A penetrating if often redundant study of the original Zionist vision of an Israel that is both democratic and Jewish.
Rubinstein (The Zionist Dream Revisited, 1984) has been a member of Israel’s parliament or cabinet since 1977. Here he responds to the “post-Zionist” attacks on Israel’s ethnic schizophrenia by stating that Israel was meant to be, and should remain, a democratic and secular state—as well as a Jewish state. Fittingly, in his preface, Arthur Hertzberg traces the author’s thinking back to both the Whig party and the Talmud. Ehud Barak’s foreword, on the other hand, contends that “the Zionist idea is not carved in stone”—somewhat ironic given the source of both Zionism and that particular expression. Rubinstein’s opening chapters recall how Zionism was originally envisioned as a movement that aimed to replace the parasitical “Diaspora Yid” (the author quotes Jabotinsky’s harsh terms) with the historically corrected Hebrew, happily tilling his native soil. Herzl envisioned Israel becoming a kind of miniature Switzerland, rather than an insular, xenophobic ghetto transplanted to the Middle East. To the author, the Holocaust answered the question of the need for a Jewish haven or a Law of Return (offering instant citizenship only to Jewish immigrants). He is nevertheless wary of a growing Jewish fundamentalism, and he sees the Rabin assassination as the climax of current distortions of Judaism and Zionism. Far more than the early Zionists, Rubinstein tolerates religious influence—he merely wants such influence departmentalized behind walls that separate the State from the Temple. The author describes the Jewish national home as a condominium whose separate apartments belong to all the tenants, and argues that a Jewish state can balance and fly on twin engines.
A skillful navigation through turbulent waters.