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The Vision of the New Hebrew Nation
and its Enemies


Yaacov Shavit

The Canaanite Map of the "New Middle East"
(page 94)

Chapter 5
pages 104-130

The New Hebrew Nation: A Study in Heresy and Fantasy

Frank Cass
a revised translation of the author's
Me-'Ivri 'ad Kena 'ani.

The Table of Contents can be found
at the end of this document and also by clicking the section headings.

Basic Principles and Concepts

In a previous chapter, I described how an image of the ancient past of the Hebrew nation developed and I presented the geographical and historical content of that picture. This image was not intended to be merely a depiction of some Hebrew Golden Age which had left the stage hundreds of years earlier, nor certainly was it a reconstruction of the past brought to light in the name of scientific interest. It was intended, rather, to serve as a guiding model for a vision of the future, a utopian vision. We must now clarify those principles which created this ancient Hebrew past, see why they are relevant to the present, and ascertain what the premises were from which one might conclude that it was possible—even necessary and imperative—to return to this ancient historical model. At the outset of this chapter I will present the basic premises of the Canaanite philosophy and its fundamental concepts. As we proceed I will describe how Canaanism perceived and judged its adversaries, namely, Islam and pan-Islam (or pan-Arabism) on the one hand and Zionism (as well as Judaism) on the other. At the conclusion I will describe how Canaanism depicted its vision of the Hebrew nation of the future and what means it thought necessary to renew as of old the great days of the Hebrew nation.

Geography as the Focus of the Cosmos

The first assumption of Canaanite ideology is the claim that there exists a mutual link between a certain "geography" and the "history" that occurs within it. Every human society, every civilization which is concentrated and consolidated within a specific territory as the result of various processes of settlement, migrations, conquests, and so forth, develops a view of the world (Weltanschauung, vision du monde) from which are derived a specific and unique culture and values. The nature of that territory (the "geography") and its position in the world and in relation to all of creation is what determines the content of the cosmogony and cosmology of that civilization, which in turn are evident in its myths and literature. The limits of culture are thus congruent with the limits of the territory. It follows that there is a "natural" consciousness which relates to a "real" world, and an "artificial" non-natural human consciousness which relates to a fictitious world. Thus Horon wrote:

This is the fundamental difference between the nationalist point of view and any other kind of approach: any "philosophy" which is revealed in theology, philosophy, or any other form of study is universalistic, of highest ideals, watching what is above the heavens and below them. They hover over the abyss with no fixed place, and because of that they are more or less imaginary, all of them, a fiction of the imagination, and not a description of reality, for that which exists does not appear to people (to groups of men) from out of a vacuum, from the infinite of the Kabbalists, but from certain centres of observation on earth. In this sense only a nationalist viewpoint is the true way, the factual truth; other trends of thought and methods of speculation, which are denoted by names ending with the suffix -ism (in European languages) or -ut (in Hebrew)—such as Judaism (Yahadut ), Christianity (Natzrut), idealism, and communism—belong to various types of "merely pseudo-philosophy." 1

The real cultural unity of the Ancient East is revealed in common myths, in the joint view of the world of its inhabitants, which stemmed from a common stance vis-à-vis the cosmos. Myth is the literary expression of the cosmogony and the cosmology. It is composed of natural symbols, since it grows in a natural, organic manner within its native environment; this feature can be discerned from the nature of the life-cycle described in this cosmogony and from its metaphors.

The mythology of any nation—as stated earlier by J. G. Herder—is "a reflection of the manner of its self-perception in relation to nature, and especially of what it sees more of in nature, according to its own climate and the spirit pulsating within it; the good and the bad; and how it strives to remove one from the other." In similar terms Aharon Amir states that "the growth of myth is therefore a basic expression of the soul of man and that special feeling of his belonging to his surroundings, his land, soil and his landscape. This growth is really just as natural as the growth of the grass in the field or the tree in the forest." 2

Geo-historical, deterministic philosophies abounded at the end of the nineteenth century, whether under the influence of romantic, organistic anthropogeography or that of positivistic anthropogeography. In and of itself, there was no great innovation here in the natural expression of human existence nor in the natural framework in which the particularistic nature of any collective shows itself. Thus, there was also nothing original in this view with regard to the concept of the nation.3

Between Civilizations and Nations

The principal Canaanite innovation is found, therefore, in the definition of the limits of the territory and in their characterization of the civilization they called "Hebrew civilization." As we stated in a previous chapter, Horon and Ratosh extended the borders of the "natural territory" far beyond the boundaries of Eretz Israel, and even beyond the geo-historical unit of "Syria and Palestine." Their purpose was not to increase consciousness of "Palestinian distinctiveness." They presented instead a large geographical historical unit which they called the "Ancient East," (Eretz ha-Kedem, Land of Kedem) which chiefly paralleled the "Fertile Crescent" and at times extended even greatly beyond it, including within it Mesopotamian culture and Syrian Palestinian culture alike. But it was not sufficient to draw this extensive map nor to define it as a "civilization," a definition without political significance. So we find the second innovation of Horon and Ratosh in the definition of this civilization as a "nation." Indeed this innovation was necessary in order to create a correlation between the description of the ancient civilization and the claim that the national framework (nation) is the most natural framework of human existence and organization. What is a "nation" in Canaanite theory? Nationality, wrote Horon, is "a special type of relationship between a community of men and a specific land in which they live." But he added, "This is not a pure idea, an a priori concept, but only a practical definition, the result of geographical experience." That is, a nationality does not take on shape and continue to exist everywhere, in every territory. It is a historical phenomenon which derives from systems of varying relations between "geography" and a certain human society. National organization is not a deterministic process. The geography only provides options or conditions—more or less amenable—for a national consolidation. In effect, Horon thought that there existed some sort of "ideal type" of "nationality " a derivative in any event from an a priori concept, in the light of which it was necessary to examine historical phenomena and to define them according to it as "national" or "non-national." It is nowhere explained why a given society will strive for and be successful in developing "a national attitude towards the world" while another society will not desire or develop such an attitude. We find nowhere any explanation of how a common culture came into being among the societies which lived in the valleys of the Euphrates and the Tigris, on the shore of the Mediterranean, along the length of the Arabian and Syrian faults—that is, encompassing extremely different types of landscape.

Ratosh and Horon, therefore, had identified two concepts and applied them simultaneously in an arbitrary and ahistorical manner to an ancient historical period. On the one hand, they spoke of a great civilization which had split up into a variety of political frameworks (and there were even serious linguistic and cultural differences between the different parts); on the other hand, they defined this civilization as a "nation." Each of these two concepts—"nation" and "culture"—belong to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (mainly the latter) and are foreign to the lexicon of the ancient period and its concepts.4 My explanation of the introduction of these concepts into their theory lies in two different interests which Ratosh and Horon had in the picture of the past and its significance. The first reason was the ideological, cultural interest whereby they could argue that the culture of ancient Israel was a "secular," that is, pagan one similar to that of its neighbours. The second was the ideological, political interest, whereby they could claim that the only political solution in the Middle East was the creation of political unity. All this despite the fact that the ancient past which they had depicted had shown that cultural co-operation was in no way a guarantee of political unity! Just the opposite, they blurred the distinction between "nationality" and "civilization" and identified civilization as "national culture" (Kulturnation ).

Language and the Limits of Culture

It was neither the political and social organization nor the legal system, that is, not culture within its social context, which was proof of the existence of one national civilization in the Ancient East, but rather language and literature. Indeed, the main criterion which Horon stipulated for defining a nation as a culture was the linguistic criterion. They felt that Hebrew-Canaanite (the term they preferred for West Semitic) in its various dialects was the note of distinction identifying the Hebrew nation; it was that which turned all the peoples of the Fertile Crescent into one Kulturnation. According to this criterion, should it turn out that all the inhabitants of a defined geographical historical unit were speakers of one language—from which was derived and through which was expressed all of their cultural world—it would then be proved that, apparently, these population groups were all components of one historical nation.

The Ancient East (the Fertile Crescent) was and had always been an area of shifting populations; it absorbed immigrants and settlers from adjacent regions and also from further away, and its inhabitants never comprised people of only one ethnic background; but whoever immigrated into the area and settled there did eventually adopt the language, that is, West Semitic, as represented by its two main branches: Akkadian (Assyro-Babylonian) and Hebrew (the Canaanite language)—and later on also Aramaic, which is related to Hebrew. Thus, we have here a nation with one language and consequently one culture.

Historically there was no congruence between the borders of the West Semitic area and the geographical limits of the Ancient East as drawn by Horon and Ratosh. Their geographical map sometimes encompassed the area east of the Euphrates where East Semitic was in use. Thus, it is not always clear whether the "Hebrew region" included those branches of Semitic languages or only the western branch.

Yet what significance is there to this linguistic commonality? English, for example, is the language of a number of nations on different continents, and Arabic is the language of Muslims in various nations over a vast area.5 Do all speakers of these languages possess cultural unity? In the instances mentioned we are speaking only of linguistic identity, not of common nationality.

Horon and (even more) Ratosh both perceive language in the spirit of the school of linguistics that flourished in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and they followed the ideas of Michaelis, Herder and von Humboldt; this school saw language as the explicit expression of a defined conceptual world. According to such linguistics, language reflects the inner form of a society, a reservoir of its concepts, images and symbols, and ultimately it fashions and embodies the language's own distinctiveness.

A similar approach was expressed in Ernest Renan's concept of the spirit of the Semitic languages. Renan wrote that "language then came in to define and establish the conquests of mind over matter" 6; after giving a description of how various types of language are created, and putting forward the view that linguistic variety is what creates the essential differences between various types of culture, he presented the thesis that it was language rather than race which determined the division of humanity into groups.

In a like vein the poet Chaim Nahman Bialik claimed that "language is what differentiates between one nation and another, and it is the thread upon which many changes in the soul are strung." "The 'self' of the nation is woven upon it [its language]." Yitzchak Epstein (1862-1943), one of the first Hebrew teachers in Palestine, expressed this thought in a more systematic way in a pamphlet entitled "Hebrew for New Immigrants" (1920). Every language, he said, expressed the parameters of consciousness of its speakers in its own manner. Linguistic particularity finds expression in its variety of literal encoding (choice of words) and in the expressions it uses. "Every language is a special way of thought, a kind of typical perception of physical and spiritual phenomena, a certain world view." 7 A direct line leads from here to the idea of Horon, Ratosh and Amir that through language man "gains mastery" over the world and "creates" it for himself, and thus every national language represents the special way in which a nation creates its own world.

In a similar manner (but obviously with a different concept of the characteristics of Hebrew) Ratosh stated in his "Epistle to Hebrew Youth" (1943):

Each world has need of its own means of expression. Any system of terms and expressions is a means of expression for any given world of its perception of that world and these terms are the result of that self-same perception, and they reflect it, and they encapsulate within it this concept in its entirety, and intentionally or unintentionally, in theory and in practice, these terms wage the war of the experience hidden deep within them.

From all of the foregoing it is easy to understand the tremendous impact of the discoveries at Ugarit. Such an impact could only come from discoveries in the Near East and in the ancient Sumerian and Babylonian epics. The Mesopotamian finds did indeed encourage the appearance of the Babel und Bibel school at the beginning of this century and the claim that the biblical traditions were derived from Mesopotamian soil.8 The fact that Canaanite epics demonstrated such great affinity both linguistically and thematically with the epics and myths embedded in the Bible struck a mighty chord. It turned out that apparently the source of ancient biblical literary creation, taken as a second stage in literary cultural development, had been found. The finds ostensibly revealed the almost total linguistic identity and absolute similarity in mythological outlook between the Bible and ancient Middle Eastern epics. The same language and the same literature could only belong to people of the same nation. Many similarities between the texts of Ugarit and the Bible led to the conclusion that they expressed a single culture of peoples of the Ancient East who shared one view of the world, even if archaeology had not succeeded in revealing all the ancient Middle Eastern cultures still buried and lost to the world. On another plane, there was total rejection, if there had still been any doubt, of views which decried the poverty of the Semitic language and its literature. Ugaritic poetry, like the Babylonian poetry which had been discovered earlier, was the product of a very highly refined craftsmanship, of an extremely developed culture. Semitic culture, therefore, was not the culture of nomads who had swept out of the desert but the product of an urban culture and of developed agriculture. A claim such as Renan's that "one fails to realize what Homer or Hesiod would be like if translated into Hebrew" 9 reveals in all its pseudoscientific pontification the anti-Semitic bias attached to it. Now one could see that not only would there be no Homer without Canaanite poetry, but Canaanite poetry itself is sublime Hebrew poetry, of the very highest level in imagery and mythic dimensions.

Thus, it is apparent that Canaanism was in principle a continuation of the Semitic school, for it held similarly that all Semitic speakers were from one family (race) and that the language was the expression and embodiment of the spirit of this family. A more explicit claim was made that Semitic speakers had a similar "inner form:" the same consciousness, the same imagination, the same interpretation of the world as narrated in their mythology. But Canaanism changed the terminology and the picture. In place of "Semitic" it posed "Hebrew," and instead of seeing Arabic as the source and focus, it took Arabic to be a secondary, later branch (the fourth language in historical territorial order in the history of Semitic languages). In any event, Canaanism turned the Arabs into a group of secondary importance in the history of the Semitic nations and placed "Hebrew" at the centre. The identification of "Hebrew" with "Semitic" and of the Semitic peoples with the Hebrews created the ideologically desired interpretation of the past. Canaanism was thereby transformed into an ideology of the type of pan-Slavism, pan-Arabism, pan-Germanism, etc., that is, into an ideology which sought a basis (linguistic, ethnic or religious) for the purpose of broad political or cultural unity which would replace other political frameworks which had either grown weak or disappeared, or simply seemed opposed to the "true basis" of the unity desired.

The Past as a Model of Future Culture

We have been examining the Canaanites' vision of the past and the principles by which it was formed. Now we must try to understand why the ancient Hebrew past had to repeat itself in the second half of the twentieth century. What from this past could be revived and exist even in modern times? What actually enabled elements of a culture from such a far-distant past to serve as the basis and model for a modern national culture? What gave the ancient past the potential to live again after hundreds or even thousands of years?

One must differentiate between the role of this historical interpretation as "reality," that is, as historical proof of a culture or Kulturnation in the distant past on the one hand, and on the other, perception of the nature of that culture and its understanding of the world and, consequently, how it could be used as a model for a culture of the future. "The ancient Hebrew world, which is so close to us in familiar expressions," wrote Horon, "is far from us in its concepts of society and law." 10 It follows from this idea that there is no relevance for the modern world in the concepts of society and law of the ancient world and its social organizations and ethical norms—that is, the ancient world offers no model for a modern state or society. The only aspect relevant to such a model is the nationalist perception of the world. At the same time he maintains that the new Hebrew culture which desires to be a secular, territorial one must "purify" itself of universalistic concepts whether in their monotheistic form or in a different—modern secular—form. Does this claim mean that modern man must return to the tribal, polytheistic world view and to its cosmogony? Does it mean that what the modern world thinks of as philosophy, enlightenment, humanism and science, which are universal and aterritorial concepts, which do not fit with particularistic territorial cosmology, have no place in a national society? Do we not have here a deep and unresolvable internal conflict between archaism and modernism? Is this quest simply an imitation of the futile attempts to invent a "Fascist science" or a "Soviet science"? In short, if we cannot take over models from other nations or from the past where can we take them from?

Ratosh decides for the Hebrew nation in renewal rather than the pluralistic immigrant society of the United States. His preference is derived from the idea that the new "Hebrew" is linked (linguistically and historically) to an ancient culture which pertains to the territory to which he is returning. The American immigrant society was gradually developing into a new "native territorial nation." It had coalesced through a non-regulated process of an initial confrontation with the new landscape of the North American continent. The United States has no national past as a territory. By contrast, the Hebrew Jewish immigrant society had a total, stable, well-known model of a classical territorial culture which it was now about to renew and rejuvenate.

We have a great advantage over any nation from among the new ones which have arisen in our times. They, all of them, have no history, except the short history of most recent events! And their country has borne from time immemorial the stamp of human civilizations alien to them. The legends which hover over the land are in a language not designed for them nor told to them—and the poems of the gods, and the heroes, and the cults are in a tongue never sung to them. The entire treasury of these ancient names, all the images of old, all the portraits of ancient days telling of their places, all of these are foreign to them and to the new nations and to their language. The vast, living treasury of symbols around which the soul weaves its experiences and dreams and from which it is nurtured and in which are anchored every vision arising from the land, and all the efforts of the soul in the hour of crisis—all of these tremendous strengths, which pulsate in the ancient nations as they are resurrected anew and impart to them inestimable grandeur and power—all of these are lacking. While we, by comparison to them, in our guise as a new, emerging nation in a land of immigration, are also identical to a people with a proud, ancient culture, a member of the primordial human culture. We are identical with the ancient Hebrews in whose country and with whose language we have been raised and whose only full rightful heirs we are.11

The Meaning of the Link to Nature

It is important to emphasize once again that we are not dealing with a "romantic reactionary" notion of escaping from modern civilization back to "nature;" there is no yearning here for primitive, primordial man linked "cosmically" to the land, free of the chains of modern civilization which divide him from nature or separate him from his initial, pure, uncorrupted humanity. Sometimes it seems as if Ratosh is following romanticism, primitivism or some school of mysticism in his striving towards the "roots of life," the non-rational basis of man, for a renewal of his organic identity with nature and a return to "original," spontaneous life. But Ratosh is actually speaking about symbols, metaphors, images and concepts of language. The "true" confrontation with nature is explained by him in a description of the natural landscape in direct, unmediated concepts borrowed from literature, which was at that time—in his opinion—a "spontaneous," "unmediated" means of expression. Ratosh is calling in effect for a complete fusion with the landscape by liberation from the topoi, the legacy of Haskalah (Enlightenment) literature as well as that of the Hebrew Zionist renaissance—which were borrowed from the landscape of the Diaspora or were detached from that of Palestine. Yet he writes nothing of the meeting with the concrete landscape.

When Ratosh wanted to itemize the faults of Hebrew literature in Palestine (which he called "Jewish literature in the Hebrew language"),12 he found it alien to the landscape; he claimed that this alienation prevented it from being poetry expressive of an inner-world totally at peace with itself in an "automatic and spontaneous" manner. The experiences of the immigrants and their concepts stand as a division between the immigrant author writing in Hebrew and the landscape of his new homeland, preventing him from being a "Hebrew writer;" his language, his symbols and his metaphors are not "Hebrew." The modern Hebrew writer does not feel himself as standing "opposite nature" or "with nature" but "against nature." He tries to feel "nature," his natural surroundings, but foreign ideology intervenes; he fights against it—but it takes hold of him and does not let go; it prevents him from reaching a harmony and accommodation between "feeling" and "awareness," between the internal world and external world, the full expression of his humanity which is "territorial humanity."

Ratosh, therefore, in his literary ideology presented the use of Canaanite symbols as evidence of a real connection with the landscape. The "correct" symbol and metaphor are for him a signal in the cultural code denoting the experience. Thus, a Hebrew writer will describe the sun by using metaphors from ancient Canaanite literature; that is, he will utilize symbolic gods, such as Tammuz, Baal, Ashtoreth and so forth—he will be, according to this approach, a writer who will reject foreign Jewish symbols for authentic cultural territorial ones.

One should note, from the standpoint of literary criticism, that Ratosh does not call for a precise description of the countryside in order to free oneself from exalted rhetoric or from the literary descriptions of Haskalah literature or of Jewish renaissance literature; nor does he call for the relinquishing of the topoi created during that period, in which there was no direct encounter between the creative person and the environment about which he was writing. Rather, he calls for the replacement of topoi by other elements drawn from ancient Canaanite literature. It is also worth observing in this connection that in his own poetry there is no precise, concrete realia; there is simply a world of symbols and metaphors. His landscape is not a real one but a decidedly mythico-poetical one. It is not a living, breathing landscape which one experiences through unmediated means such as direct experience in farm work, on trips, treks and so forth. His scenery is taken from literature and returns to it. It is perceived only symbolically. Thus, paradoxically, Ratosh's poetry appears as alien poetry, distant and apart from the realia which it wishes to describe.

Judaism and Zionism as Enemies of the Hebrew Renaissance

Canaanism differentiated between natural and artificial historical phenomena. The natural was the ideal, that is, one which expresses the phenomenon which correlates with reality. The artificial separates awareness from the environment. Therefore, it blocks the integration of awareness and experience and prevents progress at the collective national level. The continuation of its artificial existence means the continuing existence of a collective spiritual defect, on the one hand, and the perpetuation of degeneration and violence on the other.

The Hebrew renaissance had two groups of virulent enemies, the internal and the external. Judaism and Zionism were the enemies from within; Arab nationalism and Islam were the external foes. Since natural and artificial cannot exist simultaneously, a major revolution is needed in a great historical convulsion—first in awareness and subsequently in action—in order to subdue and destroy the artificial and make it possible for the natural to exist and come to its full fruition.

In Shem/Revue d'Action Hébraïque Horon wrote in June 1939 that in order for the Hebrew nation to come into being in Palestine, there must, first and foremost, be a revolution in consciousness:

...To that end we must dissociate ourselves from Zionist contentions, which are passé. One need not hide the birth pangs of the new nation behind a Jewish veil—in an attempt to convince the whole world that there is finally something Jewish happening in Palestine, when it is actually something Hebrew in Canaan that is finally taking place.

This revolution in consciousness is necessary in order for liberation from the non-national and anti-national nature of Jewish consciousness to take place. In Canaanite thought Judaism as a religion and faith is incapable of serving as the fountainhead of a national-territorial movement and a national culture. Judaism by its very nature is a non-territorial, or even anti-territorial, phenomenon. Zionism is a direct, legitimate descendant of Judaism. Since it is unable to separate itself from the totally distorted sense of Jewish historical continuity, it has no intention (or even the power) to effect a complete "Hebrew" break from Jewish history, concepts and values. The Canaanites reach the conclusion that it is imperative to divorce themselves from Zionism, too, in order to coalesce into a territorial nation. Zionism cannot be a national movement, for its aim is to establish a Jewish society in Palestine. Such a society by definition cannot be national-territorial, but only an ethnic society linked to non-territorial phenomena. The concepts and values of Zionism, therefore, are in contrast to a national territorial existence. Judaism and Jewish Zionism can only establish a "congregation," which is a closed society, and not an open national society.

On only one occasion did Ratosh describe his attitude towards religion, and he then stated that he was an agnostic. In a personal letter which he sent to Knesset members in 1969, when he was fighting for his right to register himself as a "Hebrew" on his identity card, he wrote: "All the religions in the world are only fictions created by the spirit of men, superstructures of various social manifestations—all depending upon the time and place." He has no part in any of these images, including Judaism. He does not recognize any of the principles of Judaism, he will not be buried in a Jewish cemetery and therefore, the State has no legal authority to force upon him a definition which is totally at odds with his comprehension and conscience. That is, Ratosh defines himself as an atheist or agnostic, but within the Canaanite context his struggle against Judaism is fought not upon the stage of a world view, as a faith, or a theology, or a metaphysical philosophy, but only on the national aspect.

When compared to the statements found in German biblical criticism of the nineteenth century there is little that is original in the Canaanite concept of the origins of Judaism as a "rabbinic theocracy." According to this school of interpretation, Judaism emerged in the Babylonian and Persian exile. There, separated from the territory of their birthplace, lacking a temple and countrywide cult, far from their Yahwehistic national divinity and cult, the Hebrew exiles developed a new religious concept, that of a separate religious community, living according to a normative system formulated in a sacred codex (Torah, meaning teaching, or law). It was there that they also developed the idea—which gave legitimacy to the Diaspora, that is, to the theology—that the dwelling of a nation in its land is dependent upon observing the commandments of its deity. This new historical consciousness, which transformed the tradition of the Exodus from Egypt into a pivotal historiosophical, didactic concept in Jewish awareness, placed at its centre the concepts of sin—non-observance of the commandments—and its retribution, Exile; such a state of mind is contradictory to that of a territorial nation or an independent political society. Because of the ideational religious stigma attached to it, exile (Diaspora) is different from mere dispersal or "colonization." Dwelling in the land became conditional upon the observance of a system of religious norms. At the same time there developed in Judaism another concept which maintained that the suzereinty of the Lord falls upon the entire world; this is a universalistic concept not tied to a defined territory. Both of these ideas—the universalistic and the particularistic—stand in total opposition to the Hebrews' perception, wherein the limits of the kingdom of the gods (the pantheon) are determined by a specific territory.

The particularistic congregation and also the universalistic faith arose out of the ashes and ruins of Hebrew culture. It was cast and moulded by Ezra and Nehemiah, who established an isolationist, theocratic "holy community" in Judea, which preserved its ethnic biological individuality by a series of obligatory commandments, separating itself from the autochthonous population of the land and rejecting any "aliens." This theological stance, according to the Canaanites, is the isolationist, pugnacious, haughty world view of the Jews and formed their normative system, which together determined the process, the models and the values of Jewish history as it developed through the ages.

Alongside the community in Palestine there were communities of exiles which arose in various places outside the country. Judaism became a religion of communities, dotted about the Mediterranean basin (that is, a dispersal), each speaking a different language and integrated within different cultural and socio-political frameworks. The connection of each of these communities, living in the Diaspora, to their homeland was that of a spiritual link to the Holy Land, and not a national one. The Diaspora is thus "a popular Christian falsehood and a Zionist slogan." From the time that the People of Israel lost its Hebrew spirit, it could exist as a community anywhere. The Jewish people became by its very nature a dispersed nation which needs no territorial homeland in order to exist, so that values of a territorial birthplace remained essentially foreign to it and to its survival. The Diaspora is a "falsehood" in the sense that it was not a phenomenon forced upon the Jewish people as the result of expulsions and exiles but expressed the free will of the Jews and their ability to live anywhere; it also expressed the legitimation which was given to this will by the religion. A territorial nation cannot exist when the "Diaspora attitude" is internalized within the nation and fashions all the patterns of its existence and the texture of its life.

Moreover, what of the territorial national strata which exist according to the national (and religious) historiography in Jewish history and which can be "revived"? These, in line with Canaanite thought, simply do not exist at all! What we do have is Hebrew history, which the Jewish editors of the Bible did not succeed in erasing or covering up in the biblical text, thus leaving remnants—living proofs of a glorious national culture. In Jewish history we do not have development and changes within one historical unity according to circumstances and various reactions to those circumstances; there exist two completely different sets of being which do not function in tandem or in parallel, but only one against the other. Thus the national territorial revival movement should strive to break through the "mists of the Jewish myth," and then it will be able to revive the national past. The modern "Return to Zion , must be totally different from the Return to Zion of the Persian period; not a return to the homeland in order to establish there a community and really transfer the values of the Diaspora to the land, but a return to the unmediated national, territorial past, to the past of the sovereign state. The Hebrew does not return to his land in order to be a Jew; this time the Jew leaves the Diaspora not to become more Jewish but to dissociate himself from Jewishness and totally free himself from his Judaism to become only a "Hebrew" in the "Land of the Hebrews. " Thus, it is meaningless to speak of Jewish nationalism or "Palestinian Judaism."

The return to the land must be neither immigration propelled by simple objective forces nor Zionist aliyah but rather a kind of purification, redemption and re-creation. In this sense "Canaanism" expresses a definitely messianic idea, which strives to put history on a new track, by a total cancellation of the past and the creation of a new order of priorities based only on this psychological background. By perceiving Canaanism as a manifestation of the messianic mould, one can explain the rhetoric ("the prophecy") of Canaanism with regard to purification and redemption as expressed in the following passage:

If we do not destroy them [the Zionists] entirely, they will engulf us, and it will not be a Hebrew homeland which will rise up in it, nor will a Hebrew nation spread out in it, but merely the single limb of a degenerating body, a Holy Land rife with corruption and hypocrisy, another transient centre in the eternity of world dispersion, a prelude to the next Jewish exile.

The Zionist idea and the Zionist political establishment are an ideational framework and an organizational leadership system which must be totally destroyed in order to create a new world out of them. They disturb and prevent the consolidation of a Hebrew nation and distort the existence of every potential Hebrew; thus we read the following quote:

They [the Zionists] are destroying our past, they force upon us their existence with their past, they distort our present, they strive to cut off our future, to sacrifice it on their altar, in order that they should have a truncated, corrupt, dependent, dominating Holy Land ~ ready to relinquish, or actually relinquishing the country, as long as it preserves the Judaization of the "community of the returnees to Zion in the tradition of Ezra and Nehemiah."

To sum up this central issue, this criticism of Judaism is composed of four elements:

(a) As a religion it is not fitted for an independent state, nor for a modern society. There cannot be a "Jewish State" operating according to Halakhah (Jewish religious law), and no modern society can exist which observes the Torah and fulfils the commandments.

(b) Judaism can exist and be practised anywhere and is, therefore, not a national religion in the sense of a binding, exclusive link to one native soil.

(c) Judaism lacks any real connection to an actual homeland. The Land of Israel is not its origin, but its Holy Land.

(d) Jewish existence in the Land of Israel is conditional upon the observance of the commandments, and no nation can agree to the link to its homeland being dependent upon any religious stipulation at all.

There are, to be sure, many points of similarity between this criticism and that of Judaism in Zionist ideology, especially in its more radical secular Zionist version. Jewish nationalism (and other trends in Judaism) adopted the premises that Judaism is not bound to a homeland and that (from the time of the Second Temple on) it has been in contradiction to sovereign statehood.13 But whereas the Zionist Hebrew wishes to revive the national and political nature of the Jews from within their history and from within the entire Jewish cultural heritage, the Canaanite calls for a renaissance strictly from outside Jewish history and its cultural heritage. Where "Zionist Hebraism" wanted to stress the territorial-state elements in Jewish history (even at times exaggerating their importance: the commandments connected to the land, the yearning for Zion, manifestations of a love for the land, and so on), Canaanism negates the very existence of such fundamental elements as these in Judaism. There is also no evidence anywhere of willingness to recognize the fact that only the Jews of all the nations of the Ancient Near East throughout history carried the Hebrew heritage within the general Jewish heritage, without which "Hebrewness" and Canaanism would never have seen the light of day. Against such a claim Canaanite logic could only argue that the link to the land and to its ancient national past is only a remnant which was preserved in the Jewish historical consciousness in the same way that traces of the Hebrew culture were retained in the edited biblical text.

Israel as a "Ghetto State"

From all the above premises, the Canaanite circle of the 1950s developed a detailed programme which covered every facet of life political structure, social organization, economic structure, etc. Although it is unnecessary to go into this platform in detail in this survey I would like to point out that all of these points were derived from the assumption that a faulty national territorial structure and a distorted national ideology express themselves in every other aspect of life.14

The State of Israel was described by the Canaanites as a Ghetto State; in their view, Jewish society in the State of Israel resembled more closely a Diaspora Jewish community than a national society in a sovereign state. In any event, whoever joined the Canaanite circle did not do so because of its economic or social platform but because of its national cultural doctrine; nor did anyone leave the circle because of its views on these issues, but rather because of opposition to or criticism of its ideological doctrines.

The Enemy from Without: Pan-Arabism

Zionism was the enemy from within, which prevented the resolution of the Jewish question. The enemy from without was the pan-Arab movement, the parallel and sister of Zionism in Middle Eastern garb.15 While Zionism claims that all Jews, even those living outside Israel, constitute one nation, pan-Arabism claims that all Arabs constitute one nation. These are both false claims, and they run their course parallel to each other .

Canaanism described the Arab world as one with a definitely medieval constitution, basically similar to the Catholic world of Europe in the Middle Ages, even though the Arabs supposedly lacked the high culture of the latter. This Arab world was united by Islam, which forced itselfits culture and its language—upon ancient "natural nations" and included all of them within one framework.

The process of Islamization of the population of the Middle East was one which operated by coercion and force. Islam, the conqueror , did not differentiate between various national territorial units. But the Arab states created in the twentieth century are the clear product of Anglo-French imperialism, with the result that there is a lack of congruency between the territorial borders or nationalities and the political divisions of the Middle East. Thus one finds alongside states with an autochthonous population and a distinct national culture (Coptic Egypt and Maronite Lebanon), artificial states with amorphous populations lacking a national consciousness (for example, Jordan and even Syria). Islamic theocracy and Moslem imperialism prevent the national states from crystallizing into independent territorial units.

Here we find waiting for activist Hebrew nationalism a role as a redeeming, liberating movement. The movement is destined to redeem not only the Hebrew hidden within the Jew but also the "Hebrew" concealed in the Moslem. The role of Hebrew nationalism is to liberate the "natural" nations of the Middle East (including Maronites, Copts, Kurds and Druse!) from the yoke of pan-Arabism and to create a new Hebrew covenant of nations and reinstate the ancient Hebrew glory. If only it were possible to overcome the two reactionary movements—panJudaism and pan-Arabism, whose very existence force upon the Middle East an unceasing maelstrom of wars—a new national framework could be created—pan-Hebraism. The Hebrew national movement, which was becoming consolidated within the Yishuv (Jewish community) in Palestine (and had by now reached a degree of ripe, developed national consciousness) was thus being prepared for a missionary role, similar to that of the armies of the French revolution which spread over Europe under Napoleon. The mission of the Yishuv is to create a new Hebrew world, and involved essentially in this creation, by its very nature, is violence—that is, the war of redemption. Since two forms of being are fighting over the same piece of land, a war to the death between them is inevitable.

It is worthwhile pointing out a fundamental difference in this context between criticism of Zionism and Judaism and criticism of Islam and the Arab national movement; apparently even the Canaanites themselves did not notice this difference. Criticism was aimed at Judaism (and in its wake Zionism) because of both its isolationist ethnic nature and its universalistic, non-territorial character. Thus, Judaism and Zionism want to establish a particularistic nation based on a common ethnic origin and on the values of a common (religious or secularized) faith. Islam and Arab nationalism are described, in contrast, as movements which tried to put an end to unique ethnic cultural elements (such as Copts, Assyrians, Maronites, Kurds and others) in the Middle East. That is, they tried to eliminate historical phenomena of a definitely individualistic nature and to create a great Moslem civilization. There is great inconsistency here, and its source is obvious: the judgement was made from a purely Hebrew national interest, and therefore any phenomena seen as standing in opposition to that interest—despite the great differences between them—were considered negative from the outset and requiring eradication.

Mixture and Integration—From Romantic Utopia to Political Dream

Canaanism can be viewed as a throwback to certain ideas current at the beginning of the century on the margins of Zionist ideology, notions of an inevitable, spontaneous process and of the mixture and integration of the Hebrew Arab populations in Palestine. The common line shared by Canaanite thought and the romantic, utopian ideas of the early part of the century found in Palestinian Zionism is the assumption that Jewish society was of a "higher," more progressive culture and that it was destined to playa civilizing, national role in the Middle East. This view was a kind of "Hebrew man's burden." However, Canaanism enlarged upon this romantic idea and applied it—at the ultimate levelto the entire population of the Middle East, not only to the Arabs of Palestine. It was not the ethnic factor which was considered the crucial element encouraging acculturation but rather the shared existence in a single territory.

Romantic, utopian ideas that the Arabs of Palestine are the descendants of the ancient Jewish population which never went into exile but was forced to convert to Islam and that they had preserved archaic customs from the times of the First and Second Temples were significantly expanded upon in travelogues and serious research studies of the nineteenth century. This idea was accepted among Zionist intellectuals who were faced with the problem of creating a new immigrant society in a country with a native population. Thus, Borochov claimed that the Arabs of Palestine had no authentic national character of their own and would therefore assimilate into the higher culture of their Jewish neighbours, who were in charge of the means of production and modern technology. Such a process, wrote Borochov, which under other historical circumstances is always accompanied by great suffering and bloodshed, will be easier in Palestine because of the origins of the fellahin (the Arab peasants the fellahin are considered in this context as the descendants of the ancient Hebrew and Canaanite residents "together with a small admixture of Arab blood"). Even Ahad Ha" Am, who warned against disregarding Arab national feeling and its link to the land, wrote in one instance that the Moslems are the ancient residents of the land, that they are am ha-aretz (the simple folk) who became Christians on the rise of Christianity and became Moslems on the arrival of Islam—whether by force or for economic reasons or because of social disintegration. A similar opinion was held by the Bilu member Israel Belkind in his articles and later booklet The Origin of the Fellahin (1928) and by David Ben-Gurion and Yitzchak Ben Zvi in their book, written in Yiddish, Eretz Israel in the Past and in the Present (1918). This approach also appeared in various statements of the Second Aliyah and was one aspect of its romanticism. Marxist reasons and anthropological explanations were whipped into one cocktail so as to serve up an answer to the disturbing question as to the nature of the future relations between Jews and Arabs in Palestine. M.J. Berdichevski reacted pessimistically to the above ideas when he wrote that the Jewish people had lost its ability to assimilate a foreign population because it had turned into a "rabbinic nation." 16

The ideas of mixture and integration generally saw the process involved as a spontaneous and unregulated one, activated by a strong inherent historical-cultural mechanism, that is by the attraction of a "lower" culture to a "higher" one. Yet no clear answer was given to the question of what the results would be of such integration: would the Arabs turn into Jews, and if Jews—what kind of Jews? Or would the mixture create a totally new national, cultural identity? Ratosh also repeatedly reiterated the thesis of the (modern) national, cultural superiority of the Yishuv over the "medieval," "lower" culture of the Arab population. However, as someone imbued with a mission he was not ready to depend on a spontaneous process or on the inevitable forces of economics, modernization or intercultural contact. A spontaneous process needs to be directed and guided consciously and by ideals; therefore, Canaanite ideology considered the "application of Hebrewness" as a conscious, intentional process and a national goal, to be left to the government authorities.

From the "Canaanite Alliance" to an "Alliance of the Kedem"

The Canaanite programme on this subject was developed mainly after the establishment of the State of Israel, when it seemed that the political apparatus for implementing the programme had been created. In the first stage the internal area (the former Palestine) was the object, through the separation of church and state, the formation of uniform state secular schools and general army service for Jews and Arabs. There was no discussion here of the creation of a common citizenship or equality of rights and obligations in a binational or multinational society. The subject was rather the creation of one national, cultural, secular, legal entity. The ripe nucleus of Hebrew nationalism—the source of which was the Yishuv—would operate by virtue of its mission and relative superiority, and would even exploit the operative state governmental means available to it to create a uniform educational and cultural system which would establish a standard national identity; that identity would draw, of course, on the territorial cultural symbols of the common, ancient past of the area.

The second stage of the Hebrew revolution would be that of expansion. Over the years this stage was presented in a number of versions—according to changing circumstances—but the thrust of its aim was to invalidate the existing political structure of the Middle East and to create a new one which would fit the new national consciousness. The first step, according to the Canaanite plan, would be to establish a national, political pact (the Canaanite Alliance) with the "natural nations" of the East: the Coptic Pharaonic Egypt and the Phoenician Maronite Lebanon (including the Druse, even though they are not a nation in the modern sense but only a religious community). The next step would be to root out by military effort—deliberately, or as a political aim of war under other circumstances—the existing regimes of the Middle East and replace them with other governments, and to then inculcate among the Moslem Arab population a new national consciousness. The underlying assumption was, of course, that the Arab population was an amorphous one lacking a real self-identity and that it would, therefore, easily exchange its cultural identity by a simple transformation, if not voluntarily, then by force. The Canaanite Alliance would become the kernel of a greater Eastern Alliance. Thus, after the completion of this long, sometimes violent, process of transformation, the Middle East would reach the third and classical stage, or a renewal of the past to the Golden Age, to which Canaanite poetry at its height devotes its utopian vision. As put by Ratosh, "The cradle of men's civilization will return to its glorious past, to the classical land of the Hebrews as Babylonia and Assyria, of the Canaanite and the Amorite."

In "Song of the Land of the Hebrew" Aharon Amir in 1949 presented a broad picture of a flourishing civilization, blazing with feverish activity and creativeness, a modern national melting pot the likes of which has never existed and for which there was no example. Thus, according to the Canaanite vision, a new sun will rise over the Middle East and turn it from a passive, subjugated region, at odds with itself, into a great, glorious Hebrew power, a grand empire; the Hebrew phoenix will rise and spread its wings. All the prophets of the area will forsake their former identities and become new Hebrews. Whoever does not wish to do so will have to make way for them—voluntarily or by force. There will no longer be Moslem Arabs, Christian Arabs, and Israeli Jews. There will be only Hebrews, members of the Hebrew nation.

The Instrument of the Hebrew Revolution: The Redeeming Sword

This vision necessitated, obviously, confronting the dilemma of how to build a utopia by utilizing violence and warfare—a revolution, after all, is not conducted by peaceful means. There were many who saw a deep link between Canaanite epics "drenched in blood" and the paeans in praise of violence and sacrifice in Ratosh's poetry and in Canaanite manifestos. Others took this connection as the distinct expression of the link between Canaanism and the nationalist, extremist right-wing ideologies burgeoning in Europe at that time. Already in the 1930s Ratosh's nationalist poems spoke of "rulership" and of "sacrifice," of utilizing the sword to bring about redemption and progress in this world, in order to break through the magic circle of violence and power as demonstrative of honour, rightful privilege, and sovereignty—an expression of the new Hebrew situation and experience.17

Uri Zvi Greenberg wrote in his poem "The Book of Denunciation and of Faith" as follows:

And I say: land is conquered by blood,
and only conquered by blood, is sanctified for the people
Through the holiness of blood ...
And the blood will determine who will be the sole ruler here! (1936)

Ratosh, however, in his poem "To the Visionary" encouraged others to follow his lead:

O Visionary, in the heavens is God the all-powerful
On earth, it is fire for fire.
The heavens are heaven for all,
And the earth to the conqueror belongs. (1937)

Violence and war are necessary because the situation involved is a historical anomaly, in which artificial forces made themselves dominant over reality and forced themselves upon reality against its nature. War, thus, is inevitable, an integral part of the process of redemption and progress. In this poetry care is devoted to the heroic ethos unencumbered by doubts and ethical restraints along the path to redemption and progress. At the same time, we find in the ideological manifestos an effort to differentiate between, on the one hand, an inevitable war with great numbers of victims, which brings not redemption but another war and, on the other hand, war, which though bloody, does lead to redemption and eternal peace. Any violent eruption in the Middle East is interpreted as either a great disappointment or a new opportunity for "a thousand-year Hebrew kingdom." Every local or international tremor is seen as the herald of some predetermined plan.

There is a very obvious tension lying just beneath the surface in Canaanite manifestos between geographical historical determinism and voluntarism. Is the unique nature of a country given to it by culture—or is the culture created under the influence of the special nature of the country? What are the basic causative factors—objective natural circumstances or free self-awareness? At times Horon uses the terminology of Moriz Lazarus' "psychology of the nations" and the historical subjectivism of Ernest Renan, or of Gustav Le Bon or Julian Benda, especially his book Esquisse d'une histoire des franfiais dans leur volonti vers une nation (1932). This viewpoint means, according to Horon, that the national framework and national consciousness are the creation—by virtue of continued free choice—of individuals, and that there are no objective patterns which force themselves on the individual or the group. Thus, a Jew can choose of his own free will to remain a Jew—or can choose to become a Hebrew, that is, choose between continuity and revolution, between maintaining old concepts or striking new roots and authenticity. However, in other texts Horon and Ratosh speak often in the language of the objectivistic principle, which considers a nation to be an objective entity, the product of objective conditions which create identity. If Horon defines himself in Paris during the 1930s as a "Hebrew from Samaria," even though he had never set foot in Palestine, this self-description is explicitly a definition by personal choice. If so, it is not living within a certain natural setting and landscape which determined his consciousness and his feelings, but historical, intellectual perception.

Does a Jewish person come to Hebrew (or Arab) consciousness through free will or as a consequence of living in Palestine? What, then, should one expect—a gradual, spontaneous growth of authentic national consciousness from within the confines of the artificial structure of society, culture, and the false Zionist superstructure? Is this an inevitable process which then needs no actual assistance? And does such assistance mean, at most, the ability to act as a catalyst? In Canaanite writings there is a subdued, ambivalent response to this basic question. In one instance Horon stated that the Hebrew revolution first of all takes place in consciousness, that is, it is not a way of thinking acquired by virtue of having been born in Palestine or of living there; rather, it is a consciousness which a person achieves for himself after arriving at the proper preliminary awareness and changing his system of concepts. From the minute he changes his conceptual system, he himself has changed and his world has been transformed. But how does someone reach this level of recognition or conversion: is it through education, indoctrination, self study or spontaneous reaction? Why do some people attain this awareness, while others do not—even though they live in one territory? This is a question for which no unequivocal answer is found in the Canaanite writings. In any event it is worthwhile taking notice of this internal contradiction and to resolve it, as it were, using this system of thought. In their criticism of Zionist ideology the Canaanites claim that most of the Jews who come to Palestine do so as "immigrants" and not because of Zionist ideology. It is also obvious that they do not come to the country because of "Hebrew" ideology. This means that the Hebrew revolution is dependent, not on the environment and the historical associations connected with it, but rather on a cultural avant-garde and political elite. This latter group is actually supposed to bring about and lead the revolution through education and propaganda and subsequently through national legislation. In so far as this information relates to Jewish society, there is faith in the power of education and law, while with regard to other people it will be necessary to use force and other means of persuasion which, of course, are perceived as acts of redemption and liberation.

Confronted by this crippled existence, false identity and a reality which, though true, is chained and buried under a foreign ideology, stands the visionary poet, who observes this distorted, mundane existence with a sense of isolation, mission and faith. The role of the visionary herald is to preach, to prepare the means ("the concepts") for those who will have to act in order to change that identity and reality, and since the concept is the correct one—it is destined to be victorious. This position can be maintained in visionary poetry, but not in programmatic texts which demand practical statements. Thus, when the Committee for the Consolidation of Hebrew Youth tried to consolidate itself in the 1950s as an ideological, political circle, manifestos were not sufficient. A more concrete, practical programme was called for. Undoubtedly many members of this group did not care for the visionary, rhetorical language of Ratosh and his (in their opinion) exaggerated emphasis on the historical aspect. Thus, we find more moderate and practical statements which give the platform more of the tone of a political programme for a democratic, secular state. Only a few items (for example, paragraph 24) hint at the ideological underpinnings.

After repeating most of the basic premises of Canaanism, the platform called for the following:

(1) For the advancement of the self-determination of all the residents of Palestine, with no distinction regarding religion, ethnic group or origin, and for the recognition of the distinctiveness of the nation living within the State of Israel as opposed to Judaism at large.

(2) For a policy based on the community of fate of the State of Israel and its neighbours, and on the role of Israel and other constructive forces in the entire area known as the Fertile Crescent at the forefront of our struggle for its renaissance, its liberation, and for the development of the entire area.

(3) For the abolition of all religious or ethnic divisions which bring Israel, like all of its neighbours, to enmity and instability from within and without and to dependence on foreign powers and perpetual spiritual and material crises.

(4) For separation of church and state, for liberation from any semblance of theocracy, for a secular atmosphere, and for the institution of a completely secular regime in all facets of life.

(5) To ascribe fully all equal political, civil and social rights and obligations to all citizens of the State regardless of religion, ethnic community or origin, all founded upon the recognition of the basic freedoms and rights of citizenship for all residents of the country.

Other statements call for:

(22) A secular national reform in education, according to the principles of territorial self-determination and the revival of Hebrew.

(23) Compulsory, non-denominational, secular, state education, uniform in framework and content.

(24) The encouragement of native culture (the culture of the homeland), on the basis of a Hebrew national revival, nurtured by the original values of the country and making it the heritage of residents of the entire land.

On the one hand, we have here a vision of a civil national society, the definition of which stems mainly from universalist principles. This is a pluralistic, liberal, secular society patterned on the model of the United States. On the other hand, it does not find a civil-state framework sufficient basis for the growth of a common civil, cultural, national consciousness. The vision is that of the creation of a native culture and a Kulturnation, and its model is historical, organic, European nationalism. The seers of the Canaanite vision had a clear, unequivocal picture of the nature and content of the national culture which they wished to fashion and implement in Palestine and the entire Near East. In any event, it is clear this takes on the semblance of a utopian, totalitarian vision which is aimed not at pluralism, but at unity, not at free development, but at forced or guided development directed by those leading the culture. This force would not come from a "spontaneous liberation movement" but from the state, its laws, and its army. There is a significant contradiction between the pluralistic, democratic, liberal aspect of the platform and the compulsory, totalitarian aspect in the pivotal manifestos of Canaanism. Obviously only historical reality—if the Canaanites had been able to shape its destiny—would have been able to demonstrate in action the nature of the Canaanite nation state. There are grounds for assuming that the totalitarian, missionary aspect in it would have won out over the liberal, pluralistic trend, and the integrative, national aspect over the liberal secular .

Indeed, we can clearly identify two groups within the Canaanite circle of the 1950s: (a) those who took Canaanism to be a secular ideology (with emphasis on the national particularity of Israeli society) and were opposed to identifying themselves or their interests with the Jewish people in the Diaspora, and (b) those who emphasized quite clearly the historical, cultural element, which did not necessarily result in mere "secularity." This duality is the source of the break in the Canaanite circle which led many of the former group into the Zionist (and anti-Zionist) Left, to groups, parties and organizations which called for the separation of church and state, and so on. They felt that Canaanite doctrine of the mid-1950s as expressed by Ratosh, Horon and their circle was a completely imaginary, unproductive, reactionary doctrine with semi-Fascist and totalitarian ingredients on the home front, and messianic, imperialist attitudes with regard to the Arab world, two features which make it, in their eyes, a fringe element in Israeli politics.

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Further Reading on Hebrew Canaanism

Two Brief Introductions to Hebrew Canaanism by Ron Kuzar

"Canaanism:" Solutions and Problems by Boas Evron

The Canaanist Platform translated by James S. Diamond

Zarathustra in Jerusalem: Nietzsche and the "New Hebrews" by David Ohana

Also compare this vision of Hebrew imperialism with the Zionist imperialism
described in The Zionist Plan for the Middle East translated and edited by Israel Shahak.

Table of Contents


Basic Principles and Concepts

Geography as the Focus of the Cosmos

Between Civilizations and Nations

Language and the Limits of Culture

The Past as a Model of Future Culture

The Meaning of the Link to Nature

Judaism and Zionism as Enemies of the Hebrew Renaissance

Israel as a "Ghetto State"

The Enemy from Without: Pan-Arabism

Mixture and Integration—From Romantic Utopia to Political Dream

From the "Canaanite Alliance" to an "Alliance of the Kedem"

The Instrument of the Hebrew Revolution: The Redeeming Sword



1. Horon, "The Hebrew World," Keshet, no.29, pp. 97-104. The organic approach which was widespread during the 19th century was rejected strongly and by careful reasoning by cultural anthropologists and historians. Not only is the empirical description of followers of the idealist-morphological view basically faulty, but they ignore the important central element of human freedom of choice and of the shadings and variegation in the development of human society.

2. See A. Amir, "Ancient Myth and Modem Poetry," Ma'ariv, 4 July 1980. On the Hebrew Myth in Buber's philosophy, see U. Tal, "Myth and Solidarity." He, like Ratosh and Horon, follows the line of the school of thought which argued, in Schelling's words, that "a nation becomes a nation through community of consciousness between the individuals; and this community has its foundation in a common view of the world and this again in mythology," in Einleitung in die Philosophie der Mythologie, pp. 62-3.

3. For one example of the use of positivist anthropogeographic theory see Zev Jabotinsky, "Zionism and the Land of Israel" (Petrograd, 1905) in First Zionist Writings, pp. 109-29. Even authors who define as "nations" different cultural-political entities in the Ancient East do not go as far with their anachronisms as Horon and Ratosh and limit themselves to defining the Greeks, the Jews and the Persians as the "nations of ancient history." I do not have any proof of Horon being influenced, for example, by the essay of the Polish scholar T. Walek-Czernecki, "Le Rôle de la nationalité dans l'histoire de l'antiquité," in Bulletin of the International Committee of Historical Sciences, 11 (1929-30). Eastern civilizations—not Western—were based on the concept of "nation" and "religion," writes Elias Bickennan, From Ezra to the Last Maccabees, p. 102.

4. One of the severest critics of the pan-Hebrew and pan-Semitic thesis, A. N. Pollack (a scholar whose views on history were non-conformist on a variety of issues) rightly noted that the concept "Fertile Crescent" or "Land of the Euphrates" was an artificial one, which is not paralleled in the literature of the Ancient Near East nor in Arabic literature. The peoples of the locale, he wrote, never considered the areas around the "Syrian-Arab desert" as one distinct land. This region was politically and administratively united only when conquered by a great power. This fact means, in effect, that the geo-historical, cultural depiction of pan-Hebraism or pan-Semitism was nothing more than an imperialistic vision of structure on the Medieval European pattern: the rule of a single power (in this instance Hebrew-Jewish) over the Middle East or the creation of cultural partnership based on the ruling "non-native" language. See Pollack, "The Middle East" and "The Fertile Crescent" in: Molad, IX, no.51 (1952), pp. 123-7.

5. It is hard not to notice the similarities between the idea that the borders of the Hebrew nation are those of the Hebrew language and the idea which is expressed in the popular song of Ernest Moritz Arndt (1769-1860) of 1813 which became the hymn of the German national movement in the mid-19th century. This hymn determined the borders of Germany and German nationalism according to the borders of the German language: "Where is the German's Fatherland? Name me at length that mighty land!/'Where'er resounds the German tongue,/Where'er its hymns to God are sung.' Be this the land,/Brave Germany, this thy Fatherland!" The Poetry of Germany, trans. by A. Baskerville, 1876, pp. 150-2.

6. Renan, The History of the People of Israel, p. xxviii. He continues: "language took almost entirely the place of race in the division of humanity into groups."

7. Haramati, Three First Teachers, pp. 181-5.

8. See Chapter Four.

9. Renan, ibid, p. 41.

10. Horon, "The Hebrew World," Keshet no.33, 1966, p. 131.

11. Ratosh, "The Opening Speech." See also Aharon Amir, "The Shock of Familiarity," Keshet, special issue, 1971, pp. 6-7.

12. Ratosh, "Jewish Literature in the Hebrew Language."

13. See this historical "common knowledge" in Gershon Weiler, Jewish Theocracy, pp. 111-25.

14. This view was shared by the radical right wing in Israeli politics, which considered Israel between 1948 and 1967 as a "crippled state." A central argument of Canaanism against the norms of the State of Israel is that they are creating an isolationist, introverted Jewish state. Because of this in their opinion the "Law of Return" is the main expression of this phenomenon—there follow manifestations of intolerance of the alien (particularly the Arabs) and even populist-state instances of racism, the origins of which are theocratic. Such criticism, however, blurs the essential distinction between tolerance towards one or another national minority and the willingness to absorb foreigners or immigrants into the national body. One must also distinguish between a religious national minority which is influenced by its surroundings, and because of that influence passes through stages of modernization and acculturation, and such a minority which assimilates—or is required to assimilate—to its surroundings. That is, it is required to relinquish not only its language, but also its national and cultural uniqueness.

15. See among the many articles on this issue Horon's article "Is there an Arab civilization?" Commentary, Nov. 1958. On the Revisionist background, see Shavit, "Revisionism's view of the Arab National Movement."

16. M. Y. Berdyczewski (1865-1929) Writings/articles pp. 381-4. On this subject see also S. Almog, "The Land for its Laborers and the Conversion of the Fallahin" in S. Ettinger (ed.), Nation and History, vol. II, Jerusalem, 1984, pp. 165-76. This view was shared also by the Zionist Marxist thinker D.H. Borochov and by Dr. A. Ruppin, Der Aufbau des Landes Israel, Berlin, 1919, pp. 124-35, and also by others in the first stage of Palestinian Zionism.

17. Boaz Evron, "Poetry and Politics before Impasse;" Ha'aretz, 12 Sept. 1969. The view that a nation is measured by its contribution to the progress of civilization is expressed very clearly by Marx and Engels, who formulated a criterion for evaluating a national entity or national framework as being the degree to which it is a productive force. They therefore distinguished between "nationality," that is, an ethnic group whose main characteristics are linguistic, and a "nation," which is a historical product and the derivative of a territorial political organization, which determines its historical fate for itself and is able to contribute to the progress of mankind.

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