Ben-Gurion’s Willing Executioners

Ben-Gurion’s Willing Executioners

The Founding Myths of Israel: Nationalism, Socialism, and The Making of the Jewish State
by Zeev Sternhell
Princeton University Press, 1998, 464 pp., $29.95

The Jews, Heinrich Heine is supposed to have said, are like everyone else but more so. How true for Zionism, which is at heart nothing but a variety of nationalism, the most compelling form of collective identity in the modern world. Yet during the first half of this century, the enormous difficulty of creating a Jewish state and the need to combat Zionism’s many ideological rivals endowed the Zionist project with an intensity unprecedented in the history of nationalism.

The state of Israel is now fifty years old. Although the nationalist fervor of some Israelis is fiercer than ever, for others it has dimmed and been replaced by a comfortable, if rather weary, sense of at-homeness. But Israel, it appears, is not destined to join the periphery of nations, to be...

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