Modern Intellectual History 18 (1):223-247 (2021)

This article discusses the historical context of the famed dissident intellectual Jalal Al-e Ahmad’s travelogue documenting his visit to Israel in early 1963, posthumously titled Safar beh velayat-e ʿezraʾil, focusing on the political and intellectual context and reception of his controversial essay, in particular the brief infatuation of Iranian anti-Soviet socialists in the League of Iranian Socialists with socialist Zionism; Al-e Ahmad’s discussion of political sovereignty and theo-politics in modern Israel and the important insights and observations provided therein; and, finally, the shifting sands of Al-e Ahmad’s engagement with Israel and Zionism and their relation to how he understood the politics of anticolonialism in the context of modern Iran following the 1953 coup d’état, which overthrew the nationalist government of Mohammad Mosaddeq, the Shah’s “White Revolution” and the Arab–Israeli War of 1967. The development of his views from ones of curiosity, fascination and ambivalence to condemnation echo less a simplistic and psychologized “return to religion” or “quest for authenticity” than an integration of the category of coloniality in relation to a wider field of struggles then unfolding across the global South during the 1960s, and provided the basis for a critique of not only Iranian social democrats, but several leading lights of the French left.
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DOI 10.1017/s1479244319000222
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