Hannah Arendt and Zionism

Gabriel Piterberg in The New Left Review:

What was her alternative? From 1940 onwards, Arendt argued that the appropriate—non-Zionist—political solution to the Jewish Question would be a European federation, in which the Jews would be one nation among others, with representation in a common parliament: ‘our fate can only be bound up with that of other small European peoples’; a settlement in Palestine might also be feasible, but only if attached to some such European commonwealth. [20] On the principle of a federation she never wavered; it was based on her rejection of the idea both of the nation-state and of ‘minorities’ within it, given eloquent historical expression in—among other texts—Origins of Totalitarianism. Historically, her vision of the role of Jews in one could be regarded (although she was certainly unaware of this) as a virtual replication of Otto Bauer’s solution for the Austro-Hungarian empire in The Nationalities Question and Social Democracy; while her prediction of a European federation equipped with its own parliament has, of course, been substantially vindicated, however far the eu remains from such a federal union. It also reflects her life-long engagement with Bernard Lazare. In opposition to Herzlian Zionism, Lazare advocated ‘nations within a nation’, a structure within which the Jews could find their place as a collective without needing either to emigrate or assimilate. Though Arendt did not adhere to an anarchist world-view, Lazare’s writings continued to inform her critique of the 19th-century nation-state and of Herzl’s bourgeois-nationalist Zionism.