From the Jewish Question to the Jewish State: An Essay on the Theory of Zionism

Dissertation, Princeton University (1987)

The aim of the thesis is to account for the origins and explore the repercussions of the idea of a state of the Jewish nation. I argue that the idea of a state distinct from its citizens and "belonging," rather, to a nation, has deep roots in Zionist ideology. The Zionist analysis of the Jewish Question, I suggest, is predicated on this notion. I further argue that a state of the Jewish nation is the prescription for the Jewish predicament that follows inexorably from the Zionist understanding of that predicament. Finally, I argue that the Zionist discourse on the Jewish Question, of which a state of the Jewish nation is the logical and necessary correlative, is grounded in a cluster of assumptions that invert the liberal idea. Specifically, because the state is conceived as the superstructure of a nation, it is not necessarily beholden to all its citizens. In effect, Zionism conceives of the nation-state relationship rather than the citizen-state relationship as decisive. ;The thesis is divided into two parts. In Part I, I discuss the manner in which the national idea was conceptualized in post-French Revolutionary Europe. I argue that the central postulate of modern nationalism is the ideal coextensiveness of nation and state. I further argue that, at the most general level, the crucial distinction to be made is between nationalisms in which the nation is viewed as a projection of the state and those in which the reverse relationship is postulated . In Part II, I argue that the Zionist discourse on the Jewish Question and the anti-Semitic discourse it mirrors and responds to are embedded in the latter, anti-liberal, variant of the national idea. ;I conclude that the conflict with Palestine's indigenous non-Jewish population was prefigured in the exclusivist notion of a state of the Jewish nation, the Zionist analysis of the Jewish Question misapprehended and mystified the nature of modern anti-Semitism, and the Zionist prescription for the Jewish predicament, namely, a state of the Jewish nation, cannot be reconciled with democratic discourse
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