ORIGINAL SINS by Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi


Reflections on the History of Zionism and Israel
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 A critical and largely one-sided view of modern Zionism and the history of Israel. According to Beit-Hallahmi (The Israeli Connection, 1987), who sees the Palestinians as innocent victims of foreign colonialism, Israel is plagued by a curse--``the curse of the original sin against the native Palestinians''--and there will be no peace until it atones for its sins. The author first establishes that, in modern times, the majority of Jews have had only a vague understanding of rabbinical Judaism (which he depicts as a kind of primitive mythology). Zionism, he says, offers these ``sociological'' Jews an identity--but the Zionist movement is doomed because ``it desired national territory occupied by another national group...with its own normal existence.'' Moreover, because the Jewish people have no legitimate claim to the land of Israel, while they occupy it they can never enjoy their own ``normal'' existence. Though provocative, Beit-Hallahmi's argument is marred by inaccuracies and generalizations. He claims, for instance, that ``all Israelis have come to recognize Zionism's original sin against the Palestinians.'' A look at Israel's electorate, however, makes it clear that most Israelis assume no such culpability. Furthermore, in discussing Hebrew and Yiddish, the author contends that ``Yiddish remains the language of the Orthodox, who have always opposed Zionism.'' In fact, though, most Israeli Orthodox Jews under age 60 speak only Hebrew, and only a small minority aren't fervent nationalists. Engaging but misleading. Here again, as in too much writing on the Middle East, sincerity has replaced balanced analysis.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 1-56656-130-2
Page count: 224pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1993


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