Questioning Zionism

Since the beginning of modern Zionism, some Jews have stood in opposition to it.

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Pappe's work is particularly intriguing because, unlike Morris, he embraced the essential subjectivity of historical narratives. He suggested that because opposing groups perceive the same events differently, historians should incorporate differing perspectives into their accounts.

In a sense, Pappe doesn't argue for history that revises Zionist narratives, but rather supports the addition of the Palestinian viewpoint into the Israeli narrative. Because of this, Pappe has been identified as a "post-Zionist,"a term applied to thosewho critique Zionist discourse and believe that "Zionist" and "Israeli" are not fundamentally synonymous.

Though Pappe rejects the post-Zionist label in favor of "a-Zionist" or "non-Zionist," he has expressed his displeasure with the nature of Israeli democracy, advocating for a state that is not fundamentally Jewish by mission.  

Interestingly, with the failure of the peace process and the rise of the Second Intifada in 2000, some of the New Historians abandoned their dovish predilections. Morris published a new edition of The Birth, and though he didn't revise his scholarship significantly, he did revise his moral stance, suggesting that Israel should have done a better job expelling Palestinians from their homes. In a New York Times interview, Morris noted that "had all the Palestinians crossed the Jordan River in 1948, either voluntarily or under compulsion, there would have been a complete separation between the two people, which would have taken some of the causation out of the continued warfare."

Morris has few consistent allies in Israel, but the reaction to his positions serves as a good barometer of Israeli political discourse and attitudes toward Zionism in general. History has never been a purely academic matter in Israel. It is fundamental to Zionist identity. Indeed, throughout the years, critics of Zionism have questioned the ideology's presuppositions--the nature of messianism, the Jewish mission, the relationship to other nations and religions. With more than a century of history behind it, some of the most volatile questions about Zionism today focus on history itself.

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Daniel Septimus

Daniel Septimus is Executive Director of The Sefaria Project. Previously, he served as Chief Executive Officer of MyJewishLearning, Inc.