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Jewish Social Studies 7.2 (2001) 169-190

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The Jewish State and Its Internal Enemies: Yoram Hazony Versus Martin Buber and His "Ideological Children"

Allan Arkush

In war, said Churchill, the truth is so precious that it should not go abroad except with a bodyguard of lies. But wars are often won or lost, or caused or prevented, by what one does in time of peace. It is therefore a perfectly non-Machiavellian insight that there is no time in which the truth may not require a bodyguard of lies. This certainly complicates the task of discovering the truth and of distinguishing the just from the unjust dissemblers, but it does not affect our responsibility to distinguish the just from the unjust or the true from the false.

--Harry V. Jaffa, A New Birth of
Freedom: Abraham Lincoln and the
Coming of the Civil War

The derivative title of Yoram Hazony's highly controversial new book, The Jewish State, accurately reflects both the depth of his certitude and the character of his restorative ambitions. For Hazony, a title such as the one recently employed by the Israeli political scientist Yehezkel Dror, Hidush ha-Tsiyonut ( The Renewal of Zionism), [End Page 169] would be too meek and defensive, too indicative of a need for refurbishing the old ideology. What is now necessary, in his eyes, is not the adaptation of a century-old doctrine to new circumstances but a return to a nearly discarded yet still entirely sound set of ideas, one that is in need only of being reestablished on more solid foundations. 1 Pioneered by Theodor Herzl, the author of the original The Jewish State, and institutionalized, above all, by David Ben-Gurion, Zionism has already supplied the right answer to the Jewish problem. Paradoxically and very regrettably, however, the state produced by Zionism has itself given rise to a generation of intellectuals increasingly inclined to repudiate its underlying ideology. Parrying the threat posed by these people to Israel's continued existence is Hazony's primary purpose.

From the very beginning, he goes on the attack. His book concentrates more on exposing the errors and horrors of his adversaries' thinking than on a justification of the movement they have betrayed. There is no need, Hazony believes, to waste any time defending the record of the Zionist movement's actions. Even though some injustices were undoubtedly committed in the process of bringing Israel into existence, "all the new historical work done in recent years has not . . . succeeded in establishing that, in general, the means used to settle Jews in Palestine and create a Jewish majority there were illegitimate" (xxiv). Nor is there any reason to doubt the validity of the ends these means were designed to serve. Zionism's accomplishments evidently speak for themselves, as far as Hazony is concerned. Rather than attempt to convince his readers of the enduring truth of the movement's fundamental tenets, he seeks to uphold them by discrediting the people who have questioned them. Viewed against the backdrop of their foolishness, the wisdom of Herzl and Ben-Gurion shines forth.

The principal villains of Hazony's narrative are not, as one might expect, the contemporary advocates of post-Zionism but the people he regards as their spiritual progenitors. What distinguishes this book, above all, from similar volumes is the way in which it traces the current, deplorable tendencies found among Israel's intelligentsia back to a group of Central European thinkers affiliated with--but, in Hazony's opinion, not truly loyal to--the Zionist movement. Of these, the guilt-iest and most injurious was Martin Buber. Unlike Emil Fackenheim, who refers to Buber and Gershom Scholem (in a partial dissent printed on the jacket of The Jewish State) as "Zionist fathers" whose dreams "have been distorted by their spiritual sons," Hazony regards these men and their colleagues as anti-Zionists whose ideas have been all too well understood and absorbed by ensuing generations of Israeli intellectuals. Through their writings and in their classes at the Hebrew University...


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