"Canaanism:" Solutions and Problems by Boaz Evron

"Canaanism:" Solutions and Problems


Boas Evron

The symbol of the Canaanist movement was
the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Alef.


The Jerusalem Quarterly

Number 44
Fall 1987
ISSN 0334-4800

and also published in revised form as
Chapter 11
of the author's book

Jewish State or Israeli Nation?

Indiana University Press
a translation from the Hebrew of
Haheshbon Haleumi

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



Canaanism (Kna'aniut) arose in the 1940s, and declined, at least organizationally, in the early 1950s. As Ya'acov Shavit describes it,1 the theory was conceived during a series of meetings between the poet Yonatan Ratosh and Professor Adia Gurevitch (Horon), on the eve of the outbreak of the Second World War. It was the first attempt to give ideological expression to the territorial-specific consciousness that had been developing in the country. Shavit sees Canaanism primarily as a confluence of trends&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;intellectual, scientific, literary , and ideological&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;prevailing in Europe during the 1930s. But beyond this, there were other forces at play: it came (a) as a dialectical complement and antithesis to Zionist thought; (b) as an expression of a transformation, at the center of which was the rise of a generation born in the country, with its immediate or unmediated sense of homeland, as distinct from the acquired sense of homeland of the foreign-born pioneers; (c) as an expression and continuation of the "biblical revolution" or the return to a primary interpretation of the Bible as a means of attacking the establishment that had been erected on the foundation of those very writings; and (d) paradoxically, as an alliance of some orthodox Canaanites with extreme aspects of Messianic Jewish activity.


"Canaanism" (originally a pejorative term tacked on to this movement, purportedly by the poet Avraham Shlonsky) drew much of its inspiration from the spiritual upheaval that took place among a large part of European Jewry. In the sphere of ideas in which the ghetto Jew was raised, the great role models were the pious and the devout, scholars, and kabbalists&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;or the wealthy. All forms of physical activity&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;whether the toil of the farmer, the occupation of the fisherman and the hunter, the skill of the warrior, and even the crafts of builder, architect and stonemason&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;were held to be inferior (and, with regard to the warrior and the hunter, even contemptible and morally repugnant, "the work of Esau") as opposed to the values of spirit and learning on the one hand (to be precise&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;not the values of spirit and learning as such, since study of the sciences and of philosophy was prohibited, but of the Torah and its traditional exegesis only) and, on the other hand, to the value of money. The social elite among the Christians (and the Muslims) consisted at one time primarily of the military and landed aristocracy, which determined the fundamental rules of honor and behavior, beside the tremendous influence of values imbued by the Church. Only at a later stage, with the rise of Protestantism and especially of Calvinism, did the values of industriousness, intellectual prowess, and material achievement attained by means of work and commerce become dominant. By contrast, the Jewish social elite was produced when the wealthy businessman found a young Talmudic prodigy as a husband for his daughter (as described abundantly in the writings of Shalom Aleichem, Bialik, Agnon, Gnessin, Brenner, and many others). "The aristocracy of wealth," based on sharpness of mind and objective quantitative calculations, and "the aristocracy of the exegetic intellect" were always joined together in the European Jewish tradition.


The "assimilationist" Jew turned away from these role models, and adopted the identification options and the scale of values of the European nations in which he wished to be integrated. Heine and Herzl were raised on the Nibelungenlied and on Goethe, and their heroes were not the Vilna Gaon or Maimonides (nor even the Rothschilds), but Friedrich Barbarossa and Heinrich "the Lion." Jabotinsky's Story of My Life and his articles resound with the echoes of Russian folktales and the shades of Russian folk heroes such as Ilya Murometz and Prince Igor, or Garibaldi and the heroes of the Risorgimento in Italy, where he spent his formative years. There is almost nothing in these writings about the role models that had been ever-present to his forebears.


Even when the Europeanized Jews became Jewish nationalists, they did not return to Maimonides and the Vilna Gaon. Their mentality had become so transformed that there was no longer anything the Vilna Gaon could mean to them. What they did then was to translate the world of the German Nibelungs and the Russian bylini into Jewish equivalents (a constant motif in Tchernichovsky, for example, who translated the Greek, Norse, and Russian epics into Hebrew and, under the influence of works like Goethe's Hermann und Dorothea, transformed even typical traditional Jewish characters into epic figures, as in "Elka's wedding" and other idylls). What they also did was to translate this world into ancient Hebrew terms. Thus Bialik wrote the tale "King David in the Cave," which relates how the hero-king and his warriors sleep deep inside a cave, waiting for the blast of the ram's horn that will awaken them from their millennia of slumber and arouse them to redeem Israel. But in fact this is nothing but a Hebrew re-working of an ancient German legend about Emperor Friederich I (Barbarossa) slumbering with his knights deep inside a Bavarian mountain until, at a time of great distress for the German people, he would awake from his sleep and save his nation. (There is also a British version of the legend, about King Arthur.) Thus wrote even Bialik, who unlike Tchernichovsky, Jabotinsky, Herzl and Heine, was still steeped in a rich Jewish culture.


Jews began to model their traditional heroes on those of the nations among whom they lived, for the values of their forebears had become alien to them. The heroes of the Bible had almost disappeared from sight under layers of Talmudic exegesis. (When the Haskalah [Enlightenment] made the revolutionary potential of the Bible apparent, all but the Pentateuch was banned from study in the yeshivot.) Heroes who had been remolded to suit the image of the scholars of rabbinic Judaism in the Talmudic period&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;"Jacob sitting in his tent studying the Torah," or "King David reciting Psalms before the Lord"&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;were revived in their original mythical, almost pagan, form. Other heroes, the memory of whom Talmudic tradition had almost erased, or whom it had described as criminals or heretics, like Judah the Maccabee, Eleazar Ben-Yair, Yohanan of Gush-Halav, the Sicarii and the Zealots&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;were extricated from under the mounds of refuse and deliberate oblivion, cleaned up, and reinstated as national heroes, equals of Leonidas, King Arthur, and Siegfried. Once again we see that the "Zionist revolution," which brought about "the return of the assimilationists to their origins," was in reality, to a large extent, nothing but a form of collective assimilation. Zionism and assimilationism are both after all, a rejection of historical Judaism. Once Zionism began to realize this, it recoiled from its own fundamental essence and lost confidence in itself. From that moment on, it ceased to be a revolutionary political and national program. "Canaanism," in a certain sense, is an attempt to continue the path from the point where Zionism stopped.


We have described elsewhere the process by which A.D. Gordon forced himself, consciously, to create for himself a "territorial sub-conscious"&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;to possess Eretz Israel as his "mother." This process involved a simultaneous break with his religious-traditional background in Russia. He sensed that the shift to Palestine meant a break with that tradition, and, as it turned out, he never succeeded in "transfering" himself wholly to Palestine. His admission of this is an index of his sincerity. It appears then that he was aware of the contradiction between Zionist realization and Jewish tradition. That is to say&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;had A.D. Gordon succeeded fully, had he managed to tear himself completely away from his connections to Jewish tradition and to the soil of Russia, he would have identified himself wholly, "naturally," with the territory of Eretz Israel, he would have related to it in a down-to-earth, unromantic manner, and it would never have occurred to him to use the term "The Holy Land" as regards Palestine, a term which still clearly bears the imprint of religious tradition. He also would have been able to do without the entire complex of mythical images of the land as a "loving mother," etc.


In other words&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;the completion of the Zionist process should have been the creation of an Israeli who was connected solely to his land and to the nation dwelling in it. And here a problem arose: since Zionism began from "the plight of the Jews" (Juden-not) and from the concept that the Jews are a nation which "has been excluded from its territorial base"&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;how could it separate itself wholly from the dispersed nation which had given birth to it? The very concept of "the return to the Land of Israel" meant an essential connection with those who had "not yet returned." This meant that the essential and characteristic connection of the Zionist who settles in Eretz Israel is not with the country but with the Jewish people&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;and even if this entire people were concentrated in the country, the basis would still be ethnic-communal, not territorial-national. The completion of the process thus required an additional act: a denial of the existence of the ethnic connection, a revolt against the very essence of this connection.


It is worth noting here that the rebel had, after all, grown up within the framework of concepts against which he is rebelling, and his thought had been shaped by the terms of this framework. Hence his attack is the most effective and fundamental, because he exploits these terms against the very framework itself. It is an illuminating fact that the "Canaanite" theory, which calls for a total separation from Judaism, attained its systematic elaboration during the very period when the attack against the Jewish people had reached its peak&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;the outbreak of the Second World War and the extermination of the Jews of Europe. There was an element of defiance in the insistence that the Hebrew nation in its homeland, as a new nation, was not subject to the historical laws determining the fate of the Jewish people in its dispersion. It was a deliberate secession from "the Jewish fate" at the very time when this fate was revealing itself in its full horror.


This secession was not limited to the "Canaanite" group. This group only gave an extreme and "ideological" expression to sentiments which were already prevalent in the Yishuv2 and in the Zionist movement. The Zionist leadership, as we have learned, saw the development and fortification of the Yishuv as its primary task. The interests of the Jewish people in the Diaspora were definitely secondary when compared with this goal. This was true even during the period when the Jews of Europe were being exterminated. An additional example was the attempt made by the founders of the Lehi,3 led by Avraham Stern, to contact representatives of Nazi Germany in the Middle East, with a view to a possible alliance in the struggle against the British. This attempt was made, it is true, not as part of an act of secession from the Jewish people, as the "Canaanites" recommended, but its guiding principle too was the basing of national action upon the Yishuv in Palestine, and the conceiving of this entity as the only sector of the Jewish people which functioned as a political subject and was therefore also the most important sector.4 It is difficult not to detect in all these occurrences a deep revulsion against East European Jewry, from whom the Zionists wished to dissociate themselves&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;and especially from their terrible helplessness in their plight. This attitude of rejection was to be evident for many years in Israel, as in the contempt expressed towards the Jews "who went as lambs to the slaughter" (the expression had, it is true, first been used by Abba Kovner, in his call for revolt in the Vilna Ghetto, but it had been adopted by the Israeli establishment in a different&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;negative&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;context), in total disregard of the fact that the gypsies too, as well as millions of Soviet prisoners-of-war, Poles, and other groups who had been murdered by the Nazis, had also gone "like lambs to the slaughter;" and that it was inhuman to expect that masses of persecuted people, frightened and starved, with children, women, and old people to look after, could have mobilized from within themselves the willpower and the organizational capacity for armed resistance.5



The movement known as "Canaanism," which made its first public appearance with a pamphlet published in 1943,6 entitled Letter to the Fighters for the Freedom of Israel, was the fullest and most systematic expression among all these ideas and sentiments. The principles of the movement, as formulated in The Opening Address (Summer 1944), insist that" A Hebrew cannot be a Jew, and a Jew cannot be a Hebrew." The significance of this statement was the drawing of an indelible line between the entity of a territorial nation and the Jewish entity, which was defined as "the entity of a religious community." What then was the nature of the territorial Hebrew nation proclaimed by the founders of the "Committee for the Consolidation of Hebrew Youth " (the name of the organization founded by Ratosh)?


This nation is composed of the Hebrew-speaking residents of the Land of the Hebrews, or "the Land of Kedem," 7 which extends over all the area once populated by peoples who spoke Hebrew in its various dialects. This area included present-day Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine (Eretz Israel). Here was born the ancient Hebrew nation, which created a Hebrew civilization. It was a pagan nation, like all the nations around it, until it was overwhelmed by foreign conquerors who destroyed its various kingdoms. Some traces of this nation's literary heritage have been preserved for us in the biblical anthology, though distorted by later Jewish exegesis, in the light of which the Bible had been edited. This nation, whose renascent nucleus was the present Yishuv in Eretz Israel, would spread once more throughout the Land of Kedem and restore its populace&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;who had been coerced by the Arab conquerors to accept Islamic culture and the Arabic language&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;to its original, authentic Hebrew culture. The Hebrew state, which in the future would extend throughout the Land of Kedem, would maintain total separation between religion and state, establish absolute equality among all its citizens, and enforce the Hebrew language and Hebrew culture as its common language and culture. This nation has no connection with the Jews in their dispersion, apart from the fact that people who had come from the Jewish dispersion were the very ones who had created the nucleus of the Hebrew nation.


Here, then, we see another step in the direction of "territoriality." Whereas previous "Hebrew" thought, like that of Tchernichovsky or Ben-Gurion, had aspired to transform the" Jew" into a "Hebrew," a step which contains an internal contradiction since it involves the premise that the Jew is a "potential Hebrew," meaning that the basic connection was still ethnic rather than territorial, the "Canaanite" movement insisted on an absolute separation. There is no " ommon basis" for the "Jew" and the "Hebrew." They are mutually exclusive entities, which are not on the same existentiallevel. Official Zionism sees the Jew as "raw material," as implement and means for the "Hebrew;" and from the opposite point of view one can therefore see the "Hebrew" as a parasite on the "Jew." For the "Jew" can definitely exist and survive without the "Hebrew," whereas the "Hebrew" had created a situation in which he could no longer exist without the "Jew." The "Canaanite" position breaks this connection. The "Hebrew" doesn't need the Jew." He is not a utopian continuation of the "Jew," he is not "the realization of the messianic vision of Judaism." The "Jew" exists in his own right, and the "Hebrew" exists in his. Both entities are legitimate, self-sufficient, neither is teleological. and neither should be anything but what it is.


The major problems arising from this attempt at separation are obvious. The first and principal one is that even if we accept the claims about the existence of an ancient Hebrew civilization which extended throughout "the Land of Kedem," 8 this civilization has reached us primarily via Judaism, which had continue creating in Hebrew (in addition to secondary languages like Aramaic, Arabic or Yiddish) for centuries after the collapse of the ancient Hebrew civilization. Thus there is no possibility of separating the isolated and distant elements of ancient Hebraicity from the rich and manifold accumulations of Jewish culture which accrued to them and had been re-interpreted by them. This is so especially since the archaic traces of the ancient Hebrew culture are too fragmentary to provide a contemporary individual with anything more than objects for antiquarian and archaeological or anthropological, interest, not real cultural-spiritual nourishment, as, in contrast, ancient Greek culture can. Anyone desirous of learning Hebrew literature, for example, can do no more tha begin by studying the hymns of Anath, the tablets of Ugarit and the archaic chapters of the Bible. From then on he will need to learn the Book of Esther, the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah, the Mishnah and Aggadah, and after that also Yehuda Halevi, Ibn Gabirol, M.H. Luzzatto, Bialik and Agnon. It is simply impossible to skip over 2,500 years of history and to bury them in archives. Even if an Israeli-Hebrew nation, clearly differentiated from Judaism, does develop, "Hebraic" consciousness would necessarily have the deepest attachments to its Jewish levels, in the same way that it is impossible to separate the consciousness of the peoples of modern secular Europe from the Christian world of thought and association, and from the decisive role of christianity, and especially of the Catholic Church, in the creation of modern Europe. In the same way, it is just as impossible to separate the consciousness of the Arabic-speaking peoples from the Islamic world of ideas and associations, a fact that is true even of the Christians and Jews living among these peoples. A Hebrew national consciousness will always have affinities to Judaism. There is no possibility of creating "a Hebrew nation in the Land of the Hebrews" with ties only to the archaic Hebrew territory and culture. Attempts to "repress" the Jewish heritage will bring about only a distortion of the Hebrew cultural image and a compensatory over-reaction of the repressed levels.


An illuminating example of this process can be found in a very significant sphere&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;the names adopted by novelists and poets. In the generation of the 1940s, and even before it, there was hardly a creative writer who did not Hebraize his name&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;Ratosh, Amir, Megged, Shamir, Tammuz, Yizhar, Bartov, Guri, Shaham, Aloni, Kenan, etc. Such an adoption of Hebrew names was not accidental, at least not among self-aware intellectual circles. It had a programmatic content, and represented a decision to break the connection with the world of the Halprins, the Steinmanns, the Smilanskis and the Levins. Twenty years later, the young creative writers were retaining their old Jewish names: Wieseltier , Mittelpunkt, Wallach, Auerbach, Horowitz (there are even cases of a return from Hebrew names to the old Jewish ones, as in the case of Yitzhak Orpaz, who added his earlier "Jewish" name, Auerbach, to his "Hebrew" name). This too implies a programmatic declaration, for it is a clear reaction against the fashion of "Hebraizing" which preceded it. It contains a statement that the high-toned Hebrew names do not correspond to the subjective outlook of these writers, that these names involve an artificiality and a separation from their innermost consciousness, and that this consciousness is continuous with the Jewish world. The plays of Hanoch Levin are to a large extent Jewish to the core, and might just as well have been written, with few changes, about people living in some moldy Galician province. Similarly there are the plays of Hillel Mittelpunkt, which also deal with aging characters in places like Nahmani Street in Tel Aviv, the shattered ruins of the Jews of Europe. The characters of both these playwrights are expressions of an essential feeling, of which programmatic "Canaanism" is but a distortion and a coercive misrepresentation. At the same time it may be said of the books of Yaacov Shabtai that they could have been written only in Tel Aviv, and that they contain the despair of the new, which appears to have been born flawed and charred, together with the crumbling remains of the equally doomed Jewish past. One can already distinguish here the "reaction of repressed material." Judaism has taken its revenge on the proto-Canaanites of the 1940s.


By the same token, just as there is no possibility for the "Hebrew" to completely break away from the Jewish strata of his history, it is very doubtful whether the Arabic-speaking peoples of "the Land of Kedem" could possibly be separated from their Islamic-Arabic heritage and have imposed on them a Hebrew culture that is alien to them, even if many of them are Christian and Druze. After all, the Druze and Christians too feel that Arabic is their language and the language of their culture, and this does not prevent them from remaining Christians or Druze.


The "Canaanite" claim is that Hebrew is the ancient language of these peoples, that Arabic is the language of the conquerors, which has been forced on them, and that imposing Hebrew on them would not be an imposition but a liberation of their "true essence," bringing them back to their original language, the only language that came into being in the Land of Kedem and which is natural to the region.9 This cultural claim also has an obvious political aspect, which is that Hebrew is the only language that does not lead the inhabitants of the Land of Kedem to loyalties and connections outside the land. (Even though Hebrew, being the Jewish "language of the Book," the language of prayer and of inter-community communications in past generations, clearly does lead to such connections.) But it would have been just as reasonable to argue for the abolition of French and Spanish, both of them Latin dialects which developed in Gaul and Iberia while they were provinces of the Roman Empire, and to claim that the expression of the "true spirit" of the peoples of these lands required the revival of the ancient Celtic languages, their original tongues. But the fact is that France and Spain function very well as modern secular nations, with rich national cultures, despite the fact that the Latin which is the basis of their culture is not only the language of their Roman conquerors, but also has strong church affinities. Thus, even if the peoples of the region were willing to unite in some sort of broader political framework, it must be assumed that they would be willing to do so only if there was no attempt to impose on them foreign cultural and spiritual forms and contents. Hebrew language and culture are unsuitable for such a purpose. They involve much more than secular culture, and Hebrew is not a neutral language from an ethnic point of view.


Much of the criticism levelled against the "Canaanites" has been on the cultural level&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;against their drawing pictures of the past on insufficient historical evidence and inconclusive data. But such criticism largely misses the political intentions behind the cultural ideology. Through concentrating too much on Ratosh's poetic images&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;Ashtoreth, Anath, the Baal and the Asherah&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;most critics failed to grasp the political vision that, as the present writer believes, largely dictated the "official" ideology of Canaanism. Most of the critics saw it as a cultural movement, and failed to realize that its basis and principles were distinctly political.10 Thus they failed to understand the real nature of the movement.



Four political premises underlie Canaanite thought: first, the subject of a state is a nation, or, put another way&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;a state is the political expression of a nation. In this, Canaanism does not differ from the political conception of Zionism, which sees Israel as the political expression of the Jewish nation. Zionism, indeed, accepts as self-evident the basic premises of the integral European national movements. The difference is that for the Canaanites, the Jewish people is not qualified to be the subject of a state because it is not properly a nation at all.


Second, a state must be large enough and strong enough to initiate independent action. In this respect, none of the states of the Middle East&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;Israel, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, perhaps not even Iraq or Egypt&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;is capable of conducting a truly independent policy. As political units they are too small, and certainly this is the situation today, when even yesterday's super-powers, Britain, France and Germany, are no longer capable of being truly independent. As long as these units continue their separate existence, they are forced to rely on external forces to defend them, for of themselves they are too weak to maneuver independently and to defend themselves against the great powers. Conversely, the great powers exploit these regional units for their own benefit, and it is in their interest to ensure that these units will continue to be small and in conflict with each other. Otherwise, they would not need the protection of the great powers against other small units, when they in their turn are backed by another great power. The fact that Israel, for example, relies on American support, forces Syria to rely on Soviet support in its dispute with Israel. Both the Soviet Union and the United States are interested in the continuation of the Syrian-Israeli dispute, for otherwise they will not be called on for assistance and will not be able to intervene in the affairs of the region, which on top of everything else has both strategic and economic (oil) importance in the world arena.


This means that the independence, stability, and prosperity of the region, its transformation into a sovereign and independent force acting in its own interests in the play of world forces, is conditional upon its unification and the creation of a political framework common to all segments of its population. Indeed, the only times the region was not subject to the direct or indirect rule of foreign powers occurred when it was united under a single authority, as during the reigns of David and Solomon, the House of Omri, or the Khalifate of the House of Umayyah in Damascus. As long as the region is not united, it constitutes a transit route for the powers to its north and to its south. For this reason, there is no middle path: there is either unity and might, or disintegration and enslavement.


It is noteworthy that such thinking also guided the Lehi leadership during the climactic stage of the war against the British in 1946, with the publication of their pamphlet, "Guidelines for a Hebrew Foreign Policy." The goal of the struggle was defined as the establishment of a federation of Middle Eastern nations that would take a neutral position between the two great power blocs. The reasoning behind this pamphlet, as the present writer has learned in conversations with the former head of the Lehi Central Committee, Natan Yellin-Mor, was as follows: Lehi had not been fighting the British in order to get them to "rescind the policy of the White Paper" while agreeing in principle to the legitimacy of their rule in the country. Lehi saw the British as foreign imperialists that had to be expelled from the country. The liberation of only Eretz Israel, while the British continued to control the surrounding region, meant a partial liberation, and soon enough the British would be able once again to impose their will on the country by maneuvering its neighbors. That is to say: the liberation of the country depends upon the struggle for the liberation of the entire Middle East, which would be achieved by means of cooperation among its peoples, and this would lead inevitably to the establishment of a neutralist regional federation, for the reason stated above. There is no doubt, in this context, as to the reciprocal influence of Lehi and Canaanite thinking&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;and it is no accident that the first public appearance of the Canaanites was in the "Letter to the Fighters for the Freedom of Israel." One argues only with those who are closest to one.


Furthermore, this basic view was not foreign to an important segment of the Zionist leadership. Both Weizmann, in his talks with King Feisal, and Ben Gurion, in his talks with Arab leaders during the 1930s, proposed as self-evident the idea that the future Jewish state would become a full member, with equal rights, in a regional Arab federation. It seems that it was clear to them at that time that there was no long-term future for a separate and isolated Jewish state in the region.


Third, for the region to be truly independent, the political processes occurring in it must originate from the needs of the region itself, and not from considerations external to it. No regional policy can succeed if it is not rooted in the political and economic needs immanent in the region. In this respect Zionism, which is supposed to represent the interests of the Jewish people, most of whom live outside the region, or Arabism, which claims to represent an Arab nation extending from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;are no different from the various foreign imperialist powers. Zionism indeed is a classic example of a body that insists on preserving its distinction, its separate character, and endeavors to link itself with foreign imperialistic powers as a counter-weight to the local inhabitants with whom it is in conflict. These attempts begin with Herzl's solicitations to obtain a charter from the Sultan (and we should also remember the protection extended by the British to the Jews in Palestine ever since the 1830s), continue with his attempt to establish connections with German imperialism (as symbolized by his meeting with Kaiser Wilhelm II at Mikveh Yisrael), continue further with the relationship established by the Zionist movement, headed by Weizmann, with imperial Britain, and down to our own times, in the reliance, initiated by Ben-Gurion, on American power.


The "Canaanite buds" had begun to sprout even in Ben-Gurion's mind, when he insisted already in the beginning of the century on the transferral of the central Zionist executive to Palestine, and we have also mentioned the attempt of Avraham Stern to create a contact, from Palestine, with the Axis powers. It appears then that even in Zionist circles the conception was striking ever deeper roots that the needs of the nation living in the country, not the situation of Diaspora Jewry, should determine political processes. And this growing attitude is a natural outcome of the fact that every group, including the Israeli leadership, is concerned first of all with its own interests.


Fourth, the unity and power of the region cannot therefore be based on the Jewish people or the Arab people&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;not only because both are connected with much broader entities in distant and foreign lands, but also because the very definitions of these two entities imply their exclusivity. In the eyes of the Canaanites, both are connected with exclusive religious cultures, both are ethnocentric and intolerant. The attempt of either to seize control of "the Land of Kedem" means oppression, coercion, or even the expulsion or extermination of any other ethnic-communal or national body. Such an attempt would also entail an even greater aggravation of the friction in the region, as well as the subordination of the region's interests to those of people who mostly live outside it (the Jewish people or the Arab people), hence, another form of foreign intervention and rule.


Furthermore, the "Canaanite" analysis of the nature and history of the Jewish people (an analysis the present author accepts in part) claims that it is a non-territorial nation, that Jewish immigration to Eretz Israel has always been, in the main, a response to distress, and not a voluntary national act, and offers no hope for the mobilization of the human resources required for the consolidation of the region. It is even possible (and this is only a guess) that the development of such thinking during the Holocaust was influenced by the realization that the population reservoir of European Jewry would no longer be available for Zionism; thus an alternative population basis had to be sought, upon which regional unification might be based.


In other words: the federative conception proposed by Weizmann and Ben-Gurion was not accepted by the Canaanite thinkers. If we develop their line of thinking further, this was probably because even if a Middle-Eastern federation of this kind&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;a Jewish state joined with Arab states&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;were to arise, each of its components would still be influenced by extra-regional forces and interests, and these would of necessity cause the federation to be flimsy, in constant danger of disintegration. Hence there would be a need for a much more cohesive structure, one based not on the extant regional forces, but on a foundation of a new kind, which could serve as a common platform for all the populations living in the region.


In this context, the development of the Canaanite idea appears to be a deliberate creation of a single mythos for the region, aimed to neutralize the centrifugal influences at work in it, and to create an ideological basis for the formation of a new national unit, one which would encompass within it Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druzes, and the other sects and ethnic groups in the region. In this respect, the idea resembles the various national mythoi which came into being during the flowering of the national movements in Europe. The recognition of the need for such a comprehensive, integrative mythos was perhaps what led to the denial of the genuine national qualities both of Zionism and of the Arab national movement (like the ignoring of the fact that this movement was not essentially identified with Islam, and that its first thinkers had been Syrian Christians). The need to create a regional nation required this denial of competing fragmentary national consciousnesses. (Indeed, the Canaanite argument seems unassailable, if one assumes that one's goal is indeed the creation of a regional political unit&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;unless we put in question the first of the basic premises outlined above, that the necessary subject of a state is a single ethnic group.



The founders of Canaanism claimed that the primary nucleus of the emerging Hebrew nation was the existing Yishuv. The Yishuv was the most developed and most progressive body in the region, hence its younger generation would attain early development of a genuine national consciousness, liberated from Zionism, rooted in the soil of the Hebrew homeland. Its task would be to carry out the regional Hebrew revolution, to conquer all of "the Land of Kedem" and to establish in it the Hebrew national culture, liberated from both Jewish Zionism and Pan-Arabism. This liberation would be achieved in alliance with the non-Arab peoples in the region, who lived in danger of domination and repression by the Sunni-Muslim majority, which the Canaanites considered to be a barbaric and destructive element. For this reason they (and not only they) recommended the creation of an "alliance of minorities" in the Middle East as a means of breaking the Sunni-Muslim dominance: an alliance between the Hebrews in Palestine, the Druzes of Jebel Druze, the Galilee, and the Shouf Mountains, the Maronites in Lebanon, the Kurds, and others.


For this reason the founders of Canaanism sharply criticized the Israeli government for halting the Israeli army in the 1948 war at the borders of the areas densely populated by Arabs. The Canaanites interpreted this halt both as a surrender to imperialistic Anglo-American dictates, and as a self-imposed limitation by Israel to a solely Jewish-Zionist framework. The creation of the Hebrew nation in "the Land of Kedem," the poet Ratosh and the linguist Professor Horon taught, would be achieved not by cultural influence and propaganda, but by war and conquest, in the wake of which the Hebrew nation would forcibly impose Hebrew culture and nationhood on all the peoples of "the Land of Kedem," while simultaneously shaking itself free from both Zionism and Arabism.


This demand for war and conquest had two main aspects: the belief that historical action always takes place in a "Bismarckian" manner, by "blood and iron." In this the fathers of Canaanism were true heirs of the Jabotinsky school that had formed them. War is the historical action par excellence, the midwife of nations; by the force of the imperial sword their various fragments are forged into a single whole.


But how could the Hebrew nation impose its culture on the inhabitants of the region when itself it was still Jewish-Zionist, ghetto-like and insular, and all the other pejorative epithets with which the Canaanite founders labeled it?


Here we come to the second, hidden aspect of this demand: the premise that the very fact of the conquest, which would bring under Israeli rule an increasing number of non-Jewish inhabitants, would force Israel to gradually shed its exclusively Jewish character and begin to develop a Hebrew territorial politica] framework. For this reason they opposed the teaching of Arabic in Israeli schools intended for the Arab population, insisted that textbooks should be in one language only for all the children in the state, with a clear distinction between the secular-national Hebrew curriculum common to all and the different religious and ethnic programs. In effect, they recommended a policy similar to the Russification policy of the Czars, or the attempts of the Germans and the French, each in their own turn, to impose their language and culture on the population of Alsace-Lorraine, in order to make them an inseparable part of the German (or French) nation.


The dialectical&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;and grotesque&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;corollary of this approach was the consistent support by Ratosh and the orthodox Canaanites for the appropriation-settlement activities of Gush Emunim, even though they are the antithesis of Canaanism. The Canaanite assumptions in this matter have been as follows: the conquest and settlement of territories in "the Land of Kedem" would bring about a mixing of populations. The appropriator-settlers [i.e., mitnah-alim], although they are exclusivist religious Jews, are unwittingly the bearers of the Hebrew culture, albeit in a distorted religious form. The superiority of this culture will gradually bring about its percolation into the surrounding non-Jewish population, who will become "Hebraized," as has already happened to certain extent to the Arabs in the territories of "old" Israel. The fact that these two peoples live beside each other will, with time, bring them increasingly closer together, even if in the initial stages there is hostility and conflict&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;the outcome of acts of expropriation and oppression&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;but these are familiar phenomena, known since ancient times, in the history of appropriation-settlment by conquering nations. Hadn't the Vikings and the Normans&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;and before them the Saxons and the Angles&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;settled in England, each in turn ruling the previous inhabitants, sometimes in the most savage and cruel manner, and hadn't they ultimately merged together to form a single nation? The process of appropriation-settlement will bring about an irreversible situation, and then these territories will be annexed to Israel, thus creating the opportunity to struggle for equal rights and obligations of all the inhabitants, for the penetration of Hebrew culture among members of all ethnic and religious groups, for the separation from religion of the expanded state, half of whose population will I then not be Jews.


This conception assumes as self-evident that the Canaanite thinkers are attentive to and understanding of the real process of history, that they are sharers in the Hegelian "cunning of Reason." From this perspective, there is perhaps not such a great difference between them and the leaders of Gush Emunim, who are convinced that their activities correspond to the divine plan for the messianic redemption of the people of Israel.


The approach of the orthodox Canaanites to the settlement of the conquered territories lacks adequate understanding of sociological and political processes and displays a certain naivete in its assumption that mixture will lead inevitably to blending or integration. Despite the precedents of the Viking settlement in England and France, or of the Mongols in China or the Franks in Gaul (in all three cases, by the way, the conquering peoples were more primitive than the conquered, who soon assimilated their conquerors)&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;there are also the examples of the settlement of the Colons in Algeria, the English Protestants in Ireland, the Dutch in South Africa, the British and other white colonists in Rhodesia and Kenya or in North America, which did not lead to any homogenous blending of populations, but produced friction and wars of liberation, ending, in the case of North America, with the extermination of the native population, and in other cases, with the expulsion of the colonists to their mother countries. Our own region has been conquered many times during history and contains many autochthonous peoples who have been living beside each other for centuries, but they nevertheless have not merged, each of them remaining in their own ethnic-communal framework&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;be it Sunni or Shiite Muslim, Druze, Maronite or Jew.


A closer observation of these phenomena will reveal the differences between the "positive" examples on which the Canaanites base their arguments and those we have cited above. The first difference is the fact that all the examples of blending and homogenization of populations are ancient, while all the examples of the failures of such attempts are modern. I will not try here to define the differences between the ancient and modern eras, and will point out only the features characteristic of the modern failures, features which characterize also the Israeli appropriation settlements in the conquered territories.


The appropriating (or colonizing) population has a radically different culture from that of the native population. Nor is this all: both populations have opposed and isolationist ideologies, especially the Jewish one. Let us recall that as long as the Jewish ideology remained viable, the Jews did not merge into their host populations, even when they lived among them for centuries. Often they didn't even speak the language of the people among whom they lived. A group imbued by an ideology which also includes structures of behavior and rituals which are closed and crystallized, in addition to a strong sense of mission, is not liable to merge. The fact that two populations are in mechanical-external contact is in no way an indication that they will ever merge with one another. No less frequently, and sometimes more, it is source of friction and mutual hatred. In India the caste system has existed for thousands of years, and the long existence of these castes beside each other has not produced any blending.


These tensions and hatreds are much more extreme in the situation before us, since one of the populations is imposing itself on the other by force of arms. Thus a master-slave relationship is engendered here, a situation which the masters have a vested interest to perpetuate, while preserving a strict segregation from the "slaves." No dominant class or caste ever gives up its position without a hard struggle, frequently a bloody one. And as we have seen in the examples of Algeria or of the German populations of the Baltic countries after the First World War, these dominant castes join hands with reactionary forces and militarist circles in the "motherland," where they try to bring about military coups and create reactionary fascist regimes, so that these in turn may support the castes in question. The outcomes of the imposition of such castes on a native population may therefore be national disruption, dictatorship, or civil war and destruction in the "motherland." The struggle between the oppressed population and the ruling caste heightens the separate, independent and hostile self-awareness of the oppressed population, and the final outcome in most cases is the expulsion or departure of the ruling caste. Thus, instead of leading to blending and integration, this colonization creates an even more acute sharpening of the separate national consciousness of the oppressed, in contrast to the entire Canaanite conception.


In addition, it often happens that this separate consciousne arises in places where no national consciousness existed befre, as to a large extent was also the case with the rise of the Jewish national consciousness. It is also worth noting that in contrast to the intentions of the Canaanites, there appears to be no intention on the part of the Jewish appropriator-settlers to press for the official annexation of territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to Israel. If annexation takes place it would be difficult refrain from granting civic rights to the inhabitants of these territories. It is more convenient for the appropriator-settlers that thr inhabitants of the territories should continue to have Jordanian citizenship, thus avoiding the constitutional tangles which would arise with the annexation of the territories to Israel. In actuality, the real goal of the appropriator-settlers is not the enslavement the Arabs, but their expulsion, so their success&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;if they do succeed&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;will not lead to any mixing of populations.


The avoidance of annexation and of granting Israeli citizenship to the Arab population thus increasingly intensifies their separate, Palestinian, national consciousness. Even under optimal circumstances, in conditions of equality and a uniform law, the mixture that the Canaanites seek often fails in practice. The Swiss example is almost unique, and there, too, there is no mixing and integration. The different language groups&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;French, German, and Italian&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;live in separate cantons, cooperating in the federal superstructure. On the other hand, there is friction between the various linguistic and ethnic groups even in stable long-established states like Belgium and Canada, and these groups also maintain their linguistic-cultural identity despite the equality before the law and despite the fact that no section of the population there tries to attack or expropriate the other. In the conditions prevalent in the occupied territories, all that can be expected is a continuous exacerbation of conflict and hatred.


An additional point, and a most ironic one, with regard to the occupation of the territories, is the fact that it would not have been possible without the support of the United States, a support influenced to no small degree by the pressure of American Jewry. The execution of the Canaanite program requires the support of an extra-regional factor, American Jewry, this support being extended under the auspices of Zionist ideology. Furthermore, this support activates an extra-regional superpower against intra-regional forces, who would otherwise not allow Israel to hold on to its loot. Thus, the execution of the Canaanites' "grand design" requires the use of means which negate it a priori. The present author at one time posed this argument to Yonatan Ratosh, whose reply suggested that every political body is entitled to obtain external support, no matter from which quarter, in order to realize its political goals. The result is that these political goals are in effect identical with those of the most extreme religious and rightist wing of Zionism, and they involve the effective surrender of political independence, because in return for this external support Israel is obliged to serve America's political-strategic goals in the region and to play America's game against the Soviet Union. The aspirations which Begin and Sharon had at a certain stage, to obtain a strategic understanding with the United States, constitute an acceptance of the logic of dependence on American power, and an attempt to create a greater obligation on the part of this power towards its Israeli prot&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#233;g&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#233;. This is the situation of an absolute satellite of the United States. This is also an ironic offshoot of the Israeli Right's pretensions to independence and national pride.



The strategic thinking of the orthodox Canaanites did not go as far as to understand that the only possible condition for the neutralization of the Middle East and the unification of "the Land of Kedem" was not the attainment of greater power by one of the states in the region. No regional state could, by itself, in the foreseeable future, muster the power to deter the superpowers from interfering in the region's affairs. But the two great powers should be brought to a mutual understanding that it is in both their interests to withdraw from the region and to allow it to develop independently towards unification. This has already occurred once, in the agreement between them on the restoration of political independence to Austria (though one should not ignore the great differences between the Middle East and the situation that existed at that time in Central Europe).


Furthermore, any attempt to activate Israel's military might to conquer a part of the region would provoke that part to immediately ask for the support of the superpower opposed to the one that supports Israel, and then inter-bloc pressures would be applied in order to stop Israel. The Lebanon war has clearly shown that although Israel's theoretical military strength&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;i.e., the amount of mobility /fire-power which it can deploy against its regional enemies&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;is sufficient for the conquest of the entire Middle East, since there is no Arab army that can stand up to the IDF in the field, its real strength is not adequate even to seize control of Lebanon or of its capital, Beirut. The balance of international and regional forces within which Israel must operate will prevent her from doing this. For as long as the superpowers are involved in the region, it is in their common interest to prevent the takeover of the entire region by a local power, since this will deny them their foothold. It is in their common interest to keep the dispute simmering on a low fire, for the disputes are what enable them to intervene between the disputants. Hence the ejection of external influences from the region can come about only by means of an agreement among its local components, who could then present to the superpowers a proposal for neutralization, with guarantees that the legitimate interests of these powers would not be harmed, and that in the future the region will not serve as a base which could threaten either one of them.


A part of the operating plan of the Canaanites for progress towards the unification of "the Land of Kedem " under Hebrew rule, is the idea of the alliance of minorities, i.e., the forming of an alliance between the Hebrew nation in Israel and the ethnic groups and religious sects oppressed by "Sunni-Arabic Islam," such as the Maronites, the Druzes, the Shiites, and the Kurds, in order to break the regional supremacy of the Sunni Muslims.


This idea did not originate with the Canaanites. It was proposed as early as the beginning of this century by the Gideonites,11 later by Itamar Ben-Avi,12 and then again by various Zionist forces which sought integration within the region. It will be recalled that in 1967 Yigal Allon expressed his regret that during the Six-Day War the IDF had not advanced as far as Jebel Druze, in order to "liberate" the Druzes there and to create a link with them which, he believed, would have undermined the structure of the Syrian state.


As long as the premise stood that compromise between the Hebrew national entity in Israel and the Sunni-Arab world was impossible, and as long as the Arabic-speaking states in the region remained distinctly Sunni-Muslim in character&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;a character that automatically discriminates against all other elements in the population&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;there was a certain logic in the aspiration to undermine the Sunni supremacy in the region. It is worth noting, by the way, that the people in the mainstream of Yishuv leadership were of the opposite opinion, that this would lead to a permanent conflict with the majority in the Arab Middle East, a situation anti-thetical to the final goal of Zionism. The very idea of an "alliance of minorities" thus entails the premise of a permanent conflict between the Arab world and the Hebrew nation (although Ratosh did propose the possiblity that the Arab world and Jewish Zionism might come to an arrangement, each of them being a representative of a worldwide religious dispersion. But this could not be a national arrangement; at the most it could be an arrangement between communities who by their very natures are reactionary and intolerant, hence such an arrangement would not make possible a genuine national life).


But if the idea of an "alliance of minorities" is proposed as part of a process aimed at the establishment of a Hebrew nation in the whole of "the Land of Kedem," the very fact of such an alliance would become an obstacle to the establishment of such a Hebrew nation. Ethnic groups like the Druzes, the Maronites, and the Kurds, being minorities, even if they ally themselves with each other and with the Israelis, will still constitute a numerical minority and will still occupy only limited territories within the Arab-Sunni space. Granting the premise of Sunni-Arab supremacy, this Sunni-Arab power will always be able to foment disputes among the various groups, to offer one of them its assistance against the others, and, above all&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;because the Sunni-Arab element is the largest and most enduring force in the area&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;the various groups will always prefer to form an alliance with it rather than with each other, because from it they can receive greater benefits than from each other. Furthermore, since these groups, all except the Hebrew-Israeli nation, are tolerated minorities among the Sunni-Arab population, they have never developed any true state-political thinking. They deal in sectarian politics, not in state strategy. Like the Jewish communities in their dispersions, they are concerned not with the structure and future of the region, but with their own narrow interests, and they are not capable of looking beyond these. They are thus more backward, in terms of political development, than the Sunni-Arab group, which is the one which has established most of the states in the region, and has therefore had to contend, from the outset, with real state-political problems, including the structural problems deriving from the existence of the above-mentioned minorities. For that reason, the Arab national movement has developed as a result of an alliance between Christians and Sunnis. As for the argument about the inevitable hostility between a Hebrew state and Sunni Arabism&http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#151;the fact is that the first peace treaty between Israel and the Arabs was signed with the largest Sunni-Arab state of all, the actual leader of the Arab world. This is to say: an "alliance of minorities" would in fact be an alliance with the regressive elements in the region, elements which hold back the region's political development towards broader and more objective political frameworks. The very idea of the creation of a single regional nation-state just cannot be based on opposition to the Sunni-Arab majority. Any unit of the kind must include this majority as its principal component. Otherwise it cannot exist.


The original Canaanite approach stressed the development of a Hebrew cultural consciousness, and the state appeared to Ratosh and his associates as an expression of the national essence. Here, hopefully, we have raised enough points to show that there is no possible chance of creating a lingual-cultural-national unity of the region that has been defined as "the Land of Kedem." Yet the formation of a neutral political framework that dictates no national, cultural, or ethnical contents, and is structured as a federation or a confederation, is a reasonable possibility. The existing states of the region could function as components in a political union of this kind, whereas their dissolution (which is what an "alliance of minorities" implies) would be regressive in terms of the process of the unification of the region. We find, then, that the program for the unification of "the Land of Kedem" on the basis of an Israeli conquest and the imposition of Hebrew culture on the inhabitants in order to create a unified "Hebrew nation" throughout the whole region meets with insoluble contradictions, and that only an agreement of union among the region's components, according to which each will maintain its autonomy, can be a solution of these contradictions.



On some points, however, the Canaanites were right.


First, Canaanite thought brought to a full logical development and conclusion the basic theses of secular political Zionism, which aspired to a normalization of the Jewish people. The Hebrew nation towards which the Canaanite thinkers aspired was in fact, to a decisive extent, the nation that had been the aim of Herzl, Jabotinsky and Borochov, and to a certain extent of Ben-Gurion too: an open, secular nation, in which religion is separated from state, and which is capable of absorbing members of other faiths and nations too. The thesis we have attempted to prove is that without the establishment of a political entity of this kind, the State of Israel can not long survive.


The sharp distinction between "Jew" and "Hebrew," though the Canaanites were not quite able to explain how the one evolved from the other, is nevertheless an essential distinction for the creation of the Israeli nation. The ideological impasse reached by the Canaanites was in their failure to grasp that the solution did not lie in the creation of a Hebrew nation but in the creation of a state-framework which will not impose values and contents, a nation-state framework of the West European or North American type, which allows for cultural and ethnic pluralism within the framework of a shared and neutral citizenship. Such a state will exist on a completely different level to that of the present Jewish community, so that someone might be an Israeli Jew in the same way that a British subject is an English Protestant, without these two definitions being identical even though there exists a close dialectical-historical connection between them. Another correct Canaanite conception, and perhaps the truest of all, is the realization that real independence and peace in our region are dependent on the creation of overall political frameworks that are much broader than the existing ones. The Canaanite belief that a prerequisite for such broader frameworks is a common national ethos, without which fragmentation will occur, appears erroneous. Such an ethos might well develop in time as an outcome of the establishment of a common framework, as in the development of a "European" spirit in the framework of the Common Market, but not as a precondition. To be precise: the "European" spirit does not replace national loyalties in Europe, but stands above them and transcends them. It does not contradict them, but exists on a completely different plane, one which to a certain extent is a kind of reconciliation of those national loyalties. The attempt to impose an artificial Hebrew nationhood on the region conflicts with affinities so profound and broad that it has no chance of defeating them. But the creation of a framework that functions on a different plane may neutralize them and eliminate the fear that the unity may be disrupted by the centrifugal tendencies of Zionism or Pan-Islamism, in the same way that the inter-Jewish or inter-Irish affinities do not subvert the federal framework of the United States.

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1. See his From Hebrew to Canaanite: Episodes in the Ideological and Utopian History of the "Hebrew Renaissance" (Hebrew), Jerusalem (Domino publishers) 1984. In my review of this book, which appeared in the Literary Supplement of Yediot Ahronot on March 2, 1984, I questioned several of Shavit's claims and conclusions. Nevertheless, the book contains most of the material relevant to the subject and its bibliographical notes and appendices provide keys to much of what it does not contain.

2. Yishuv (settlement): the Jewish community in Palestine up to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

3. Lehi is the acronym for "Fighters for the Freedom of Israel," or the organization the British called "The Stern Gang."

4. Details of this affair are provided by Natan Yellin-Mor in his book, Fighters for the Freedom of Israel (Hebrew), Tel Aviv (Shikmonah Publications) 1974. Yellin-Mor tries to represent the affair as an attempt to rescue what could still be salvaged from among the Jews of Europe, and claims that Stern foresaw the victory of the Allies, and considered the contact with the Nazis merely as a tactical move. On this point, however, other interpretations are possible. Nor, by the way, may one ignore the influence of the poet Ratosh on Stern. They were close friends at the time when the latter was consolidating his conception about the centrality of the nation dwelling in Eretz Israel.

5. In recent years we have witnessed frequent hijackings of planes and even ships, with many civilians on board, by armed terrorists. To date we have not read of a single instance in which the hostages, members of many nations, have dared to rise up against their captors, even when the latter had begun to kill them one by one. And these victims of hijackings had not been subjected for months and years to humiliation, starvation, and intimidation, as had the Jews and the other victims of the Nazis.

6. The pamphlet itself bears no date, but its author, Yonatan Ratosh, told the present author that its year of publication was 1943.

7. A word of many definitions and rich associations. Kedem means the East; the ancient time; and the front, that which is before one (Tr.).

8. On this matter there is no agreement among scholars. Is the fact that there is a linguistic affinity among the dialects used in this region, and even similarities among the religious beliefs and rituals that prevailed here, an evidence of a common culture, or of a common store of beliefs and opinions? Were the peoples in the region possessors of a common culture like that of the Greeks, despite the latter's political divisions? Also, a common language is not proof of a common national consciousness, just as the fact that the English and the Irish both speak English does not attest to their being one nation. But on the other hand, the fact that the nations of Europe speak many languages, whose distant origins are Latin, Germanic, Celtic and ancient Slavonic, is not proof that they do not share a common civilization.

9. It is worth noting that the Canaanite movement was not the only one in the region that championed the idea of liberation from late layers of religious civilizlition. There was also a Phoenician movement in Lebanon that aspired to return to the Tyrean-Sidonic Canaanite origins of Lebanese culture; and in Egypt there was a Pharaonic movement that aspired to a similar goal for Egypt. Both of these were in revolt against the dominant Islamic culture. All three are without doubt expressions of the process of crystallization of modern national consciousnesses, which generate as usual myths of a glorious distant national past that must be revived.

10. The author David Shahar, in a television appearance in the summer of 1985, described his youthful enthusiasm for the archaic world Canaanite thought had revealed to him, and his subsequent great disappointment when in conversations with Ratosh, the latter refrained completely from a discussion of those topics and would speak only about current political affairs. I believe that this is a sufficient hint at Ratosh's real interests.

11. A group of young Jewish farmers in Palestine in the beginning of the century.

12. A journalist and newspaper editor in the first part of the century, the son of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, "the Revivifier of the Hebrew Language."

Table of Contents and Paragraph Index



1.1. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 1.2. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 1.3. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 1.4. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 1.5. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 1.6. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 1.7. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 1.8. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 1.9.


2.1. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 2.2. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 2.3. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 2.4. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 2.5. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 2.6. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 2.7. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 2.8.


3.1. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 3.2. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 3.3. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 3.4. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 3.5. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 3.6. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 3.7. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 3.8. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 3.9. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 3.10. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 3.11.


4.1. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 4.2. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 4.3. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 4.4. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 4.5. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 4.6. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 4.7. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 4.8. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 4.9. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 4.10. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 4.11. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 4.12. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 4.13. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 4.14.


5.1. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 5.2. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 5.3. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 5.4. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 5.5. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 5.6. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 5.7.


6.1. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 6.2. &http://eagle.orgfree.com/alabasters_archive/#149; 6.3.

About the Author

Boaz Evron is a journalist and researcher. (from The Jerusalem Quarterly)

Boas Evron is Founder and Director of the Israeli Arts Council's Project of Translations of Classics into Hebrew. A former columnist and critic, he has also served as Acting Principal of Israel's National School of Drama and as Chairman of the Israeli Drama Critics' Association. His previous publications include The Quality of Freedom and the Hebrew edition of this volume, and he has contributed articles and essays to Granta, Le Monde, and L'Esprit. (from the book Jewish State or Israeli Nation?)

Further Reading on Hebrew Canaanism

Two Brief Introductions to Hebrew Canaanism by Ron Kuzar

The Canaanist Platform translated by James S. Diamond

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

The Vision of the New Hebrew Nation and its Enemies by Yaacov Shavit

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