The Founding Myths of Israel by Zeev Sternhell

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The well-known historian and political scientist Zeev Sternhell here advances a radically new interpretation of the founding of modern Israel. The founders claimed that they intended to create both a landed state for the Jewish people and a socialist society. However, according to Sternhell, socialism served the leaders of the influential labor movement more as a rhetorical resource for the legitimation of the national project of establishing a Jewish state than as a blueprint for a just society. In this thought-provoking book, Sternhell demonstrates how socialist principles were consistently subverted in practice by the nationalist goals to which socialist Zionism was committed. Sternhell explains how the avowedly socialist leaders of the dominant labor party, Mapai, especially David Ben Gurion and Berl Katznelson, never really believed in the prospects of realizing the "dream" of a new society, even though many of their working-class supporters were self-identified socialists. The founders of the state understood, from the very beginning, that not only socialism but also other universalistic ideologies like liberalism, were incompatible with cultural, historical, and territorial nationalism. Because nationalism took precedence over universal values, argues Sternhell, Israel has not evolved a constitution or a Bill of Rights, has not moved to separate state and religion, has failed to develop a liberal concept of citizenship, and, until the Oslo accords of 1993, did not recognize the rights of the Palestinians to independence. This is a controversial and timely book, which not only provides useful historical background to Israel's ongoing struggle to mobilize its citizenry to support a shared vision of nationhood, but also raises a question of general significance: is a national movement whose aim is a political and cultural revolution capable of coexisting with the universal values of secularism, individualism

About Zeev Sternhell

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Zeev Sternhell is Leon Blum Professor of Political Science at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He is the author, among works in several languages, of" Neither Right nor Left "and "The Birth of Fascist Ideology", both published by Princeton University Press.
Published December 27, 1999 by Princeton University Press. 464 pages
Genres: History, Religion & Spirituality. Non-fiction

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For decades, Israel's social-democratic Labor Party was the country's predominant political force, consistently holding a plurality of power against the right-wing ``revisionist'' and religious parties.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of The Founding Myths of Israel


I am not so sure he ought to thank McCain for setting up the scene where Mr. Obama could be called treasonous, a terrorist, and other heinous imperatives, funded by Palentinians, as being Muslim (which really isn’t a bad thing but the way McCain/Palin put it, there is some racist repugnance overl...

Oct 10 2008 | Read Full Review of The Founding Myths of Israel


By berniem, September 13, 2010 at 3:27 pm Link to this comment.

Sep 13 2010 | Read Full Review of The Founding Myths of Israel


Hell, every single thing is local in New Orleans—the city that author Ned Sublette calls “an alternative American history all in itself.” Big Chief Harrison figures in the coda to Sublette’s new book, “The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square.” “They refused to coope...

Feb 22 2008 | Read Full Review of The Founding Myths of Israel


By Mary, June 6, 2006 at 11:53 pm Link to this comment(Unregistered commenter).

Jun 05 2006 | Read Full Review of The Founding Myths of Israel

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