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Unformatted text preview: Ideological Factions in Zionism Ideological Factions in Zionism The mainstream general Zionism which was created on the compromise of synthetic Zionism was challenged by three ideological agendas which vied for prominence and power within the Zionist Organization: National­ religious, Labor and Revisionism. This division has also laid the foundation for the Israeli political map ever since. General Zionism was a mixed bag of various ideological tendencies connected only by the belief in activism and the return to Zion and committed to the amalgamated three­pronged strategy of practical, political and cultural advocacy. As such, they succumbed to fragmentation by the well­organized and determined ideological factions, which established themselves as permanent parties within the world Zionist Organization. Religious Zionism: Hamizrahi Religious Zionism: Hamizrahi In 1901 a short­lived splinter group within the WZO called the Democratic Faction emerged. They were a group of secular intellectuals who prioritized secular culture and education for future generations of Jews. This initiative provoked a strong reaction from the orthodox rabbis and religious delegated from mainly eastern Europe, who organized a counter­movement to oppose the secular threat and formed in 1902 the Mizrahi faction (acronym for Merkaz Ruhani, but also meaning East­bound, as the direction of prayer). The Mizrahi movement later spawned another group called Ha­Poel Hamizrahi (the Mizrahi worker) (1919) for their younger generation who immigrated to Palestine and wished to participate in the settling and working of the land while preserving their Orthodox way of life. Religious­Zionism Religious­Zionism Tension with secular Zionism on three grounds: shifting from passivity to activism; perceiving religion as part of the Nation rather than vice versa; and the Israeli nation as any other and not as based on a covenantal basis with God. Compromise: distinguishing between two dimensions of ideology­ fundamental and operative. The former has an unbridgeable gap between secular and religious understandings of the idea of nationality but the latter is the realistic recognition that Orthodox observants are a minority among the Jews and if they want to be a part of the process, they should adapt. Later, Rabbi Avraham Kook, the first Ashkenazi chief Rabbi of Palestine consolidated the compromise by asserting that Zionism was a God given sign to accelerate and facilitate the impending redemption, i.e.­Zionism was part of the divine plan. The Messianic Debate­ Among the Orthodox rabbis a The Messianic Debate dispute develop regarding the rationale of joining the Zionist project. The disagreement focused on whether or not to emphasize the role of Zionism as expediting factor on the road to the messianic redemption. Marginalizing Messianism: Hamizrahi leadership (Y. Reines, Mohilewer, Rabinowith) preferred to highlight the merit of Zionism as a liberation movement, not as subservient to religious creeds in order not to be perceived as stepsons of Jewish nationalism and independence. As long as tradition and heritage are recognized and respected, this would suffice for the time­being. Elevating Messianism: Rabbi Avraham Kook and his followers adhered to the Messianic element and the divine salvation as chief orientation since there was no valid reason to why Eretz Israel without it. As such, The Mundane Debate­ whereas the messianic debate was among The Mundane Debate different parties of religious Zionists, the mundane debate was held between religious Zionists and non/anti Zionist Orthodox. Hamizrahi leaders were preoccupied with offsetting non Zionist accusations of sacrilege and betrayal, but on mundane and practical grounds and not on theological. Some of their arguments were: 1. Participating in the Zionist effort was under the Jewish precept of “saving a life” (Pikuach nefesh), since Jews were massacred everywhere and there was no time to waste. 2. Similar to the work place whereby Orthodox Jews collaborate with Gentiles for their wellbeing, Zionism is also collaborative endeavor to benefit religious Jews and all the more so here since the beneficiary is the whole public, not an individual. 3. The process of returning to Zion, even if initiated by seculars, will encourage converts and deserters to return to Judaism with renewed hope and commitment. 4. It was less important who would ingather the dispersed Jews than what would be the state of Judaism once all Jews returned to their historic land, hence, if seculars are more instrumental due to historic circumstances in securing the return home, then they are worthy of partnership. Ha­Poel Hamizrahi (the Mizrahi Worker)­ the young Ha­Poel Hamizrahi (the Mizrahi Worker)­ generation of religious Zionism, being more modern and mostly sabre, drifted even farther away from Orthodoxy. They adopted some principles of socialism similar to the Labor movement and even established religious Kibbutzim. They adopted the principle of Torah and Labor (Landau) in which returning to the homeland was not only studying the Bible there but working and cultivating the land together with working the Lord. In light of these principles, it was most surprising that the radicalization process after the 1967 and 1973 wars and the foundation of the zealot Gush Emunim (the Bloc of the Faithful) that spearheaded the illegal settling of the West Bank came from their ranks. Labor Zionism Labor Zionism The Challenge: merging national aspirations with social beliefs, ostensibly two opposites. Eastern European Jews mainly, aiming to obtain a proletariat, classless society within a national rather than global setting. Marxism rejects nationalism unless it is an intermediate phase toward the workers’ revolution. As such, only the established national movements with defined territory and economic­ political system to take over are counted as expediting the fall of monarchies. Thus Jewish nationalism is excluded as diversionary to the revolutionary effort. As a result, nationally motivated Jewish laborers had to seek alternative route. The Bund: founded in Vilna in 1897, the General Jewish Workers Association was Marxist and anti­Zionist yet it kept a separate union for Jews only for cultural purposes, believing that their bond will be kept stronger due to heritage ties. But their main priority remained a social revolution wherever they lived. The first to invoke a vision of Jewish nationalism in the context of The first to invoke a vision of Jewish nationalism in the context of social ethics and a future classless Jewish state was Moshe Hess. Several Zionist leaders were inspired from him but the first to really pursue the synthesis of socialism and Zionism in what became Socialist Zionism was Nahman Sirkin (1868­1924). Sirkin, a devout Russian socialist came to prominence with his written answer to Herzl’s the Jewish State. Published two years later, his The Jewish Question and the Socialist Jewish State grabbed a central attention in Zionist circles. There he explains anti­Semitism in class conflict terms (as a diversion mechanism for the middle class and peasants to avoid the hardships of Capitalism). Since all Jews are prey to persecution, there is no reason why Jewish workers and bourgeois adopt Zionism together and once there, in Israel, create the classless society. Unlike dogmatic Marxism which emphasized the inevitability and scientific certainty of revolution, Sirkin underlined choice and reason as guiding lights. Thus, it was given to Jews’ prudence and discretion whether to build an equal and just society. The most fervent ideologue of social Zionism became the young The most fervent ideologue of social Zionism became the young but emphatic activist Ber Borochov. Starting as a disciple of Ussishkin, the founder of synthetic Zionism, he made a name as a prolific writer and eloquent speaker. More than any other Zionist leader, he was an avid Marxist believing in dialectics and historical materialism. The immigration to Palestine (not Eretz Israel, to avoid any romanticism or mysticism) was an unavoidable necessity for the Jews, a process which was a spontaneous determinism, a stikhinost (Russian for elementary naturalness). Only in Palestine which was underdeveloped, culturally and ethnically inchoate, and susceptible to variety of foreign national and religious interests, could Jewish petty capital be invested to build a bottom­up equal and just nation. Borochov vision was termed Prognostic Palestinism and it became the cornerstone of the radical wing of the Poalei Zion party­ the Poalei Zion left as opposed to the mainstream of the party. This was the party representing the Labor Zionism orientation, that was founded in Eretz Israel in 1905. Unlike Borochov Marxist dogmatism, mainstream Zionist Labor Unlike Borochov Marxist dogmatism, mainstream Zionist Labor was less keen on a workers’ global revolution and more focused on building a socially­based nation, in an independent Jewish state, i.e.­ a particular goal rather than a universal one. The original plan of the pioneer Jewish socialists was to become wage laborers in the first Jewish farming settlements from the first Aliya, thus creating a proletariat class that would carry an ensuing socialist revolution. This change from these lofty ideological hopes came with the harsh reality they encountered: the first settlers preferred cheap Arab labor; there was no significant inflow of capital; and there was rampant unemployment everywhere else. Adjustment­ several creative experiments to employ themselves: 1) A small commune sharing means and revenues to generate work for itself. The first was Degania on the sea of Galilee, the prototype for the Kibbutz. 2) A cooperative farmers settlement called a Moshav, and 3) An organized group of laborers called Gedud Ha­Avoda (Labor Battalion) residing together and on call for every type of employment anywhere in the country. All these changes emanated to a major ideological shift: from a All these changes emanated to a major ideological shift: from a revolutionary top­down approach to a pragmatic bottom­up approach dictated by circumstances rather than ideals. This attitude was called constructivist and it was associated with a new and charismatic leader called Berl Katznelson. Berl has shifted the orientation of Labor Zionism from socialist to nationalist, constructing from the conditions and circumstances available a productive and vibrant economy and a just society. David Ben Gurion, Katznelson’s ally took the new orientation to full fruition with the emphasis moved from class to nation. Yet he remained an avid believer in the working class that should carry the brunt of building the image of the new liberated, self assured and productive Jew. The Zionist leader that most expressively combined social Marxism with nationalism was Chaim Arlosoroff, a young brilliant leader of Labor Zionism. His People’s Socialism claimed that laborers’ conscience and unity were best served by their own heritage, unique ethnic­cultural identity, mother tongue and particular territory rather than cross­cultural economic interests. Revisionist Zionism Revisionist Zionism The transition from socialism to nationalism has come a full circle with the emergence of Revisionist Zionism and the arrival of its compelling founder and leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky. The original bone of contention Jabotinsky had with the general Zionists, and especially with Chaim Weizmann was about the Zionist policy toward the British rule. In opposition the assertion that Jewish and British interests converge, Jabotinsky saw in the British an enemy as much as the Arabs and also criticized Weizmann’s submissiveness to them. He demanded more firm stands and overt activism against the ‘British occupation’. On this grounds, he quitted the Zionist organization in 1925 to found the Zionist Revisionist Organization (HaTzohar) as a faction within the WZO. But his dissention was not only about policy. Jabotinsky was deeply affected by Italian and Polish national revivals. His was a very organic and integral nationalist concept which ruled out as dangerous and adversarial any other basis of collective identity, class analysis included. The most distinctive feature of a nation, Jabotinsky wrote, was its The most distinctive feature of a nation, Jabotinsky wrote, was its psyche, its internal world: memories, images, worldviews and specific cultural interpretations of reality. The universal Marxist ‘mode of production’ concept is less relevant to explain variance between nations. The particular psyche of each nation is born out of its physical condition and the relation between the physiological and the psychic is a bond Jabotinsky referred to as race. Nations differ from each other in their racial composition. Jews could only resume their racial harmony in their own national habitat. The fundamental nationalist premise he held was that the nation, not mankind as an undifferentiated whole, was the necessary and desired medium for human self­fulfillment. But he held an ambiguous view about the individual: it has precedence over the nation on the one hand (a liberal view), but he must obey his leaders unreservedly and follow the consensus on the other. His innovative idea was called Monism: one single undertaking of a Jewish majority on both sides of the Jordan as a first step to an independent State. No diversions are tolerated or permitted. Jabotinsky advocated a more militant activism of the Jewish Jabotinsky advocated a more militant activism of the Jewish settlers against Arab and British hostilities. He promoted the idea of Jewish retaliation forces skilled in weaponry and military practice. He founded a youth movement called Betar based on the Spartan principles of discipline, restraint and dedication. Jabotinsky followers had no qualms shedding their liberal feathers and called themselves ‘maximalist’ revisionists. Instead of their leader’s rational approach, they wrapped his vision with spirit of romanticism, messianism and sheer force. Their professed goal was the Kingdom of Israel­ a fundamental vision of restoring the Jewish empire of kings David and Solomon. The maximalist tendencies began as an emotional reaction to the first Arab riots against the Jews in Palestine, especially the 1929 Hebron massacre. The radical revisionists were more anti than pro: anti­socialists, anti labor and anti Arab. Their internal rift between liberal­ restrained mainstream and the small but significant radical right was never really attended nor healed (Irgun vs. Lehi). ...
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This note was uploaded on 11/12/2011 for the course MIDDLE EAS 563 taught by Professor Peleg during the Fall '11 term at Rutgers.

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