Gadi Taub got one thousand words and prime Sunday op-ed page placement for a summary of his new book, The Settlers. The Israeli settlements, which are “looming over the direct talks,” are a threat to Israel’s simultaneously Jewish and democratic character, Taub believes. Yet he notes that it dates to modern Zionism’s complicated roots:
The Zionist movement sought to achieve by human means what Jews for two millenniums considered to be God’s work alone: the gathering of the diaspora in the land of Israel. Most rabbis therefore shunned Herzl, but not all. Some joined the movement, even formed a party within it, based on a separation of religion and politics. For them, secular Zionism was primarily a solution to the earthly predicament of the Jews; it was not so theologically laden.
(Raise your hand if you remember being surprised when, in The Chosen, the ultra-Orthodox rabbi is a vehement opponent of Zionism.)
Two weeks ago, Tablet Magazine books critic Adam Kirsch praised Taub’s new book:
The philosophical danger of the Occupation—to say nothing of the diplomatic and military and economic dangers—is that its illiberalism will make Zionism itself look illiberal in retrospect. This is, as Taub points out, the view of the “post-Zionists” in Israel and of much of the left in Europe and America: that “Zionism was never democratic, and the very idea of a Jewish democratic state is a mere contradiction in terms.” Ironically, Taub argues, this is the same thing that the settler movement believes. The difference is that, while anti-Zionists want to resolve the contradiction by making Israel cease to be Jewish (the so-called “one-state solution”), the settlers want to resolve it by making Israel cease to be democratic.