zionism and primordialism

Download (5)Ori Weisberg at The Forward:

Indeed, today’s Zionists often view Israel not as a modern state, but as the rebirth of ancient sovereignty. And yet, this view is not absolutely historically accurate, either. While artifacts certainly substantiate the existence of a Jewish presence in ancient Israel, this view projects a modern nationalist movement onto a historical period that predates nationalism by four millennia.

And just as Abbas’s comments hurt the chances of negotiations, the Jewish narrative is also hurting both Israelis and Palestinians alike.

For it’s not as simple as saying that Jews lived in Israel in ancient times, therefore the land belongs to the modern Jewish state. Zionism successfully activated anticipatory claims embedded in Jewish tradition, yet it is nevertheless very much a modern nationalist movement.

This move is hardly unique to Zionism. Nationalist movements often stake their legitimacy on claims to antiquity; it’s a trope academic historians call “primordialism”.

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