Political review

May 13, 2005

David Cesarani misattributes to me several positions in his review of my The Question of Zion (Books, April 29). He suggests that I ignore early pogroms, citing my phrase "atrocity (in the 1890s and 1920s) against the Jews had barely begun". My sentence, however, continues "at least compared with what was to follow", unambiguously alluding to impending genocide.

He claims I equate Nazism with Zionism, citing my remark about fascism's training of bodies and minds, but omits Herzl's remark on which it is based: "A flag... it is the only thing for which (men) are willing to die in masses provided one educates them for it." Hardly, as he suggests, the ethos of the Boy Scouts. The story about Herzl and Hitler attending the same performance of Wagner - indeed apocryphal - is intended to show the dramatically different effects of Wagner on these two antagonistic figures of Jewish history, but it is, I realise, easily misread.

Referring to the comparison between the Nazis and Ariel Sharon, I explicitly state: "I reject the analogy."

Readers will judge for themselves how reliable Cesarani can be given these misrepresentations. Cesarani refuses any messianic component to Zionism although Ben-Gurion stated: "Without a messianic, emotional, ideological impulse", there was no reason for the Jews to go to Palestine.

Cesarani believes only in the "reason" of Zionism. Dismissing psychoanalysis, he rejects the idea that Zionism contains a complex internal dynamic that might help to explain its power to make and break the Palestinians and its own world. His position seems to be that early critics of political Zionism were misguided, the Palestinians were historically the obstacle to settlement, and Israel must be defended against charges of illegitimate violence. This is a disciplinary and, more important, a political disagreement disguising itself as a scholarly one.

Jacqueline Rose
Queen Mary, University of London

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