An eloquent, thorough, and thought-provoking record of that century-old tempest called Zionism. British historian Wheatcroft (The Randlords, 1986) admirably covers one hundred years of political, social, cultural, and personal controversy, from Theodore Herzl to Yigal Amir, providing a superior study of Jewish history. As an objective outsider, the author effectively compares the issues of Jewish nationalism with the Irish question. Only a non-Jewish historian might marvel, as Wheatcroft does, at the depth of Jewish self-deprecation and paranoia that continues to inform the relationship between diaspora Jews and Zionism. ``Each hyphenate [American immigrant group] took an interest in its own people across the sea—and each for that matter was open to the accusation of dual loyalty,'' so ``why should the Jewish Americans feel bashful?'' While Central European Jews spearheaded political Zionism and Eastern European Jews did most of the emigrating, Wheatcroft assigns a pivotal role to American Jews, whose healthier egos and checkbooks made the Zionist experiment possible. The author offers personal glimpses into the key players of the Zionist drama while also providing significant philosophical overviews. We are shown, for instance, how both nationalists (Heine) and universalists (Marx) of the 19th century were too assimilationist to support the Zionist cause. Singleminded militant Zionists like Jabotinsky are contrasted with critics of the movement, like Arendt, Buber, and Einstein, with most representatives of the spectrum of debate placed in the context of their geographic and historical circumstances. While concluding that the Zionist endeavor has been an unprecedented success, Wheatcroft suggests that problems with Israel's Arab and religious Jewish minorities may take up the next hundred years. Like most Jewish historians, Wheatcroft vastly underrates the role of Judaism in Zionism, yet this book offers valuable historical and psychological insights into what it means to be a Zionist or a Jew.
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