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Post-Zionism only rings once


Friday, September 21, 2001 Tishrei 4, 5762

            Israel Time: 01:11 (GMT+3)



The post-Zionists had the feeling that their ideas were taking hold among

the public - until the Al Aqsa Intifada erupted. What is post-Zionism,

anyway? Why does it frighten its opponents and make even its advocates

writhe uncomfortably? And has it really vanished like last year's fad?


By Neri Livneh


The end of this month will mark the first anniversary of the eruption of the Al

Aqsa Intifada. It will also mark the first anniversary of the death of post-Zionism

as a movement and a social attitude, according to Dr. Ilan Pappe, an outspoken

post-Zionist. Prof. Anita Shapira, who takes vehement issue with Pappe's ideas

and wrote an entire book to counter post-Zionism ("New Jews, Old Jews"), says

that although post-Zionism as a method has not disappeared - and that it is

quite probable that a considerable number of its proponents will belong to the

next generation of university researchers and instructors - the popularity of

post-Zionist concepts has been at a nadir among students and readers since

the intifada began almost a year ago.


At least five books on post-Zionism have been written by non-Israeli

researchers in universities abroad. There, particularly before the death throes

and final demise of the "peace process," the view was that Israel was opening a

new chapter, post-Zionist in character, in its history. In the past year, the feeling

is that Israel opened the book, gave it a quick perusal, and slammed it shut



"If until the past year the university simply tried to curtail me," Pappe says, "today

they are actually trying to kick me out. Because today, you can kick out a lecturer

in Israel on the basis of his opinions."


It's more reasonable to think that no one will really kick Pappe out of the

University of Haifa, where he has tenure and is also a very popular lecturer; and

besides, he is involved in an academic debate that is taking place in a setting

that is supposed to be open to all views. But the fact is that Pappe and others

have the effect of unsettling ideological rivals, both in and out of academia, and

making them take a hostile attitude not only toward different opinions, but also

toward those who espouse them.


Prof. Yoav Gelber, for example, who is a colleague of Pappe's at the University of

Haifa, says he is unwilling to have his name "mentioned in the same

newspaper in which Ilan Pappe's name is mentioned. Any self-respecting

person will not agree to appear in the same place, or to sit in the same room,

with Pappe, and I am definitely a person who respects himself."


Gelber recently sent a letter to the head of the social sciences faculty at the

university, suggesting that Pappe be fired. Three weeks ago, Gelber sent a

message to the university's internal communications network in which he

likened Pappe to "Lord Haw-Haw" (William Joyce, who was described by

journalist William Shirer as "a leading brawler in Mosley's British Union of

Fascists," and who broadcast anti-British propaganda for the Nazis and was

hung in London in 1946).


Shifting viewpoints


The popularity of post-Zionism as a subject for those interested in researching

Israel is at its peak abroad, says Dr. Tom Segev, a historian and a columnist for

Ha'aretz. Segev was interviewed hours before he lifted off for the United States,

where he will be giving a three-month seminar on this exact subject at Rutgers

University. His small book, "The New Zionists," which was published a few

months ago by Keter, will appear in the U.S. next year and afterward in other



"Abroad, this is a subject that fascinates everyone who takes an interest in

Israel," Segev explains. "There are constant discussions on the subject,

innumerable articles. There is tremendous interest in post-Zionism, which is

viewed as a central process in Israel, and it's a lot easier for those who observe

us from the outside to see what's happening to us."


Since post-Zionism as a political posture is less popular today than it was a

year ago, even those who support post-Zionist positions prefer to do so without

referring to it by name. Others, who once consented to being considered part of

the post-Zionist camp, even though they did not really think they were part of it,

now openly dissociate themselves from it. Indeed, the term "post-Zionist" often

is used only as a general label of derogation, one which is more cultured than

"Israel-hater," with which loyal Zionists brand people whom they perceive as

questioning the just cause of the Zionist movement.


In the wider sense, if the term post-Zionism is meant to describe every attempt

to examine the injustices perpetrated by Zionism and to reassess Israel's

history from a standpoint that is different from the standard version, all those

who are identified in this article as "post-Zionists" will undoubtedly agree to be

included in the list.


But in the narrower, and more precise, sense, post-Zionism is a political

attitude that recognizes the legitimacy of Zionism as a national movement of

Jews, but specifies a certain date, a kind of watershed, from which point on

Zionism concluded its historical role or lost its legitimacy because of injustices

it did to others (not only to Arabs but also, for example to Holocaust survivors

from Europe, Yiddish speakers, Jews from Arab and Islamic countries,

ultra-Orthodox Jews and women).


This viewpoint also gives rise to a political conclusion, according to which Israel

must disengage itself from its Zionist elements, which are the foundation of its

Jewish character, because they are preventing it from being a democratic state.

In the eyes of its opponents, this conclusion by the post-Zionists places them in

a saliently anti-Zionist camp.


"Post-Zionism," says Dr. Amnon Raz-Karkutzkin, from Ben-Gurion University of

the Negev in Be'er Sheva, "is actually a kind of general term that was invented in

order to stuff into one basket and denounce everyone who does not identify

completely with the establishment, or who has anything critical to say about the

way history is taught in Israel, or who see the huge damage that Zionism has

done to the Palestinians or the Mizrahim" - referring to Jews whose origins lie in

Middle Eastern countries.


"Post-Zionism is an empty label," asserts Prof. Yehouda Shenhav from Tel Aviv

University. "I think we have to stop using the category of 'post-Zionism,' because

people invoke it confusingly. Not everyone who calls for an end to the occupation

is necessarily a post-Zionist. People who want to return to the 1967 lines can be

Zionists through and through, because they are convinced that nationhood

cannot exist without borders. On the other hand, you could say that the settlers

are post-Zionists, because their very existence is harmful to nationhood within

clear boundaries."


Raz-Karkutzkin and Shenhav do not consider themselves post-Zionists,

although they are identified as such by their detractors.


"Post-Zionism is a term I abhor," Raz-Karkutzkin states. "I am absolutely not a



A fierce debate broke out over this issue a few months ago in Keshet

Hademokratit Hamizrahit (Sephardi Democratic Coalition). Moshe Krief, for

example, is one of the sharpest critics in the organization of those members

whom he perceives as post-Zionists, such as Shenhav. The debate is of

particular interest because the coalition was established on a post-Zionist

foundation, which views Zionism as an essentially Ashkenazi ideology and

movement that harmed Arabs and Mizrahim.


The coalition was created primarily to right the wrong that was done to the

Mizrahim, Krief explains. It is trying to accomplish this by "conducting a trenchant

dialogue with Israeli society and trying to tell the history of Israeli society from

the viewpoint of the Mizrahim, and not only as was customary in the past, from

the point of view of male Ashkenazim. In my view, though, we are not

post-Zionists, because we are absolutely not people who want to dismantle the



Krief and other opponents of post-Zionism define it according to what they

identify as its conclusions. Many post-Zionists say that Israel stripped of its

Zionism should be a "state of all its citizens," meaning a country where there is

full equality for everyone including Arabs. Still, post-Zionism is not necessarily a

political outlook as much as it is a way of looking at things, of shifting one's

point of view.


The conclusions gleaned from that new perspective can be different. Benny

Morris, for example, one of the leading "new historians," is a Zionist, whereas

Ilan Pappe is an anti-Zionist. Yet both are dubbed by the disparagers as



The thrust for individuality


In an article he wrote for The New York Times about three weeks ago, Tom

Segev argued that the Palestinians are forcing Israelis with post-Zionist

leanings to return to the womb of Zionism.


"Post-Zionism is a situation, not an ideology," he says. "It is a situation in which

people grow tired of an ideology and a collectivity and want to live their lives as



Segev's book, "The New Zionists," was written before the intifada erupted.


"I wanted to postpone the book's publication because I don't know what

situation we are in now," he explains. "It's not certain that the post-Zionist

situation is being nullified, and it's equally not certain that it is not being nullified.

Post-Zionism reflects very deep processes within the society, it is more than a

caprice of a few people who write books. The fact is that the society allowed

Yitzhak Rabin to shake hands with Yasser Arafat and allowed Ehud Barak to

conduct peace negotiations because of the conclusion people reached that life

is more important to them. But afterward they punished Barak for failing.


"Of course, as soon as bullets start flying and people are blown up, there is a

kind of reversion to Zionism, but it's possible that people will accept a situation

in which terrorism exists and the need to strive for peace still exists. You have to

remember what engendered post-Zionism: It was born out of the first intifada,

which in large measure was victorious. Post-Zionism said, 'Let's give up the

territories, because we are simply fed up with dying, with doing reserve duty,

and so forth.' Who says the second intifada won't produce a similar result?"


"The fact is," Raz-Karkutzkin says, "that since the intifada started, the only critical

academic articles in Israel have appeared in English." He is referring to "Hagar,"

a post-Zionist English language periodical edited by Prof. Oren Yiftachel and

published by Ben-Gurion University.


However, similar articles are also published consistently by "Theory and

Criticism" (edited by Yehouda Shenhav and published by the Van Leer

Jerusalem Institute), a Hebrew-language journal which is considered the organ

of the post-Zionists and was founded with that purpose by Adi Ophir.


In the meantime, Keter has begun to publish a new series of long essays in

book format under the general heading of "The Israelis" (general editor: Gideon

Samet, a columnist for Ha'aretz), and at least two of the books that have so far

appeared are clearly post-Zionist: Segev's book and a work by Prof. Baruch

Kimmerling, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, on "The End of

Ashkenazi Hegemony." (In Hebrew, Kimmerling has invented the acronym

"Ahusalim," for Ashkenazi, secular, veteran, socialist, liberals).


There are a good many post-Zionists in the arts departments of the universities.

Some of them have a history of protest and criticism that far antedates the

relatively brief life of post-Zionism, but their voices have been mostly inaudible

during the past year. In literature, poetry and theater, too, post-Zionism has not

made new inroads since the intifada started. However, it was never really an

essential part of creative output in Israel, according to the poet, novelist and

essayist Yitzhak Laor, much of whose work is saliently post-Zionist. But Laor is,

in any case, considered an avowed anti-Zionist.


"Post-Zionism is a kind of convenient bag into which all kinds of people can be

stuffed," he says. "On the one hand, it allows anti-Zionists to come out of the

closet without calling themselves anti-Zionists, and on the other hand, it allows

all the ideological establishment Zionists to throw them all into that bag so they

can kick it around."


Not only post-Zionism is difficult to find in Hebrew literature, Laor says; so is any

other political view.


"A while ago I was asked, on the occasion of 'the Situation,' to organize an

evening of political poets, but to make sure that Meir Wieseltier, Aharon Shabtai

and Yitzhak Laor wouldn't be the only ones there. I said fine. Show me one

political poem by a young poet. It's the same with young writers. There are no

young writers who are publishing political literature. Of the older generation, you

can hear the opinion that Joshua Kenaz is a post-Zionist, in the sense that he is

a definite Canaanite [a group that advocated a new Hebrew - as opposed to

Jewish - nation] and that Orly Kastel-Blum is a post-Zionist because her irony

places all the sacrosanct verities in doubt."


To this list, we can add Sami Michael, who has just published a new novel; the

new film "Yellow Asphalt" directed by Danny Varte, which depicts the life of the

Bedouin in the Negev; the work of the feminist Mizrahi filmmaker Simone Biton;

and a few others.


No new post-Zionist play has been staged since the intifada began, Laor notes,

"but that is because in recent years playwrights and the theater in Israel have

become a lot more fawning toward the audience's taste."


One sphere that will continue to be post-Zionist always, irrespective of

developments on the security front, is feminism. In its essence, feminism is a

reappraisal of history and ideologies from women's point of view.


"Feminism in the past 10 years has been talking about a great pain that is due

to Zionism," says Hannah Safran, who teaches in the Women's Studies

Program at the University of Haifa and is an activist in the Woman to Woman

feminist organization.


"The whole debate of the past few years is about identities, and therefore it's

connected with the consequences of Zionism, and is thus post-Zionist in its

essence. Feminism is a movement that fights for equality and so we are also

talking about equality between Ashkenazi women and Mizrahi women, and

between Jewish women and Palestinian women."


Some of the leading post-Zionist women in academia are Prof. Tanya Reinhardt

(linguistics), Dr. Orly Lubin (literature), Dr. Rachel Giora (linguistics), Dr. Anat

Matar (philosophy), Dr. Anat Bieltsky (philosophy), Prof. Ilana Pardes (Bible), and

Prof. Galit Hazan Rokem (Hebrew literature).


Schizoid history


"The rumors about the death of post-Zionism were premature and

exaggerated," says Prof. Shlomo Zand from the General History Department at

Tel Aviv University.


"I don't think that anyone in the academic world who defined himself as a

post-Zionist or as a non-Zionist or as an anti-Zionist went back to being a

Zionist after last October, but I do think that the tolerance of the media toward

post-Zionism declined after that. The first intifada opened the way for the critical

researchers, those you call post-Zionists, and the Oslo accord legitimized

post-Zionism. But the new intifada brought about a siege of the media elites

and that siege led them back to the old Mapai style" - referring to the policies

and approach of the party that was the precursor of Labor.


"Unlike my friend Ilan Pappe," Zand adds, "I don't think there is a regression

from post-Zionism or from critical research in the universities. I think that Ilan

simply deluded himself into thinking that the change of the universities and their

liberalization would be a rapid process. I don't think that there are fewer critical

researchers or post-Zionists today than there were a year ago. I also think there

is a new generation - perhaps not big enough, but there is such a generation. I

have five doctoral students, for example, and I assume that most of them would

term themselves non-Zionists."


The origins of academic post-Zionism lie with the historians, and more

precisely with the so-called new historians. There are differences of opinion as

to when post-Zionism first emerged, but everyone agrees that it happened in the

second half of the 1980s. Two things happened at that time: the first intifada,

which reminded everyone that there was a second side, too, a side of victims, to

the Zionist success story, and the fact that studies of a post-Zionist character

began to be published. Under the Archives Law, it was not until the end of the

1970s that the files containing documents and papers relating to the 1948 war

were opened to the public, and 10 years is definitely a reasonable time in which

to write and publish an academic study.


The first post-Zionist books were published abroad, in English. Simha Flapan's

book "The Birth of Israel" appeared in 1987 in New York, and the following year,

Benny Morris published "The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem

1947-1949" (Cambridge), Avi Shlaim published "Collusion Across the Jordan:

King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement, and the Partition of Palestine" (Oxford),

and Ilan Pappe published "Britain and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1948-1951"



The beginnings, then, lay with the new historians, who were not a group either

("only Benny Morris, who is a Zionist, took us - there were perhaps three of us -

and announced that we were a 'group,'" recalls Pappe).


On the other side of the academic fence, Shabtai Teveth was one of the first to

discern the danger lurking for the national ethos, and in 1989 wrote a series of

three articles in Ha'aretz on the new historians, in which he accused them of

intellectual dishonesty and claimed that were deliberately relying on mistaken

information. The war was on. Afterward, when critical positions began to be

heard and written up in other academic spheres, a new and broader term was

needed to reflect them all.


When people began to invoke the two terms concurrently, there was initially an

inclination to identify the new historians with the post-Zionists. Thus Benny

Morris was classified as a post-Zionist, even though he is in fact a Zionist. But

beyond the facts that they discovered in their research, the post-Zionist

historians rejected the traditional split of the teaching of history in the Israeli

academic world into two: Everything that happened to the Jews was taught in

departments of Israel studies or the history of the Jewish people, while all the

rest of history, almost without connection to Jews, was taught in general history

departments. (The only university that does not make this distinction is



"This is a situation that has no example anywhere in the world," Prof. Zand

maintains. "In France, they don't study the history of France divorced from the

history of Europe. There might be courses with different emphases in a history

department. But here, if I teach in the Department of General History, I am not

supposed to refer to Jewish history. So post-Zionism is not actually relevant to

research or teaching in the General History Department, irrespective of whether

there were always historians in the General History Department who defined

themselves as post-Zionists or non-Zionists or anti-Zionists."


On the other hand, in departments where Zand believes a post-Zionist

approach is required, it is not present.


"I don't know anyone in the Department of Jewish Thought, or in the Department

of the History of the Jewish People, who is not a Zionist or a post-Zionist," he

notes. "Why? Because this division of history in effect says that the history of

France is supposed to be taught objectively, from an external perspective, but

those who teach Jewish history are supposed to be committed to Zionist



"The process of the liberalization of the universities, which is making Prof.

Amnon Rubinstein lose sleep, has not reached the departments that are out to

preserve the national memory - meaning Jewish History or History of the Jewish

People or Israel Studies or Jewish Thought.


"Therefore, the Israeli historian of the history of the Jewish people whom I most

esteem is not an academic historian, and it's not surprising that he holds no

academic post. I am talking about Boas Evron, who wrote the first saliently

post-Zionist book, 'A National Accounting'" - published in Hebrew by Dvir, in



Prof. Yisrael Yovel, from the Department of the History of the Jewish People at

the Hebrew University: "I myself am not a post-Zionist, but I deny the legitimacy

of the argument that a researcher of Jewish history cannot be a post-Zionist. If

post-Zionist thought is a possible category, then it is possible ... even in

departments of Jewish history. Anyone who thinks it's not possible, thinks that

the history of the Jewish people began with Zionism. The only trouble is that

started a few years before that. The Jewish History Department can

accommodate a pre-Zionist, Zionist or post-Zionist approach. The conceptual

categories are legitimate in any context."


Do you know of researchers in Jewish history departments whose studies have

a post-Zionist character?


Yovel: "No, but that's because those departments hardly deal with Zionism.

Zionism is studied mainly in the Department of Contemporary Jewry."



Ideology and witch hunts


The journal "Theory and Criticism" was founded in 1990 by Prof. Adi Ophir

(philosophy), Prof. Hanan Hever (Hebrew literature), Dr. Amnon Raz-Karkutzkin

(general history), Prof. Yehouda Shenhav (sociology), Dr. Azmi Bishara (political

science), attorney Avigdor Feldman, and Dr. Yoav Peled (political science). Ophir

edited the journal until a year ago, and when he took sabbatical leave the

editorship was taken over by Prof. Shenhav.


"The idea was to create some sort of local criticism of the national hegemony,"

Shenhav explains. "To promote post-national, post-Zionist, Marxist and feminist



By the mid-1990s, there were a good number of post-Zionist scholars in the

universities (notably in Tel Aviv, Be'er Sheva and Haifa). Still, their numbers

remain very small compared to the Zionists.


"For every post-Zionist researcher there are 10 or a hundred who are not

post-Zionists," says Dr. Yossi Yonah from the Department of Education at

Ben-Gurion University.


As mentioned, BGU is the home of "Hagar," the journal edited by Prof. Yiftachel,

head of the Department of Geography. The publisher is Prof. Lev Grinberg, from

the Department of Sociology.


"I myself am a Zionist by definition, as I immigrated to Israel, but that doesn't

mean I have no critical thought about Zionism and about nationalism, about the

Zionist and university establishments, and about the society in Israel," Grinberg

says. "Actually, though, very few people are ready to call themselves

post-Zionists, apart from Ilan Pappe and Dr. Uri Ram from Ben-Gurion, who

defined themselves as such and immediately hoped that everyone would follow

suit and that they had invented a movement."


Grinberg describes the journal he publishes as a "critical one that addresses

interdisciplinary issues, not only in the Israeli context but everywhere. But we

chose 'Hagar' as a common symbol to Judaism and Islam, and a symbol of the

Palestinian problem, peripheralism and feminism, all of which we also



Why does "Hagar" come out in English?


Grinberg: "Because only the Jews speak Hebrew, while English is the language

of the academic world, and we also want to communicate with the



Publication of the journal is financed by the Hubert Humphrey Institute, which is

the focal point for the scholars who espouse critical thought and take an

anti-establishment approach at BGU. There are about 40 of them, and they

originate in a variety of departments: sociology, political science, social work,

history, international relations, literature, geography and Middle East studies.


Ben-Gurion University is considered the bastion of post-Zionism, although with

the exception of sociologist Uri Ram (who is currently on sabbatical leave

abroad), there is not one other researcher there who calls himself a



"It's clear that you can advance in the university even if you have a post-Zionist

approach," Grinberg says. "In Tel Aviv and Be'er Sheva it's the 'in' thing, and in

other places, it's sometimes possible. Generally, the atmosphere at Ben-Gurion

is one of critical thought, which, if you like, can be considered post-Zionism in

the broad sense.


"There is no hegemonic establishment core at BGU, which is a relatively young

university, so nearly all the approaches here are critical. The picture at Tel Aviv

University is more complex because there is an old establishment core, and in

Jerusalem, the old establishment is very strong and dominant. In Jerusalem,

you might run into promotion problems if you harbor post-Zionist views.


"Here, too, there was a certain panic when we were afraid that people with

post-Zionist views would not be promoted, and therefore I am delighted to be

able to tell you that the three last people who were promoted are precisely those

who are identified with post-Zionism: Uri Ram, Haggai Ram and Yossi Yonah."


Yonah thinks that the academic world, including BGU, hasn't yet fully opened

itself to critical scholars: "The fact is that a woman like Dr. Ella Shohat could not

find an academic position and that Dr. Shlomo Swirski, a distinguished

sociologist, couldn't find work at any university - and Swirski is perhaps to blame

for being the first to open the way for critical observation in the social sciences.


"True, I was given tenure, but I have to say that there is a kind of McCarthy-like

atmosphere, which is represented by people like Amnon Rubinstein, who

conducts witch hunts against people whose integrity is impeccable and who are

also excellent and fair-minded scholars. Overall, the atmosphere in this country

is that anyone who is critical is a mischief-maker."


Rubinstein clashed with post-Zionism in 1995, when it was at its height and he

was minister of education, culture and sport. In an article in Ha'aretz, Rubinstein

argued that the people whom he identified as post-Zionists were radically

anti-Israeli, Holocaust deniers, and castigators of Zionism whose goal was to

bury the Zionist movement.


Two years later, Rubinstein wrote another article denouncing post-Zionism, in

which he argued that its goal was not to right wrongs but to launch "a frontal

assault on the very essence and right of existence of the national home of the

Jewish people ... Thus the post-Zionist assault became anti-Zionist

propaganda, and it reflects an ideological worldview, not academic research,

however critical it may be."


Prof. Amnon Rubinstein: "I wrote a series of articles in Ha'aretz against

post-Zionism, and in my book 'From Herzl to Rabin,' which appeared a year

ago, I devoted an entire chapter to post-Zionism and to my objections to it. The

post-Zionists, who are ostensibly very enlightened people, take it as a personal

affront the moment you argue with them. But my opposition to them is not

personal. I am using rational grounds to prove that they are mistaken in their

understanding and in their historical analogies, and that they are attacking the

very existence of the State of Israel."


The chapter on post-Zionism in Rubinstein's book ignited the debate over

post-Zionism anew. A recent supporter of Rubinstein has been Nissim

Kalderon, who reviewed his book favorably in the daily Ma'ariv, describing the

author's critique as substantive and the post-Zionists as a confrontational



Prof. Yiftachel responded: "The attempt by Kalderon and Rubinstein to create an

'enlightened' niche for themselves by means of superficial comparisons and by

vilifying the critical researchers is no more than an evasion of a serious

discussion on Zionism's deep problems."


Even though Yiftachel has reached the position of head of a department at BGU,

he maintains that people who espouse critical attitudes such as his

("post-Zionist" views, for the purposes of this article), are promoted more slowly

in the universities.


"The fact is that neither Baruch Kimmerling in Jerusalem, Yehouda Shenhav in

Tel Aviv, nor myself in Be'er Sheva is a full professor, although there is greater

openness in Be'er Sheva than in other universities," he says. "I wrote my

doctoral thesis on the Judaization of Galilee, at the Technion, and as you notice,

I did not stay there. Fortunately, Ben-Gurion invited me to teach there."


Yiftachel notes that in other geography departments, "You will hardly find critical

approaches, because geography is usually connected to the establishment -

members of geography departments serve as consultants to the Interior Ministry

and the Environment Ministry, which is why geographers are often shouting mad

about things I write and say. After all, there is no more national sphere than



There is a large group of critical scholars at BGU, Yiftachel says, and a large

new generation is also emerging. The major post-Zionist departments are

sociology, education, Middle East studies, psychology, geography, history,

literature and even economics: "We have created a pretty large group of people

and we have a large number of doctoral and post- doctoral students."


So you don't agree with Pappe that post-Zionism is dead?


Yiftachel: "My good friend Ilan and Uri Ram declared post-Zionism to be without

content and now they are declaring the death of this thing with no content. The

critical researchers have not disappeared - on the contrary - but Ilan may be

right in that when there is shooting, the public discourse shuts down. But it will

be renewed again when the shooting stops, because we have no other



Dr. Danny Guttwein, from the Jewish History Department at Haifa University,

also thinks post-Zionism has a rosy future, at least for the short term, but for

completely different reasons.


"Post-Zionism, he says, "is actually the ideological aspect of the privatization the

state is experiencing; the post-Zionists are effectively carrying out a privatization

of Zionism. So I think that only a true left-wing, socialist movement can pose a

danger to post-Zionism." And no such movement is looming on the horizon

these days.


The establishment fights back


"What's important is not how many post-Zionists there are in each university but

what impact they have," says Prof. Yosef Grodzinsky, from the Department of

Psychology at Tel Aviv University.


"You can check it from a negative perspective, too, by seeing who is admitted

and who is promoted and who isn't. So it took Benny Morris about 400 years to

get a position at BGU [Morris is now waiting to be tenured], Avi Shlaim will

probably remain at Oxford, and it will be interesting to see how long it takes

before Ilan Pappe is a full professor. I myself became a professor in the

Psychology Department because I am a psycho-linguist."


Grodzinsky published a book in which he examined the attitude of Zionists

toward Holocaust survivors.


"I wouldn't have been able to write the book if I had been part of the Department

of the History of the Jewish People, because critical work of that kind has never

been written in any Jewish history department - and all we are talking about is

archival work without any methodological innovation. The only new thing was the

very willingness to cope with the wrongs perpetrated by the Zionists."


Prof. Shenhav says that his political opinions "definitely slowed down" his

promotion and adds that Tel Aviv University is a "reactionary" institution. The

good news, he says, is that "the young generation is far more open than the

faculty to critical thought."


In 1996, Shenhav, who is "a post-Zionist only to the degree that post-Zionism

deals with the politics of identities," published an article in Ha'aretz in which he

claimed that the Israeli left, which is largely Ashkenazi (including the new

historians) "is ready to devote itself to exposing the wrongs that were done and

are being done to the Palestinians, but is not ready to come forth and denounce

the generation of [their] parents for their racism toward the Mizrahi Jews."


Shenhav was then the head of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at

Tel Aviv University, a fact that induced many readers to respond to the article, for

and against, including an elaborate response by Amnon Rubinstein.


"The article I published in Ha'aretz was a watershed for me," Shenhav says.

"People in the university told me afterward that it was absolutely not worth my

while to kick up a fuss and that it absolutely didn't pay to get involved with the

Mizrahi issue, and that we must not deteriorate into politics. They hinted that it

could be harmful to my status."


Despite the complaints, the post-Zionist scholars have had a major impact at

Tel Aviv University. The departments that are considered bastions of

post-Zionism there are mainly sociology, political science, philosophy, general

history, archaeology and psychology. Among the leading post-Zionist faculty,

other than those already mentioned, are Prof. Israel Gershoni (Middle East

studies), Prof. Aviad Kleinberg (history), Prof. Ze'ev Herzog (archaeology), Prof.

Moshe Zuckerman (head of the Institute of German Studies), Dr. Ronen Shamir

(sociology of law), Prof. Haim Genaz (law), Dr. Eyal Gross (law) and, until

recently, Prof. Hanan Hever, who this year is moving to the Hebrew University,

where he will teach a course called "Post-Zionism and Post-Nationalism in

Hebrew Literature." Hever declined to be interviewed for this article.


The number of post-Zionists at the Hebrew University is thus likely to increase

substantially. Hever will join Prof. Moshe Zimmermann (general history) and a

quartet from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology (Kimmerling, Prof.

Tamar Rapoport, Dr. Danny Rabinowitz and Dr. Tamar El-Or).


"I remember that when I started to get involved in politics, while I was teaching at

Hebrew University, I was told straight out: lower your profile," recalls Prof. Yossi

Yonah (now at BGU).


Pappe: "Post-Zionism began at Haifa when Shlomo Swirski coined the term in

the 1980s, although the post-Zionism he was referring to was something

different. A decade later there were me and Benny Morris, and then came the

peak in the mid-1990s with the great success in Be'er Sheva, where they

understood that post-Zionism is not a passing fad but a genuine phenomenon

within academia. Then the academic world began to become frightened at the

intensity of the phenomenon and said, fine, it's only happening in Be'er Sheva.

Then they started to close doors and the assault on post-Zionism began.


"What frightened everyone who attacked us was the fact that the authors of

school textbooks began to be influenced by post-Zionism. Then came the new

intifada and brought out all the hatred for the post-Zionists. Since it began, the

post-Zionists have had to hide in their holes. Nothing meaningful was created in

the cultural arena either. The media is against us. Anita Shapira wrote an entire

book against post-Zionism and Amnon Rubinstein wrote a [chapter in his] book

against post-Zionism."


"Most of us have a considerable number of successors - doctoral and M.A.

students - and that is a wave that can be expected to continue," Yiftachel

predicts. "But there is also something to what Ilan Pappe says: At the University

of Haifa, and maybe in Jerusalem, too, those who hold the establishment views

have mounted a powerful struggle against the critical scholars."


The new establishment


Prof. Anita Shapira, from Tel Aviv University, thinks post-Zionism wields too great

an influence in the universities: "There is a matter of generations in the

university," she says.


"We have to assume that at a certain stage, let's say when my generation

retires, post-Zionism will exercise a major influence, because the post-Zionists

have a greater impact on the young generation, and when the generations

change, they may be the ones to decide who will be promoted at the universities

and who will leave them. I ask myself whether they are transplanting their views

to their students or not. The answer is that I don't know, but I am also not

worried. A year or two ago there was a lot more receptiveness among students

to those views, because students always like what they perceive as new and

defiant; but their popularity among the students has declined perceptibly in the

past year.


"I myself have been teaching a course on Zionism in literature and film for a few

years, and three lessons in the course are devoted to our relations with the

Arabs. We read 'Hirbet Hizeh,' for example [referring to a controversial short

story about the Arab-Jewish conflict by S. Yizhar]. When I gave that lesson this

year, you could have cut the air with a knife. There is feedback between the

reality in which we live and the way the things we say are absorbed by the

students. In no small measure, that makes the post-Zionist concepts

unacceptable to a growing public in academia."


Shapira also awaits with irony the moment when the post-Zionist rebels will be

perceived as a new establishment.


"Just as we, the veterans, were the establishment in the eyes of the

post-Zionists who rebelled against us, they will become the establishment in

the eyes of those who will rebel against them. I already see the incipient signs

of that phenomenon. Young researchers like the intellectual acuity and the

innovation, but the moment they become trivial, and they all start speaking the

same language - and that is what largely characterizes the post-Zionists -

young, rebellious scholars say: Wait a minute, enough of that, we've been

through this before."


             © Copyright 2001 Ha'aretz. All rights reserved

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