zion – the Land of Israel – as the sole territorial loci of Zionism, it was a dogma that crystalized gradually, over time, through intense internal debates and controversies. Between 1903 and 1905, a key historical debate developed from the question: “wherein?” – where would the actual territory of the Jewish polity be. This question stood at the center of the internal Zionist controversy known today as the Uganda debate. Participants in the famous controversy saw it is a watershed moment in the history of Zionism, and there is no doubt that if Zionism is to be compared to a dogma or a doctrine, this was a key stage in the formation of a certain orthodoxy. Unsurprisingly, together with the triumph of Tzionei Tzion (“Zion Zionists”), the camp insisting on Eretz Israel as the sole possible location for the future Jewish society, came the caricature image of their defeated competitors. If they are ever mentioned, territorialists are portrayed as heretics who strayed from the righteous path. Consequently, today most of us will accept as a given the idea that “true” Zionists, as Ahad Ha’am argued against the supporters of the East Africa scheme, “are adamant about one common basis: on the faith in the historical connection between people and the land” – not any land, but the particular Land of Israel – and for this reason Zionists were and are justified in never showing any interest in settling Jews anywhere but in that part of the globe.
This, however, was not, the perspective of the supporters of territorialism. Israel Zangwill (1864-1926), the Anglo-Jewish author and playwright who formed the Jewish Territorialist Organization (ITO), framed the debate in different terms. He saw it as a competition between a purely secular-political type of territorial Zionism which he held dear, and a salvationist, quasi-mystical type of religious nationalism which insisted on the exclusivity and redemptive quality of Eretz Israel. As far as Zangwill was concerned, it was not he and the ITO which split off from the “Zionist orthodoxy” when searching for a territory suitable for Jewish settlement in distant corners of the globe. Quite the contrary. It was the anti-territorialists who lost sight of the original – sober, pragmatic and realistic – Herzlian message. The insistence on a new type of landedness in the historical Holy Land became more important to the Zion Zionists then the preservation of Jews as individuals, Zangwill believed. Therefore, if anyone betrayed the original, Herzlian pragmatic ideal of Zionism, it was them, not he.
This perspective, seldom mentioned today, was efficiently airbrushed from conventional narratives about the history of Zionism. Post-Uganda Zionism is usually seen as a much more crystalized ideology, one that solved once and for all one of its central dilemmas: where would the Promised Land be, the land in which Jews would rediscover their dignity and political might. Nevertheless, Zangwill’s ideas had their allure, as Gur Alroey’s contribution to this project reminds us. Something about these ideas continued to attract attention. Moreover, it would be incorrect to assume that only eccentric deviant thinkers who rejected Zionism found inspiration in Zangwill. Ironically, if anyone contributed to the translation of Zangwill into Hebrew it was none other than the Revisionist Party’s historian Benzion Netanyahu (1910-2012), the father of current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who passed away very recently. It was the elder Netanyahu who pushed for the translations of Zangwill’s speeches into Hebrew and who wrote about him extensively since the 1930s. When he returned to the subject in 2003 he was still firm in his opinions: If one were to provide a list of the five most influential “founding fathers” of Zionism, Zangwill, Netanyahu insisted, would no doubt be included.
The emergence of a post-Uganda consensus, one which elevated the biblical homeland of the Jews over any other possible “temporary shelter” for the Jews, did not mean, however, that all dilemmas concerning Zionism’s attitude to land and territory were forever resolved. Now a new set of urgent questions emerged: namely, how should Jews integrate themselves in this Levantine space? Is Zionism a movement of Jewish homo Europeans, transplanting European culture and technology to a warm climate? Or were the Jews expected to undergo a transformation themselves, and to shed their western pretenses? Or maybe, even more radically, full “Zionization” demanded that Jews reconnect with their hidden, sublimated, Semitic and “Asiatic” inner-selves and partake in a “pan-Semitic” revival?
In 1903, before the territorialist controversy ended, Yehoshu’a Radler Feldmann (1880-1957), better known as Rabbi Binyamin, coined the term “Panshemiyut” (“pan-Semitism”) to advocate a radical type of Zion Zionism in which restoration to the Biblical land was accompanied by a joint cultural and religious revival of Jews and Arabs. Pan-Semitism was not simply a pacifist ideology calling courageously to avoid conflict with the Arab inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael. Pan-Semitism was a bold demand to promote an Arab-Jewish fraternity in the entire Middle East, a strong conviction that viable and true Zionism is quintessentially a Zionism based on a deep physical, geographical, mental and spiritual reconnection of Jews with the Semitic East and its inhabitants. The mission of Zionism would not be accomplished once European Jews simply resettled their biblical homeland and begin working its land by themselves. Zionism had to reconnect Jews with the deeper, primordial, spiritual well that the East offered the Jews. Moreover, Zionism had to become a mighty force contributing to the region’s prosperity and promoting the revival of the East, eventually combined with even a mightier pan-Semitic unity.
What made such utopia attainable, Rabbi Binyamin argued, was the fact that Jews and Arabs shared biblical ancestry, as well as a profoundly similar cultural-religious mental makeup. Living in the land, becoming more attentive to its sounds, smells and colors, could allow Zionists to move in this direction. Taking upon himself a prophetic mantle, Rabbi Binyamin began promoting his alternative vision in literary essays which offered a peculiar mixture of biblical language and passionate romantic imagination. One early example can be found in an elegantly crafted essay he published at Hapoel Hatzair, the main literary organ of Labor Zionism, at a time when he was still member of Havat Kineret (the Kinneret Farm), the famous precursor to Deganya, the first kibbutz:
I absorb into me the forlorn, recurring melody of our distant relative, the turn and trill in the song of the great Arab people. I understand his “Allah Akbar” too, his prayers, his worships and bows. It is not a coincidence that the three stars of the great faiths – Moses, Jesus and Muhammad – rambled in the Arabian Desert. It is connected to this environment, to this particular nature. The people of the land (am ha’aretz) are celebrating these days the month of Ramadan […] the month in which Muhammad, “the last prophet” first revealed his great vocation. [The Hebrew month of] Elul… Ramadan… all stems from the race.
There was, no doubt, a clear dimension of idealistic, if not even Orientalist day-dreaming that underpinned many of Rabbi Binyamin’s beliefs in the possibility of resurrecting a harmonious Semitic East. These are unsurprising features given the strong influence both German romanticism and Benjamin Disraeli’s historical novels had upon his thought since he had been exposed to them as a young student in Habsburg Galicia. Yet, despite the fact that he absorbed a predominantly Orientalist imagery, it would be inaccurate to depict Rabbi Binyamin as practitioner of a conventional type of vernacular Orientalism, and definitely not the type of reverse racism of Disraeli who believed in the superiority of the Semites over the Anglo-Saxons. For the quintessence of pan-Semitism, he believed, was to provide basis for a political unity that would bring Arabs and Jews together and emancipate them from the European hegemony. Pan-Semitism was not a plan to redeem the land with a secular crusade, but a call to bring about a joint religious and cultural renaissance. For its author, pan-Semitism reversed the twisted logic of the rigid and increasingly racist Semitic-Aryan dichotomy which dominated European thought, and stood in stark contrast to it. Precisely because Rabbi Binyamin feared such Occidental cultural categories entered into the cultural bloodstream of too many Zionists, pan-Semitism was a vital vaccine, a program to rescue the Zionist movement from falling into a Eurocentric trap.
Like many pan-movements, pan-Semitism also offered a curious oxymoron of anti-nationalistic nationalism. Chauvinistic, separatist nationalism was regarded by Rabbi Binyamin as a modern invention, driving an artificial wedge between Jews and Arabs whom he depicted as “brother nations,” if not as two tribes sharing the same ethnic origin. The specific plan of action was never described by Rabbi Binyamin but the outlines of the general political implications of pan-Semitism were clear: Zionism could prevail only if Jews would become actively engaged in getting closer to the “actual” Arab in ever increasing degrees by studying the Arabic language and culture, by creating political forums in which both Jews and Arabs would participate as equals, and by maintaining a mixed labor market. Competition, in short, had to be replaced by collaboration. And for that reason Rabbi Binyamin was acutely sensitive in identifying the earliest symptoms of an Arab-Jewish conflict. As early as 1907 he warned his fellows, using his distinctive, intentionally biblical rhetoric and pathos:
And it shall be, when thou art come in unto your homeland to inherit it, thou shalt not come to it as an adversary and as aggressor, for you shall call the land’s inhabitant for peace. Not in resentment, nor in anger nor sin shall you build your future generations’ residence [mishkan], but instead with love, charity, justice and faith; And thou shall love the inhabitant of the land for he is your brother, your own flesh and blood, and thy shall not ignore him; […] And if thou shalt be deceptive, among the children of Shem, from within your own family you will make your enemies: […] And thou shall be surrounded by foes at home and abroad: […] But if you shall entrust him, approach him with peace and tend to him with charity he would become as one of your tribes: For great are the paths of love and love is profound as groundwater; and none had yet learned it, and no one had ever plunged into its depths. 
The unification with the other Semites, the Arabs, was also described in lofty terms. And here Rabbi Binyamin found it important to draw a line connecting Jewish and Arabic dispersion and to remind his readers of the “civilizatory role” the Arabs played in the history of science and philosophy:
Behold, I have called today by name the Arab people, inhabitant of the earth; For mighty is this nation and scattered all over the world; And, when the sun be risen upon him, he had strove for light and science; He had nurtured abundant fruits in the fields of wisdom, famous among all nations. 
And even more sweeping, almost syncretistic, was Rabbi Binyamin’s praise of Islam as Judaism’s twin faith:
And Adonai the Lord hath set up their prophet Muhammad, a prophet from among their people; Indeed, a prophet and a giant at his time he was; Adonai is the Lord and Muhammad was his prophet; And he taught the people, taught them how to discard false beliefs and do righteousness and justice; and to cleave unto Adonai God of Israel, Lord of Abraham and the prophets. 
The biblical rhetoric is intentional. But it reflects not only the religious-spiritual meaning with which Rabbi Binyamin charged his pan-Semitic visions. Besides being a call for trans-national brotherhood, pan-Semitism was an ideology fashioned at a spiritual crossroad. It offered the promise of psychological emancipation, of overcoming a multilayered alienation. An alienation that was felt by members of the Yishuv toward their physical and cultural environment, an alienation secular Jews felt towards Judaism, and an alienation European Jews felt towards their own sublimated Oriental and Semitic identity. The political vision of Zionist integration into an awakening Semitic East was thus also accompanied by what can be seen as a Hegelian desire to reconcile mankind with reality. And maybe, besides Rabbi Binyamin’s peculiar character and his handful of followers, part of what explains pan-Semitism’s failure to gain wider support has to with the fact it was an ideology that tried to do too many things at the same time: to alleviate those Zionists who felt alienated from their environment, to reinterpret Zionism as a program of (re)integration into an awakening Semitic East, and to fill a spiritual, theological and existential gap by reconnecting with a primordial yet forgotten Semitic identity.
There is, undeniably, a certain affinity between Rabbi Binyamin’s pan-Semitic vision and ideals which animated the group of young literati commonly referred as the kena’anim (Canaanites). Famously, Uriel Halperin (Shelah; Yonatan Ratosh; 1908-1981), Adolf Gurevitch (aka Adayah. G. Horon; 1897-1975) and their followers envisioned the creation of a new, “nativized” Eretz-Israelian Hebrew (Ivri), better integrated in the Semitic environment of the eastern Mediterranean. The Canaanites represent one of the boldest attempts to reestablish – or more precisely to invent – those presumably lost and repressed traditions which connected the autochthonic ancient Israelite to his Eastern geography and culture. Nevertheless, the Canaanites’ new Hebraic Übermensch was a creature who threw behind him an over two millennia long heritage of Jewish existence, who leaped back into a pre-Biblical past. It was an artistic movement that found its inspiration in the francophone world of belles-lettres but eventually offered its followers not only emancipation from Judaism but, one can argue, also a point of departure from Zionism. One is tempted to describe their type of defiance as a “Hebraist” version of the Wagnerian daydream of reconnection with a repressed, “pre-civilized,” essentially mythical Teutonic and Nordic self. Rabbi Binyamin, however, offered a vision “contained” by Zionism of his time, at no stage wishing to become its ideological competitor. Pan-Semitism grew on the eccentric fringe of Labor Zionism and was based on return to the shared monotheistic heritage which glued, so Rabbi Binyamin hoped, Jews to Arabs. The Canaanist aspiration of upholding a “Hebrew Revival” went hand in hand with a deep eagerness to uproot any traces of Islamic monotheism from the East and all too often collapsed into quasi-fascist daydreams. The similarity between these two visions of “revival of the East” is, therefore, superficial to a large degree. The type of aggressive historical amnesia the Canaanites preached for when fabricating a new Israelite identity, free of the shackles of exilic mentality and religious observance alike, was diametrically opposed to Rabbi Binyamin’s call to erase those degrees of separation which distanced the Jew from his Arabic kin.
Were these examples of ideological transgression? Were territorialism, pan-Semitism and Cannanism types of heresy, a deviation? Possibly. Yet aren’t we running away from the problem by making such an assertion? Aren’t we judging in hindsight, assuming anachronistically that there was a fixed, solid and indisputable Zionist “norm” these fringe ideologies deviated from? An alternative, more nuanced perspective is required here. And there is no reason not to see these ideological strands as part of the same cluster of ideas. For if these thinkers sought to overcome Zionism, they did so “from within.” They sought to offer a radical redefinition of the rules of engagement and a bold, new and original interpretation of the term Zionism itself. Maybe instead of seeing them as Zionism’s ideological competitors, we could reconstruct their own points of view and see them as thinkers who were motivated by similar predicaments, who offered different answers to the same question, namely – what would be the vehicle Zionism should use in so that we could overcome our alienation from ourselves and our immediate surroundings, how to minimize the distance between the ideological mask and the social reality. It sounds like a classic question for poets, dreamers and philosophers to grapple with. Yet, this is also ideology’s dominant mode of functioning.
4. “A partner in the British Commonwealth of Free Peoples:” Zion and the British Empire
It is almost impossible to imagine a Zionist history textbook that would not mention the Balfour Declaration. The short letter Baron Rothschild received in early November 1917, at the time when British troops were advancing northwards, conquering larger chunks of Palestine, not only pushed the Zionist movement forward, but also bound its fate with that of the British Empire for the next crucial three decades. The letter stated in unequivocal terms that “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” and was hailed, quite justifiably, as the most important diplomatic achievement the movement has ever managed to accomplish. Yet, the purposely-vague concept “Jewish National Home” standing at the center of the Declaration raised a long list of pertinent questions: what would be the exact shape, color and content of the future Jewish political entity? And how would it be administrated? And by whom exactly?
These questions were related not only to the future geographic borders of the Jewish polity but also to the exact political form it would take within the orbit of the British Empire. An independent, sovereign nation-state of the kind that was eventually founded in May 1948 was not necessarily envisioned as the telos of that process – neither by the British supporters of the Yishuv nor, as a matter of fact, by a large number of leading Zionists. Chaim Weizmann, playing the most decisive role in creating and later maintaining the Anglo-Zionist bond, was especially cautious. To talk explicitly about a Jewish nation-state in his presence, as one of his close associates wrote in his memoirs, was for him the equivalent of uttering the “Shem ha–Meforash“, the unmentionable name of God. One had to be more delicate and tactful. Opacity and intentional ambiguousness stood at the center of this policy. Who could know what shape and form the Jewish national home would eventually take, if it happened at all?
One of the visions, which apparently fascinated many Jewish and Gentile supporters of Zionism alike during the late twenties and early thirties, was to turn Palestine into the Seventh Dominion of the British Commonwealth of Nations. In other words: to make it an autonomous, self-governing polity that would be nominally under British sovereignty. The plan was the brainchild of Josiah C. Wedgwood (1872-1943), one of the more eccentric members of the British House of Commons at the time and a long time enthusiastic supporter of Zionism. Wedgwood befriended both Chaim Weizmann and Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky during WWI, and was particularly close to the Polish-English-Jewish historian Lewis B. Namier (1888-1960) who, in 1929, was appointed political secretary for the Jewish Agency in Palestine. In late 1927, following a trip to Palestine, Wedgwood wrote a long treatise criticizing the British government’s foreign policy in Palestine and advocating the idea of granting it a status of Dominion and including it in the British Commonwealth, alongside Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, the Irish Free State and more.
Wedgwood was not thinking only about the 1917 Balfour Declaration, but also about what was commonly referred to as “the Balfour Formula,” a shorthand name given to the report resulting from the Imperial Conference of British Empire leaders held in London in 1926. The conference, whose aim was to reestablish inter-imperial relations on new grounds, acknowledged the growing political independence of the “autonomous Communities within the British Empire,” and defined them as “equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.”The combination of these developments, together with the growing dissatisfaction from mandatory policies served as the backdrop of Wedgwood’s book. Wedgwood designed his argument carefully, so to convince the British policy-makers and draw the attention of Gentile sympathizers of Zionism in Britain. He therefore stressed how natural and beneficial this policy move would be for the British Empire, from both a commercial and a strategic point of view (after all, all air, land and sea routes crossed between Suez and Haifa). But such English Gentile readers often looked at Palestine through evangelically-tinted lenses, and combined their Imperial fascination from exotic, distant lands with a belief that the magical East, once under British domination, would provide the site for Young England’s rejuvenation. Hence Wedgwood also put a strong emphasis on the cultural, mental and even racial affinity between Jews and “Anglo-Saxons.” Common traits included, he argued, “an inclination to lend money and take risks, a passion for wondering over the errors, a dislike of working for a master (called independence), and lamentable preference for the Old Testament with its doctrine of ‘Hit him 1st and hit him hard,’ To the New Testament and pacifism.” No doubt, it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Wedgwood’s suggestion put many of the Zionist leaders in an awkward position. A Dominion, they knew, was more than a frail, subjugated “Colony” but it certainly fell short of a fully independent “State.” It promised considerable autonomy, yet one that would be contained within the British Empire, quite dissimilar from the independent nation-states that emerged in the process of decolonization in the post-WWII years. For this and other reasons, the idea was received with mixed feelings. Wedgwood, it seems, was perhaps a dreamer, but one who meant business. One could not simply ignore or dismiss his proposals as mere fantasies. Nahum Sokolow (1859-1936), Chairperson of the Zionist Executive at the time, was tactful when writing to Wedgwood shortly after he had published his book. He described the proposal as “sort of ‘pious desideratum’,” expressing the hope that a time would arrive to “allow full consideration” of the book’s arguments. A year later, in 1929, Chaim Arlosoroff (1900-1933), at that time the Political head of the Palestine Zionist Executive, wrote a review article on the subject that included a mix of criticism and agreement. Soon thereafter he translated a concise history textbook into Hebrew that was written by Basil William (1867-1950), another enthusiastic supporter of the British Commonwealth, surveying with a great deal of satisfaction the expansion of the British Empire. Clearly, Arlosoroff felt that it was vital for the Hebrew readers in the Yishuv to familiarize themselves with the British Commonwealth perspective on world history and international affairs.
The most enthusiastic response, however, came from Zeev Jabotinsky and the Revisionist Zionists. Under Jabotinsky’s guidance, a Seventh Dominion League was formed in Palestine, and the Wedgwood proposal was given much attention during the Third World Conference of the Zionist Revisionist Union. “[I]t would be a blessing for any land to become a partner in the British Commonwealth of Free Peoples,” Jabotinsky told an English newspaper reporter, for “the invisible tie binding Britain and the Dominions is the most remarkable achievement in the world’s political history.” Even years later, when the scheme was almost entirely forgotten, Wedgewood was still praised by Yoseph Nedava (1915-1988), the Revisionist Zionist historian, for being the most honest, noble and powerful friend Zionism ever had. In Nedava’s Hebrew biography of Wedgwood he quoted Jabotinsky’s speech from December 1929 in the Jerusalem cinema house Zion:
Wedgwood’s plan – the Seventh Dominion plan – is a conception of Zionism which offers a plentitude of advantages we missed thus far, and at the same time is exempt from so many drawbacks which failed us to this day. Is there no contradiction between the Zionist ideal – a Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael – and the condition of a British “Dominion”? One needs simply to look at the structure of the British Kingdom – at the juridical relationship between England and its six Dominions – its sisters, to observe that the condition of a “Dominion” is not different, in any detail, from the condition of an independent state. France or Italy have no practical political right that Canada or South Africa lacks. 
Despite Jabotinsky’s enthusiasm, the Seventh Dominion program encountered many obstacles and was soon abandoned. Given the fact that Great Britain held the mandate for Palestine in trust from the Council of the League of Nations, changing the legal status of Palestine was neither as simple nor as natural as Wedgwood believed, for it required a fundamental revision of international agreements. Many Zionists who were critical of imperialism vehemently opposed the program, mocking the idea of turning Zion into a would-be Imperial outpost. The outbreak of hostilities in 1929 in Palestine also hastened the breakup of the short-lived League of Nations. Nevertheless, the weird proposal did have a long-lasting effect. It put two pertinent questions in the center of the discussion. First, what would the exact nature of the long-term political relationship be between the British Empire and the Yishuv? And, second, how much political independence would the Jewish National Home – not necessarily understood as a State –be entrusted with? It is beyond the scope of this article to examine all the various political proposals and plans that were put on the table from the late 1920s to the late 1930s, some of which suggested cantonization, various degree of autonomy, and even the creation of a larger federalist entity of which Palestine would be a part. These proposals received serious attention and were discussed by both Right-wing, liberal-center, Labor and Left Zionists, who could not separate these programs from the questions concerning Zionists relationship to the British Commonwealth.
The events of the late 1930s and 1940s, and the growing mistrust of “treacherous Albion,” overshadowed these never taken roads. But even mainstream Zionists like Lewis Namier, who was never tired of praising the importance of re-territorialization of Jews in Palestine (a process that would cure them of their abnormal mental make-up as “luftmensch,” “people of the air”), believed that part of what makes Zionism quintessentially different from a German-type of “pathological nationalism” is its affinity with Britain’s Parliamentarism, liberty, and the Empire. Writing in November 1936, as a new wave of violence swept Palestine and put into question the feasibility of maintaining the mandate, Namier wrote:
[A]t a later stage, when Palestine is fit to constitute a self-governing unit in a wider federation, the British Commonwealth offers to the Jews a suitable framework, such as no other European state or empire could offer…. British and Jewish interests in Palestine have by now become inseparable, and while the Jews require British protection and support, they can best defend British interests in that key position which Palestine forms in the Eastern Mediterranean.
In later years, when Namier decided to reprint the memorandum and include it in one of his collections of essays he added an ironic prefatory remark: “a non-Jewish Zionist, to whom I showed the memorandum recently, suggested that I should give it the heading of ‘Might-Have-Beens.'” No doubt, many solutions, proposals, visions and dreams crushed against the hard rock of reality. Maybe the belief that the fate of world Jewry is bound up with that of the British Empire and that Palestine would become a “Judaeo-British Colony” is one of the most fascinating of these. The rise in the level of violence between Jews in Arabs during the thirties has virtually eclipsed the popularity of the Seventh Dominion idea like many of these alternatives, and once a new scheme of territorial partitioning – that was offered a decade later by Lord Peel’s Royal Commission of Inquiry – conquered the imagination, older visions of collaboration were thrown into the garbage bin of history. In a way, the life and struggle of Israelis and Palestinians today is still cast under the huge shadow of this Imperial Indian summer.
5. Bi-Nationalisms: Brit Shalom, Ichud and other variations on a similar theme
The triangle of the British, Jews and Arabs in mandatory Palestine created unique circumstances, that for their part created a climate of ideas in which, as we have seen, one could think in more than one way about the meaning of the purposely vague term “Jewish National Home” which animated the Balfour declaration. But at precisely which historical moment did the Jewish question turn into an Arab question? The historiography dealing with this poignant question offers more than one answer. It is clear, however, that the demographic and territorial growth of the Yishuv, amidst an Arab population that had become increasingly exposed to nationalist ideas during the mandatory period created many reasons for friction. What later came to be known as the Great Arab Revolt of 1936-9 was unprecedented in its scale and impact, but alarming warning signs were apparent much earlier. As soon as 1921 the pro-Zionist British High Commissioner Herbert Samuel, who failed to create a unified political structure embracing both Palestinian Arabs and Jews in a constitutional government with joint political institutions, wrote to Chaim Weizmann, the Zionist captain, in warning: “Unless there is very careful steering, it is upon the Arab rock that the Zionist ship may be wrecked.” It was four years later, in 1925, that a group of intellectuals and activists headed by Arthur Ruppin (1876-1943), Shmuel Hugo Bergmann, Hans Kohn, Chaim Margaliot Kalvarisky (1868-1947), Ya’acov Thon, Georg Landauer and a few others founded Brit Shalom (lit. Covenant of Peace). The group’s Hebrew periodical, Sheifotenu (Our Aspirations) advocated “mutual understanding among Jews and Arabs [Ivrim v’Aravim],” and called upon all sides to search for “ways of common life in the land of Israel, based on full equality in the political rights of the two nations with wide autonomy […] for the sake of their common effort of developing the land”. Three programmatic memorandums, prepared in 1930, clarified more explicitly the group’s practical plan for Jewish–Arab Cooperation, proposed new guidelines for the “Arab Policy for the Jewish Agency” (a document authored by Hugo Bergmann, Hans Kohn, Edwin Samuel, Avraham Katznelson, and Gershom Scholem), and provided a list of the “Practical Proposals” for “Cooperation Between Jews and Arabs” (written by Edwin Samuel, Werner Senator, and Chaim Kalvarisky).
Brit Shalom was undoubtedly a small group capable of producing a big noise. Advocates of bi-nationalism in pre-state Palestine were many times depicted by their opponents as constituting a group of idealistic but dangerously naïve Central European chattering humanists who were not familiar enough with the harsh everyday realities of life in Palestine, and never dirtied their hands while contributing to the actual construction of the Jewish polity. There is no doubt that much of the discussions in the intimate circles of Brit Shalom were accompanied by a thick German accent, nor it would be possible to deny that much of the inspiration for these Yeke professors originated in Central and Western Europe. The pejorative image of bi-nationalism as an idea which was supported only by an elitist and alienated group of ivory tower professors, however, stands on very slim historical grounds. In fact, the majority of the figures involved in the movement not only considered themselves Zionists and played central roles in the Zionist movement but were also familiar with the nuts and bolts of the actual processes of land purchase, immigration absorption and more. At least two of the founding members of Brit Shalom – the economist and sociologist Arthur Ruppin, who directed the Palestine Office, and the agronomist Chaim Margaliot Kalvarisky – were chief architects and executors of land purchase deals which allowed further Jewish settlement activity. Cutting across ideological lines which divided the Zionists on other matters, the bi-national state idea succeeded in capturing the imagination of diverse figures such as Henrietta Szold (1860–1945), the American-born founder of the Hadassah Women’s Organization and “Youth Aliyah,” and the charismatic leaders of a Marxist movement like Ha-Shomer ha-Tsa’ir, who made the bi-national idea part of their platform as early as 1929. An almost entirely forgotten group, nicknamed “The Five,” active during the thirties, sought to compliment the bi-national state idea by combining it with a vision of economic integration, believing that the seeds of the conflict are rooted in a competition between Jewish and Arab Workers. “The Five” was not a group composed of fringe eccentrics but by central figures of the Yishuv, including Judge Gad Frumkin (1887-1960), the only Jewish jurist to serve on the supreme court of Palestine during the British Mandate period who worked closely with Chaim Weizmann; author Moshe Smilansky (1874-1953), the fervent believer in the of the redeeming value of agriculture for the Jews; Pinhas Rutenberg (1879–1942), the founder of the Palestine Electric Company who also played a decisive role in establishing the Haganah; scientist Moshe Novomeysky (1873 –1961), developer of the Palestine Potash Company in the Dead Sea; and the Reform pacifist Rabbi Judah Leon Magnes (1877-1948) the Chancellor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “The Five” held meetings with both Arab and Zionist leaders and proposed, as part of an agreement with the Arabs that would enable continued Zionist development, the establishment of a legislative council based on parity. Some of these ideas, like the Brit Shalom movement itself, were short-lived. Yet some veterans of these pre-Statehood debates such as Mordekhai Bentov (born Gutgeld; 1900-1985), who later served as Minister of Housing and Minister of Development in the Israeli government, or the Orientalist Aharon Cohen (1910-1980), continued to support the bi-national state idea until after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
The fact that many supporters of bi-nationalism were active Zionists well familiar with the nitty-gritty dilemmas that labor, land purchase and settlement produced is important to mention not simply to scrutinize their derogatory image as ivory-tower secluded thinkers, but also because for many of them bi-nationalism was a grassroots ideology, emerging from these everyday realities. Kalvarisky, for instance, wrote as early as 1920:
The question of the Arabs first appeared to me in all its seriousness immediately after the first purchase of land I made here. I had to dispossess the Arab residents of their land for the purpose of settling our brothers. The doleful dirge of the Bedouin men and women who gathered outside the sheikh’s tent that evening, before they left the village of Shamsin, next to Yama, which is Yavniel, did not stop ringing in my ears for a long time thereafter. I sat in the tent and concluded my negotiation with Sheikh Fadul Madalika. The Bedouin men and women gathered around the fire, prepared coffee for me and for the rest of the guests. And at the same time they sang songs of mourning for their fortune, which forced them to leave the cradle of their birth. Those songs cut through my heart and I realized how tied the Bedouin is to his land.
The 1929 riots are commonly seen as the watershed event that challenged the bi-national idea. There is no doubt that it was one of the triggers for Brit Shalom’s dissolution in 1933. In 1942, however, the idea was revived as the small political party Ichud (Union) Association of Palestine founded by Martin Buber, Ernst Simon and Magnes. Members of Ichud directed much of their energy towards lobbying directed at international observers, criticizing both the various partition proposals that entered circulation in the mid-thirties as well as the 1942 Biltmore Program which, among other things, proclaimed that the ultimate aim of the Zionist movement is the establishment of a Jewish State as soon as a Jewish majority in Palestine had been achieved. The fact these deliberations were taking place during wartime, as news about the annihilation of European Jews began leaking out, intensified the debates. At this stage the leadership of the Jewish Agency and the political leadership of the Yishuv moved from indifference to hostility, and began considering members of Ichud as wrongheaded illusionary and utopian thinkers, and their ideas as an internal threat.
It was during these dramatic years that Ihud achieved its biggest recognition. Its members were invited to testify, and thereby present their ideas at length, to the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry in 1946 and soon thereafter during the hearings made by the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine in 1947. A rare moment of ad hoc collaboration was achieved as Hashomer Hatzair, who submitted to the Anglo American Enquiry Commission the Memo “The Bi-National Solution for the Land of Israel” composed by Mordechai Bentov, endorsed the same idea. At that moment the bi-national proposal could easily have been seen as a viable alternative to partition. The chapter dedicated to the Yishuv in the Anglo-American Committee Report captures this. Yet even these sympathetic external observers had to conclude, that Hashomer Hatzair, together with “Dr. Magnes and his small Ichud group, whose importance is far greater than its numbers […]certainly do not exceed at the moment one quarter of the Jewish population in Palestine.” They represent, the Report concluded, “a constructive minority.” 
The failure of this “constructive minority” to win the battle against statist approaches within the Zionist movement did not put an end to the idea itself. Yet, for many intellectuals who were affiliated with this movement the victory of the nation-state model signaled a decisive watershed moment in the history of Zionism which, in many cases, prompted them to reconsider their earlier convictions and in some cases – divorce themselves from the movement. Hannah Arendt’s writings on Zionism from the mid-forties provide one famous example, and this personal experience had evident impact on the type of political philosophy she developed in postwar years. Hans Kohn, the eminent scholar of nationalism, provides another famous example. An early dissenter of Zionism, he wrote in winter 1929:
[L]ately I have become increasingly aware that the official policy of the Zionist Organization and the opinion of the vast majority of Zionists are quite incompatible with my own convictions […] The Zionism championed by me since 1909 was at no time political. I and a group of my friends regarded Zionism as a moral-cum-spiritual movement within which we could realize our most fundamental humane convictions: our pacifism, liberalism, and humanism[…] Zion was to be the place where we would be able to realize our humanitarian aspirations. The reality of the Zionist movement and of the Jewish settlement in Palestine is far from all this. You know that for years I have been fighting the battle for those ideas which to me had been the very meaning of Zionism. Eventually these ideas gained focus in the so-called Arab question. For me this question has become the [moral] touchstone of Zionism.
Kohn’s conclusion was bitter:
I believe that it will be possible for us to hold Palestine and continue to grow for a long time. This will be done first with British aid and then later with the help of our own bayonets […] But by the time we will not be able to do without the bayonets. The means will have determined the goal. Jewish Palestine will no longer have anything of that Zion for which I once put myself on the line.
6. Pan-Asianism: Eugen Hoeflich’s Key for Peace in Palästina
One of the less famous chapters of Hannah Arendt’s magnum opus The Origins of Totalitarianism was dedicated to describe a bizarre, almost dialectic symbiosis between imperialism and pan-nationalist movements. With overseas expansion being unavailable to them, continental pan-Slavism and pan-Germanism expressed their expansionist desires by invoking an “enlarged tribal consciousness,” which was essentially based not on memory and history as much as on “pseudomystical nonsense” that justified irredentist practices dubbed projects of unifying groups sharing similar folk origins in a way that went way beyond the narrow limits of traditional nationalism. And what held these pan-movements’ membership together, what explains why this ideology withstood tangible political failures and constant changes of its vague programs, has to do with the fact they were based “more on a general mood that a clearly defined [political] aim.”
Pan-Asianism was a late comer, crystallized by various, many times disconnected, Asian intellectuals, much later than the European pan-movements which Arendt had in mind when writing her book. The common denominator that brought the various proponents of this anti-colonial ideology together was their belief that in order to oppose Western domination one must go beyond regionalism and particularistic nationalisms and create instead a united Asian force and continental identity. The task of that ideology was clear: to provide that precious cement that would bind the various anti-colonial forces together and create a cohesive Asian front. Could Zionism be envisioned as part of pan-Asianism? The writer and poet Eugen Hoeflich (1891-1965), arguably the most quizzical Zionist thinkers ever to live, certainly thought so. The alternative vision he formed and preached in favor of, “pan-Asianist Zionism,” undoubtedly marks the limits of the “Eastern” tendency within European Zionism.
Hoeflich was born to an acculturated Jewish family, and was a socialist for a time, an ideology he abandoned in favor of a unique version of Zionism he apparently developed almost single handedly. The pan-Asiatic movement he launched in 1917 in Vienna, gaining the support of a small group of intellectuals, espoused the idea that Jews and Judaism were part of the Asian world. The origins of this conviction date back to World War I, to the time Hoeflich was stationed in Palestine as an Austrian officer. It seems that his wartime experiences, as well as the immediate postwar years he spent back in Vienna, alienated him altogether from his native city: “Constantinople is spread before me”, he wrote in his diary, “within me there is an uncontrollable yearning for Palestine, so strong that I am a total stranger here in Europe.”
Not unlike Rabbi Binyamin, Hoeflich also retained animosity towards “Europe” – a term which signified for him an appalling combination of excessive materialism and militarism – and adopted a deep identification with “Asia” – a massive continent he perceived as the source of all noble spiritual values and ethics. In “The Awakening Asia,” an article he published in 1919, he wrote:
The bayonets of the European powers will subjugate them [the Asian lands], until Japan will lead the organization of Asia against Europe; the tendency toward independence, which, also in Japan has nothing in common with European imperialism, is rising every hour […]. If at that point of time we [i.e. Jews] would not have been long decided for Asia, the awakening Asia will remove us from its way.
What can we do? We must recognize, must conceive, that the western orientation is our disaster, not simply because it pushes us to an anti-Asian position, but also because it robs us of the last remains of our [Asian] essence, and will eventually turn us into a Hebrew speaking part of the European folks-mixture, sent to Palestine. Our orientation must immediately turn towards the East […]
Hoeflich’s sources of inspirations were not only the Zionist writings but also the books of leading Asian intellectuals such as the Indian-Bengali poet and novelist Rabindranath Tagore, arguably the most eloquent advocate of Asian unity, and the Japanese scholar and advocate of pan-Asianism Okkakura Tenshin (aka Okakura Kakuzō), author of The Awakening of Japan (1904), one of the earliest anti-colonial texts advocating pan-Asianism. What was unique about Hoeflich is the type of ideological synergy – or quilting – he envisioned when describing Zionism as part of the awakening of the Asian tiger. Jews, led by the Zionist movement, he believed should return to Palestine, but not as Europeans, and must support Asian decolonization struggles and to join forces with their allies across the continent. He started to propagate his views from the end of World War I and even during the 1920s, when he started moving closer to intellectual circles of supporters of bi-nationalism, Hoeflich continued propagating tirelessly his inclusive, all-Asian vision, arguing that a bi-national “Arab-Jewish Palestine” will be absorbed into a much larger continental union.
Hoeflich returned to Palestine again in 1927, now as immigrant, Hebraizing his name to Moshe Ya’acov Ben-Gavriel. He settled in Jerusalem but remained an outsider. He never truly mastered Hebrew and felt more at home with German, and worked as the Palestine correspondent for a number of European newspapers while continuing his literary writing. This, no doubt, is one of the main causes of his limited influence within the Jewish Yishuv. Although never completely abandoning his original far-reaching vision, Ben-Gavriel also encountered political obstacles that forced him to adapt himself to the changing reality. His hopes for a peaceful unification of Asia were proven naively wrong in light of the militaristic Japanese leadership of the 1930s and the German-Japanese alliance of the Second World War. He drew a connection between this tragedy and the growing tension and conflicts between the two “brother peoples” in Palestine which, eventually, annulled his hopes for an “Arab-Jewish Palestine” as “The gate of the East.” He himself was forced to admit that pan-Asianism was a road not taken.
During the last years of his life Hoeflich was re-discovered by German readers, and some of his books gained a lot of attention in Western Germany and elsewhere. There was an ironic twist to that revival of interest: a rabid rejecter of Europe and Europeanism and a ruthless fighter for an all-Asian unity, Hoeflich was depicted as a somewhat melancholic, domesticated, German-Israeli visionary attempting to build a cultural and political bridge between East and West. The radical political sting, no doubt, was taken out.
If Hoeflich compared himself to any prophet, it was probably Jonah, the prophet who tried to flee from the presence of almighty by sailing to Tarshish. Did he feel that his wild political message was curbed when presented as a harmless defense of cultural diversity? It might be so. And maybe for that reason he wrote in 1963 his autobiographical novel, Die flucht nach Tarschisch (The Flight to Tarshish), which clarified that the pan-Asianist vision remained rooted in his mind. Describing a conversation he had with an Indian captive during World War I, Hoeflich restored his original message and declared:
If only could the sons of Asia be united, there would be no more war in the world. They could enforce an eternal peace[…].Maybe you are right, said the Indian, thoughtfully […]. Yes, you are right: entire Asia is a one state, and it must understand that that is what it is, one enormous state from China to Palestine.
7. Conclusion: Wittgenstein’s family
What can we learn about Zionism from this incomplete survey, from our flimsy sketches of some of the roads not taken on the way to Zion? Very little, many might argue: Conventional historical narratives no doubt tend to ignore such alternative paths. All too often we tend to view the present as product of an inevitable unfolding of past events, and it remains unclear to most of us how could we gain a better understanding of the past by recounting those noble dreams which in the end never materialized. Shouldn’t we tell the story of the team that won the tournament rather than describe the enormous but unfortunately futile efforts of the team which lost when writing the history of sport? Similar tendencies characterize the way the history of Zionism is told, from the background of May 1948 backward, as a story of a “nation-state in becoming,” having a clear plot and central conceptual axis – the idea of a nation-state, gradually turning from theory into practice. We can even assume a psychological explanation: When the present is a mess, we wish the past to provide us some comfort by being tidy and orderly, and thus have very little patience toward the counterfactual, the “what if?” and “might-have-been” questions. But what was the role of those alternative plans, of the ideological deviations or variations of this central theme?
Two things are at stake here: first, is our ability to read history. It is precisely this tendency to search for a clean and tidy story in the past that prevents us from appreciating history fully. What we need, to use Simon Schama’s words, to “revel in the pastness of the past”, to see that past “in all its splendid messiness,” which, in our case, requires a richer account of a plethora of ideas, programs, visions and utopian dreams which populated the collective Zionist imagination. Secondly, we strongly hold that it is only in this way that we could truly open the space for speculation and start thinking differently. Not because we are expected to leap into the unimaginable and the unthinkable. But because we have a storage room of ideas upon which we can rely as “internal critics” who have a better understanding of that the debate about the possible definitions of Zionism and about the possible parameters for a solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict. These ideas have been on and off the table for many decades and are ingrained in the history of Zionism itself. We thus call for a more honest and brave look backwards, into that gorgeous chaotic drama we call history. This is not a manifesto of a new type of historical revisionism but a call for an epistemological shift: we suggest that we can look at the Zionist past in a more careful and historical way if we take the alternatives seriously and discard a simplistic presupposition that Zionism was animated by a single idea – namely that of creating a sovereign Jewish nation-state in Palestine – from its very inception, and that the history of Zionism, subsequently, should be told as a tale of theoria turning into praxis.
To be sure, we do not call to ignore or negate the statist option. Instead, we prefer to see this idea as only one among a long list of Zionist ideas, as one of the hues in what was in fact a rainbow, a wide spectrum of colors. At the same time, we have no intention of constructing an illusionary Zionist universe in which the marginal, peripheral thinkers whose ideas we restored to life in this essay would be seen as representatives of mainstream Zionism. We are dealing here with the history of ideas, not of norms. Nor would we like to use the noble, pacifist and humane ideas some of them offered in order to whitewash the atrocious record on human rights Israel offers today. To do so would be to fall into our own trap. One is reminded in this context of Georg Lukács’s sardonic remark: “We see the unhistorical and anti-historical character of bourgeois thought most strikingly when we consider the problem of the present as a historical problem.”We have little to say about the present as historians. What we aim at is a more careful understanding of the nebulousness of the Zionist creed.
If there is a radical outcome this type of epistemological shift yields to is that it invites us not simply to rethink the so-called “Zionist idea” but also to think about Zionisms in the plural, as a family of ideas. This is where a smilingly antiquarian effort, centered on retrieving stories and ideas of eccentric thinkers and dreamers from dusty archives, becomes a challenge and raises the possibility of a new perspective. In other words: what is habitually described as the Zionist idea – a nation-state based on strict ethno-religious parameters of citizenship – is an idea, a single variant in what was actually much wider spectrum of options.
Like many others, we borrow the phrase “family resemblance” (Familienähnlichkeit) from Ludwig Wittgenstein’s later writings. Wittgenstein, who, according to some interpreters, may have had his own family members in mind when introducing the concept, sought to scrutinize a traditional way of argumentation through generalizations by pointing at the fact it is based on the premise that all words or entities which fall under a given term must have some set of essential properties or features in common. But wasn’t this a dogmatic and somewhat essentialist way of looking at the relationship between words, concepts and ideas? The alternative, Wittgenstein suggested, would be to look at relationship between concepts in a way analogous to the way we would look at an extended family whose members, on the one hand, resemble each other yet, on the other hand, don’t have one common denominator shared by all. Instead of “craving generality” and thereby collapsing into dogmatic reductionism, we need to develop our institutive understanding of “a complicated network of similarities overlapping and criss-crossing: sometimes overall similarity, sometimes similarity of detail.” There is no reason to look, as we have done habitually—and dogmatically—for one, essential core in which the meaning of a word is located and which is, therefore, common to all uses of that word. We should, instead, travel with the word’s uses over time and place or, in the words of historians, understand its meaning through context.
If “family resemblance” is a concept that offers an apt description of the relationship between single, “atomic” words, it is definitely true of the far more complicated molecular structures we call ideologies and political doctrines. The history of Zionist ideas illustrates this exceptionally well. Seen historically, Zionist ideology could be better understood not as a “closed” system but as a term and point of reference that could be used to describe various ideological variance. It would be thus far more instructive to replace the notion of “Zionist idea,” in the singular, with the idea of a Zionist family of ideas, of Zionisms. This does not mean that Zionism ceases to function as a political ideology. Yet, the term ideology itself, we argue, should be understood more loosely. Ideology thus for us is that bundle of political ideas that has the following features: First, it is constituted on plurality. It takes numerous ideas and structures them into a unified field of meaning. (Slavoj Žižek’s fans will be familiar with the “quilting” metaphor, which he employs to describe both the act of assembly of different proto-ideological elements into a whole and the “totalization” function such an act has, which “fixes” these ideas and “halts” the flow of meaning by making them part of a structured network of meaning.) Second, we assume that ideologies provide an interpretive scheme, allowing the individuals who absorb them to, on the one hand, evaluate the present and find structure and order in its chaos, and, on the other hand, to deduce from a prospective direction a rough outline of a potential future social and political order. What distinguishes ideology from abstract political theory, therefore, is ideology’s aspiration to offer a cognitive map, a matrix that allows reinterpreting “the actual,” the present, and at the same time, point at “the hypothetical,” the possible future. Third, because of this hybrid of “diagnostic” and “prophetic” features, ideology always mixes the empirical and the evaluative, and would be better understood as that mishmash of descriptive assertions about the “is” alongside an estimation of possible directions of change, a vision of an alternative “ought.” And finally: we treat ideologies as open systems. They are coherent enough to provide a cognitive map, yet they are not distinctive, exclusive and “closed” to such a degree that could not allow its authors and followers to find nodal points of contact, and perhaps even overlap, with other neighboring ideologies.
Looking afresh at the history of the Zionist ideology, in that respect, would not only enrich our current, meager, gray-on-gray public discourse about the future of Israel, but should also teach us some humility. Unlike Judt, with whom we opened this discussion, we believe that past thinkers were able to be critical and think the unthinkable without being external, detached and alienated observers. It would be the task of political theorists, public intellectuals, think-tank mercenaries and any active, conscious citizens of the Promised Land to reconsider whether some of these lost, forgotten alternatives are to be reconsidered as viable options. Our aim is merely to unlock a few dusty drawers and to bring back to light some of their content, disturbing as it may be.
This does not mean that theoretical plurality had never been curtailed. And maybe the question – which this essay will not be able to address but maybe others would like to answer – is what explains the gradual narrowing of this ideological space? What explains the reductionist move that is captured in the notion of a “Zionist idea” that is so easily used by frantic defenders of a certain Zionist orthodoxy and rabid dissenting critics who see it as the embodiment of all evil upon earth? And what were the historical processes of exclusion and omission that caused these alternative voices to be ignored, disregarded and eventually muted? For maybe, if the history of Zionism is to be told in the future as a heart-rending tragedy, as a road to hell paved by so many good intentions, the dreadfulness of the story would be captured exactly here, in the extinguished spaces of variance.
Edited by: Ilana Brown
 Giambattista Vico, The New Science of Giambattista Vico [3rd ed., 1774], trans. Thomas G. Bergin and Max H. Fisch (Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday, 1961), § 122, p. 60.
 Slavoj Žižek, Iraq: The Borrowed Kettle (London: Verso, 2004), p. 116.Bottom of Form
 Tony Judt, “Israel: The Alternative,” The New York Review of Books, vol. 50, no. 16 (October 23, 2003), p. 8.
 Quotes are taken from Judt, Ill Fares the Land (New York: Penguin Press, 2010), passim; idem, “The ‘Problem of Evil’ in Postwar Europe,” The New York Review of Books, vol. 55, no. 2 (February 14, 2008), p. 33; and Judt’s public lecture, “Disturbing the Peace: Intellectuals and Universities in an Illiberal Age,” Boston College, February 6, 2007 (available online at: http://frontrow.bc.edu/program/judt/)
 Tony Judt, “Edge People,” New York Review of Books vol. 57. no. 5 (March 25, 2010)
 Hans Speier, “The Social Conditions of the Intellectual Exile,” Social Research vol. 4 no.3 (1937), pp. 316-28, on 327. Reprinted in Speier, Social Order and the Risks of War: Papers in Political Sociology (New York: Stewart, 1952), p. 94.
 Michael Walzer, Interpretation and Social Criticism (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1987), pp. 48, 53.
 In a diary entry dated September 20, 1895, Herzl reports of a conversation he had with leaders of the French Alliance Israélite Universelle, in which he was told: “especially in Russia I would find many adherents. In Odessa, for example, there had lived a man named Pinsger [spelling mistake in Herzl’s original text] who had fought for the same causes, namely the regaining of a Jewish national home. Unfortunately, Pinsger was already dead. His writings are said to be worthwhile. Should read them as soon as I have time.” See The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl, ed. Raphael Patai, trans. Harry Zohn (New York, 1960), vol. 1, p. 243, as quoted in Avineri, Shlomo. “Theodor Herzl’s Diaries as a Bildungsroman,” Jewish Social Studies vol. 5 no.3 (1999), pp. 1-46, on 19.
 Martin Buber, The Tales of Rabbi Nachman [of Bratslav], trans. Maurice Friedman (New York: Horizon Press, 1956). Buber’s book originally appeared in Frankfurt 1906. For Birnbaum’s review of Buber see Birnbaum (aka Mathias Acher),“Die Geschichten Des Rabbi Nachman [Orig. 1907],” Ausgewählte Schriften Zur Jüdischen Frage, Vol. 2 (Czernowitz: Birnbaum & Kohut, 1910), pp. 301-06.Bottom of Form
 Birnbaum, Nathan. Divre Ha-olim. (Vinah [Vienna]: Jüdischer Buch-und Kunstverlag, 1918).
 Ahad Ha’am quoted in Boas Top of Form
Evron, Jewish State or Israeli Nation? (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995), Bottom of Form
 Gur Alroey, “A Land for a People, not a People for a Land,” Maarav (ambush):Online Israeli art and culture magazine (April 29, 2012): http://www.maarav.org.il/english/2012/04/a-land-for-a-people-not-a-people-for-a-land-gur-alroey/
 Benzion Netanyahu, Hameshet Avot Ha-Tsiyonut [Hebrew: The Five Founding Fathers of Zionism] (Tel Aviv: Yediot Aharonot, 2003). See also Netanyahu’s contribution to the Hebrew translation of Zangwill’s speeches: Top of Form
Zangwill, Israel, Ha-derekh Le-atsmaut: Ne’umim, Ma’amarim U-Mikhtavim (Tel Aviv: Hotsa’ah medinit, 1938).Bottom of Form
 Rabbi Binyamin [Yehoshu’a Radler Feldmann], “Av-Elul,” Hapoel Hatzair, September 29, 1908, pp. 12-13. (Translation into English by the authors.)
 Y. Radler-Feldmann, “Masa Arav” [Arabia Prophecy], Hame’orer, July 1907, p. 271. (Translation into English by the authors.)
 See for example the recollections of Berl Locker, From Kitov to Jerusalem: Essays, Articles and Recollections [Hebrew]. (Jerusalem: Hasifriya Hazionit, 1970), p. 126.
 Arthur James Balfour, “Report of the Inter-Imperial Relations Committee.” In: Imperial Conference. London, 1926) British National Archives, Cmd 2768. Reproduced online by the National Archives of Australia at http://foundingdocs.gov.au/item-did-24.html
 Josiah Clement Wedgwood, The Seventh Dominion: On the British Administration in Palestine (London: Labour Publishing Co, 1928), p. 2
 Nahum Sokolow to J. C. Wedgwood, July 5, 1928, as quoted in Joshua B. Stein, “Josiah Wedgwood and the Seventh Dominion Scheme,” Studies in Zionism, vol. 11 no.2 (1990), pp. 141-55, on p. 146.
 Chaim Arlosoroff, “The Ninth Dominion,” The New Palestine, April 5 1929; Basil Williams, Ha’Imperia Ha’Britit [Hebrew: The British Empire], trans. Chaim Arlosoroff (Tel Aviv: Hevra, 1930 [?]).
 Jabotinsky interview at the Jewish Chronicle, August 2, 1929, as quoted in Norman Rose, “The Seventh Dominion.” The Historical Journal 14.2 (1971), pp. 397-416, on page 403
 Joseph Nedava, Ha-Lord Yoshiyah Vedgvud [Hebrew: Lord Josiah Wedgwood] (Jerusalem: Hotsaat Ahiasaf, 1943), p. 105.
 Lewis B. Namier,”Palestine and the British Empire [Orig. 1936],” in Namier, In the Margin of History (Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1969), pp. 84-93, on 89 & 92.
 Sheifotenu [Hebrew: Our Aspirations], 1 (Jerusalem: Brit Shalom Press, 1927), p. 53, as quoted in Adi Gordon, ed. “berit Shalom” Ṿeha-Tsiyonut Ha-Du-Leumit: “ha-she’elah Ha-arvit” Ke-She’elah Yehudit [Hebrew: Brith Shalom and bi-national Zionism: “The Arab Question” as a Jewish Question] (Jerusalem: Karmel, 2008), p. 288.
 “Tokhnit Brit Shalom le-Cooperatsia beyn Yehudim ve–Aravim [Brith Shalom’s Plan for Cooperation Among Jews and Arabs),” Sheifotenu, 4 (Jerusalem: Brit Shalom Press, 1930), 30–32; Memorandum by the “Brith Shalom” Society on an Arab Policy for the Jewish Agency (Jerusalem: Azriel, 1930), pp. 4–5.
 Haim M. Kalvarisky, as quoted in Tom Segev, One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the Mandate (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2000), p. 114.
 Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Jewish Problems in Palestine, “Report to the United States Government and His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom” (Washington: The Department of State, 1946), chap. V (“The Jewish Attitude”). Reproduced online by Yale University’s Avalon Project at http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/angch05.asp
 Hans Kohn in a letter to Berthold Feibel, November 21, 1929, as quoted in A Land for Two Peoples, Martin Buber on Jews and Arabs, Edited with commentary by Paul R. Mendes-Flohr (New York : Oxford University Press, 1983), pp. 97-99.
 Top of Form
Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1966), chap. 8, esp. pp. 225-6.Bottom of Form
 Eugen Hoeflich (aka Moshe Ya’akov Ben-Gavriêl), Tagebücher 1915 bis 1927 [German: Diaries, 1915-1927], Herausgegeben und Kommentiert von Armin A. Wallas (Wien : Böhlau, 1999), p. 28.
Eugen Hoeflich, “Das Wiedererwachende Asien [The Awakening Asia]”, Wiener Morgenzeitung (October 12, 1919), p. 3. (Translation into English by the authors.)
 Moshe Y. Top of Form
Ben-Gavriel, Ha-beriḥah Tarshishah [Hebrew: The Flight to Tarshish], trans. Leah Zagagi (Tel-Aviv: Am ha-sefer, 1972), p. 376 (Translation into English by the authors.)
 György Lukács, History and Class Consciousness: Studies in Marxist Dialectics. (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1971 ), p. 157.
 Ludwig Top of Form
Wittgenstein, Top of Form
Philosophical Investigations, trans. G.E.M. Anscombe (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2001 [orig. 1953]), pp. 2-4, 27, 66 and passim.Bottom of Form
Bottom of Form
 The standard textbooks, used not only in Israeli schools but also in American universities, still rely on the metaphor of a single idea providing Zionism its ideological core. Three classic examples are Ben Halpern, and Jehuda Reinharz, Zionism and the Creation of a New Society (Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 2000); Joseph E. Heller, The Zionist Idea (New York: Schocken Books, 1949) and most famously Arthur Hertzberg, The Zionist Idea : A Historical Analysis and Reader (New York: Atheneum, 1973).
 Slavoj Žižek, The Sublime Object of Ideology (London: Verso, 1989), chap. 3. We are content to borrow? Žižek’s metaphors, without necessarily ascribing to his use of Lacan and/or Hegel in his analysis of ideology.