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The Returns of Zionism

Myths, Politics and Scholarship in Israel

Gabriel Piterberg


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Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (6/17/2008)


In this original and wide-ranging study, Gabriel Piterberg examines theideology and literature behind the colonization of Palestine, from the latenineteenth century to the present. Exploring Zionism’s origins in Central-EasternEuropean nationalism and settler movements, he shows how its texts can beplaced within a wider discourse of western colonization. Revisiting the work ofTheodor Herzl and Gershom Scholem, Anita Shapira and David Ben-Gurion, andbringing to light the writings of lesser-known scholars and thinkersinfluential in the formation of the Zionist myth, Piterberg breaks openprevailing views of Zionism, demonstrating that it was in fact unexceptional,expressing a consciousness and imagination typical of colonial settlermovements. Shaped by European ideological currents and the realities ofcolonial life, Zionism constructed its own story as a unique and impregnableone, in the process excluding the voices of an indigenous people—thePalestinian Arabs.

Praise For The Returns of Zionism: Myths, Politics and Scholarship in Israel

The Returns of Zionism is a sharply critical intellectual and literary history of the Zionist movement and its principal progeny, the State of Israel. The book represents a milestone in the study of Zionism. Unlike the great majority of writers in this crowded field, Gabriel Piterberg is concerned both with the intentions of the Zionists and with their actual impact on the native population of Palestine. He breaks down the familiar mould and rearranges the pieces. Many of the Hebrew texts cited in this book are not available in English. The author uses the whole panoply of sources in all the relevant languages to brilliantly illuminating effects. The result is a book which advances very considerably our understanding of the origins of the State of Israel. It is a magnificent accomplishment of original research and far-reaching historical reinterpretation.”—Avi Shlaim

“This thoroughly researched and engaging book provides an intellectual, cultural and literary fulcrum from which Zionist ideology and practice can be read afresh. While addressing the fundamental myths of Zionism, it collapses taken-for-granted distinctions with regards to time, space, and conflicting ideological camps. This book is essential reading for everyone who is interested in the history of Zionism as well as the history of nationalist movements.”—Yehouda Shenhav

“A subtle and excitingly original effort of intellectual reconstruction, which explores many news ways of capturing the essence of the Zionist project. Gabriel Piterberg has pioneered an approach which, from many different starting points, and through exploring many different connections, demonstrates how Zionism developed its cohesion, its character and its blindness towards those it displaced in Palestine.”—Roger Owen

Verso, 9781844672608, 298pp.

Publication Date: June 17, 2008

About the Author

Gabriel Piterberg teaches history at UCLA, and has taught at St Antony’s and Balliol Colleges, Oxford. His previous books include An Ottoman Tragedy: History and Historiography at Play. He writes for the New Left Review and the London Review of Books.