Postcolonial Theory and the History of Zionism

Gideon Shimoni. Israel Affairs. Volume 13, Issue 4. October 2007.

For the historian whose academic-scientific discipline aims to attain particularizing rather than generalizing forms of knowledge, theory—any theory—serves not as an end in itself, but rather as a methodological tool for attaining an ultimately empirically grounded understanding and explanation of a particular phenomenon—in the present case, Zionism. The question addressed in this paper is: what does or can postcolonial theory offer for genuine historical understanding of this phenomenon?

Navigating the almost impenetrably jargon-drenched epistemological field of postcolonial theory with an open-minded attitude, sine ira et studio, it seems to me that in essence postcolonial theory posits ‘colonialism’ and ‘postcolonialism’ as a paradigmatic lens for observing, understanding and explaining the conditions of existence and consciousness of one’s object of enquiry. Its chief insight is that perceptions, and consequently representations, of the ‘Other’ are universally characterized by self-serving distortions of a deprecatory nature. The pungency of this insight derives from its fusion with the complementary Foucaultian-cum-Gramscian perceptions, that colonialist discourse is an insidious instrument of power, control, domination, and exploitation. Hence, it is a paramount factor in the determination of all forms of power politics, literature, identity-formation and inter-group relations. Proponents of postcolonial theory therefore accord absolute primacy to this factor in their purported comprehension of an ever widening range of political, societal, cultural, literary, and artistic phenomena.

The putative colonialist discourse considered in the present instance is that dubbed by Edward Said ‘Orientalism’. He describes this as a discourse in the guise of scientific enquiry, which fosters deprecatory representations of the Orient (of which Said focused primarily on the Arab Islamic societies and their culture). These serve the function of sustaining hegemonic Western power and domination. Moreover, to label anything colonialist or Orientalist is to stigmatize it beyond repair. Said’s original accusatory revelations were of course acerbically directed at the academic category of Orientalist scholars, but postcolonial theory has broadened this base to encompass ever so much more, to the point where any hegemonic discourse of Otherness is code-worded as Orientalism. As Bernard Lewis has noted, Edward Said succeeded in transforming the word ‘Orientalism’ from being a description of specialist study of the societies and peoples of the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia to being a term of political abuse. The postcolonial paradigm has become an ideological tool for automatically valorizing and stigmatizing respectively the putative victims and perpetrators of all that is dubbed colonial or Orientalist discourse.

However, this essay ignores the partisan ideological function of postcolonial theory and addresses only its substantive core. Only the following historiographical question is posed: what is the value of this postcolonial theory or explanatory paradigm for acquiring empirically evidenced knowledge on the phenomenon of Zionism? That is to say, for comprehending (a) its causality, genesis, and development, issuing in the establishment of the State of Israel, and (b) the interaction of Zionists with their sociopolitical environment in Palestine, issuing in the chronic Israel-Arab conflict.

The Genesis of Zionism

Applying the postcolonialist theory or paradigm, the following insights become evident: the situation of the Jews within the majority societies of their domicile prior to the nineteenth century process of Jewish emancipation was in many significant respects like that of colonized peoples all over the world. That is to say, the Jews were ‘subaltern’ victims, subject to various forms of domination by the majority society, not least of them being a hegemonic cultural discourse that represented Jews as the quintessential Oriental Other.

Accordingly, many of the characteristic effects of the colonial situation that are illuminated by postcolonial theory can be comparably identified in European Jewry. Salient among these effects is the subaltern’s creation of its own counter-narratives in defensive reaction to the prejudiced ‘Orientalist’ discourse. It is demonstrable that the Enlightenment enterprise of Wissenschaft des Judentums in German Jewry was just such a self-empowering counter-narrative in reaction to hegemonic Christian representations of the Jew. Furthermore, post-emancipation Jewish behaviour can also be shown to exhibit various mutations and hybrid modes of Jewish identity of the same kind as have been highlighted by such luminaries of postcolonial theory as Homi Bhabha. These include mimicry of the dominant Other and internalization of its deprecatory images of the Jew, issuing in sharp self-reproach and even blatant self-hatred such as may be illustrated by the infamous Selbst-Haas case of Otto Weininger in fin-de-siècle Vienna.

Moreover, not only was the intellectual and symbolic image of the subaltern Jew, which the dominant majority (analogous to the colonizing regime) fostered, a patent example of self-serving, prejudiced and distorted ‘representation’, but one of the most pervasive facets of this representation was its characterization as essentially alien—’oriental’ in nature. This was contrasted depreciatively with the superior occidental culture, values and aesthetics of the hegemonic ‘representers’, so to speak, of the Jews. It is not a coincidence that the code-word for Jew-hatred that became current from the time Wilhelm Marr propagated it in the mid-1870s was ‘anti-Semitismus’, as it has remained to this day. So-called ‘Semitism’ was an invented image related to the occidental construction of the so-called ‘Orient’.

The association of Jews with the Orient is also strikingly evident in the Ottoman-style turbans of figures such as David and Uriah as depicted in the works of Rembrandt. Typically, in much European art of Christian inspiration going back many centuries, the divine Jesus is depicted as a quintessentially occidental figure by contrast with the obviously Oriental biblical Jews. Moreover, that Jews themselves internalized and nurtured this oriental image is reflected, for example, in the Moorish-style architecture of many European synagogues. Later, other less benign expressions of this internalization are the attitude evinced by some of the well acculturated German Jews to immigrant ‘Ostjuden’ (from Eastern Europe) and, still later, the attitude of some of Ashkenazi Jews in Israel to ‘Mizrahi’ (Oriental) Jews.

Postcolonial theory can thus be said to provide apposite elucidation of the Jewish condition and attendant identity mutations within the Jewish intelligentsia which emerged in European Jewry as an outcome of the period of societal transition from pre-modernity to modernity. The author’s own explanatory account of the genesis of Jewish nationalism in its Zionist form has shown the importance of these identity complexes in generating two different segments of the European Jewish Intelligentsia. One was the ‘integrationists’, who sought to slough off the traces of Jewish ethnicity, leaving a purely religious identity assumed to be compatible with Christian denominations. The other segment was the ‘ethnicists’, whose search for a synthesis between traditional roots and the attractions and demands of modernity made for self-affirming Jewish ethnicity. This ethnicist segment resisted the powerful assimilatory thrust of the modernizing Jewish intelligentsia at large, and began to shape a Jewish cultural-nationalism in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

At the same time, frustrated by the intractable antisemitic reaction to Jewish integration, a growing number of disillusioned integrationist intelligentsia—Theodor Herzl, founder of the Zionist organization in 1897, was the prototype—experienced attendant identity dilemmas, of a ‘postcolonial’ nature. Abandoning the aspiration for integration and assimilation, these individuals underwent a radical identity transformation that led them not only to converge with the ethnicists, but even to assume leadership roles in propelling Jewish ethnic self-affirmation toward fully fledged nationalism in the form of Zionism. It is noteworthy that much the same self-identity syndrome caused founders of other national movements in the colonialism-dominated world—examples are Gandhi and Nehru in India or Nkrumah in Africa—to rebound from their frustrated trajectory of assimilation into the cultural and social orbit of their colonial masters so far as to become founding-leaders of their own ethnic group’s nationalist movement.

Thus Zionism was essentially a particular response, competing within a spectrum of alternative responses, to the impact of modernity on the actual conditions of existence of Jews, conditions which are analogous to those experienced by the intelligentsia of colonized Africans and Asians. The spark that set off the Zionist national movement was this radical identity transformation of a growing number of the Jewish intelligentsia (following the example set by Leo Pinsker in Russia and Theodor Herzl in Austria) who were already highly integrated into European society but radically changed their sense of self-identity and ideological orientation. This began to happen in the last third of the nineteenth century. Like other nationalisms, Zionism’s propagation also involved inventive cultural excavation and construction that issued in invented traditions of the kind revealed by Eric Hobsbawm in various national movements, but even so drew heavily on the age-old, perennial, ethno-symbolic roots of the Jews, in processes of interaction and hybridity of the same kind illuminated by postcolonial theory. Indicative of this is the fact that internalization of the dominant social stratum’s disparaging discourse left its mark also on some members of the Jewish intelligentsia turned Zionist, just as happened within the intelligentsia of Africans and Asians under colonization and in its postcolonial aftermath. This phenomenon is reflected in the person of Theodor Herzl himself. Indeed, it became a source of intra-Zionist controversy when some of the severer ‘negators of the galut [exile]’ within Zionist ranks spawned expressions of Jewish self-reproach bordering on self-hatred.

Returning, by way of concluding this section of the essay, to postcolonial theory’s moralistic posturing and attendant valorizing and stigmatizing function, one may therefore pose a rhetorical question: if postcolonial theory is applicable for comprehension of Zionism’s genesis, then ought not knee-jerk, postcolonialist moralistic privileging of all subaltern victims of colonial-like domination also apply to the case of Zionism?

The Arab-Jewish Conflict

The focus of the second part of the question under consideration is: what value has a postcolonial theory perspective for comprehending the genesis and nature of the Arab-Jewish conflict? It would seem that a prerequisite for addressing this question is examination of Edward Said’s a priori stigmatization of Zionism as a case of European colonialism—’Zionist settler colonialism’. ‘Everything the Zionists did in Palestine, they did, of course, as settler colonialists’, he states categorically. Displaying a dogmatic essentialism astonishingly self-contradictory for one who condemns ‘Orientalist’ scholars primarily for the intellectual crime of essentialism, he allows himself statements such as: ‘Zionism never spoke of itself unambiguously as a Jewish liberation movement, but rather as a Jewish movement for colonial settlement in the Orient’, and, to cite another example, ‘Zionism and European imperialism are epistemologically, hence historically and politically, coterminous in their view of resident natives.’ Such statements are integral to Said’s transparently one-eyed partisanship throughout. Shunning any balance in characterizing each side’s presentation of the ‘Other’ in the conflict, he generalizes wildly on the putative ‘Zionist racial presentation of non-Jews in Palestine’ but ignores the prejudiced representation of Jews deeply ingrained in Muslim-Arab traditions. Thus nothing is said of the degradations deriving from the traditional dhimmi status of Jews as a tolerated but subordinate and oft-humiliated religious minority within the realm of Islam; not to speak of consequent self-righteous indignation at any expressions of Jewish assertiveness, and the pathological shame-and-honour syndrome which precludes any thought of Jewish sovereignty within any part whatsoever of the claimed geo-political realm of Islam. Moreover, as unquestionably sound scholarship has shown, Arab representations of Jews have increasingly projected unmistakably antisemitic motifs, avidly adopted from Christian Europe.

Any impartial and empirical examination of Zionist intentions and praxis in the comparative context of colonialism should begin with the observation that the mid-eastern region in which Zionist settlement first began to take place in the 1880s was itself under Ottoman imperial-colonial domination. After dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, Zionist settlement continued under the ambiguous political aegis of Great Britain in the form of a League of Nations-sanctioned ‘mandate’, itself a form of colonial rule. Thus a colonial situation with all attendant manifestations of colonialist praxis existed in that part of the Middle East prior to Zionist settlement and concurrently with it.

This is not to deny that Zionism compounded the situation with its own colonizing praxis. Nor is it to deny the academic validity of an approach that seeks to examine Zionist settlement in this region of the Ottoman Empire, and thereafter in Palestine under the British Mandate, in the comparative context of the general phenomenon of colonialism. According to sociologist Gershon Shafir, the major proponent of this approach, the settlement practice of the Zionist movement evolved in its early stages (from about 1882 to 1905) into a type of ‘ethnic plantation colony’, the Jewish settlers acquiring land by purchase and employing local labour. He argues that thereafter it adopted a ‘pure settlement model’ of colony which sought to exclude local native labour.

It is also demonstrable that the conceptual discourse conducted by some of the Zionist movement’s founders and early leaders in Europe, as well as some of the Zionist settlers, can be shown to have exhibited attitudes to, and images of, the Arab ‘Other’ comparable to those labelled ‘Orientalism’ by Edward Said. That is to say, there were some Zionists who harboured a sense of Eurocentric cultural, technological, and moral superiority and an attendant sense of mission civilisatrice supposedly to uplift the Levant and make its neglected landscape flower. Of course, this is readily explicable in terms of the fin-de-siècle European cultural and intellectual milieu which was the common background of the first generation of Zionists.

Yet this is far from painting the whole picture. For it is also true that other Zionist settlers evinced a countervailing tendency to romanticize and idealize the Orient. In early Zionism, there was in fact an ongoing tension between negative and positive attitudes towards ‘the Orient’. In an exhaustive study of the attitudes of early Zionist settlers, Tel Aviv University historian Yosef Gorny found it empirically necessary to suggest a taxonomy of attitudes, which included a major category that he described as ‘the integrative outlook’. This involved various Zionist personalities, some of Ashkenazi background, for example the educator Yitzhak Epstein and the writer Yehoshua Radler-Feldmann, and others of Sephardi-Mizrachi (meaning Oriental) background, such as Dr. Nissim Malul and Eliyahu Sapir. Opposed to them was another category, labelled by Gorny ‘the separatist outlook’. Its spokesmen included the historian and writer Joseph Klausner and the charismatic leader Vladimir Jabotinsky, perhaps the most articulate advocate of identification with the Occident. It is indicative of the integrationist outlook’s valence that Jabotinsky found it necessary to apply his formidable polemical talents to spirited combat against what he described as its misguided ‘Arabesque fashion’. He utterly rejected its idealization of the putatively virtuous Orient in contrast to its depiction of contaminated European civilization. ‘We are going to the Land of Israel’, he insisted, ‘in order to advance Europe’s moral boundaries to the Euphrates.’ The tension between these two outlooks was rooted in opposing poles of Weltanschauung and can be traced throughout the development of Zionism and Israel to this very day. En route one encounters several political transmutations of the liberal compromise-for-peace Weltanschauung, for example Brith Shalom from 1925 to the early 1930s, followed by Kedma Mizraha (Toward the Orient) and the Ihud movement into the 1940s.

It is not only because attitudes toward the Orient in fact varied between positive and negative poles that comparison with the phenomenon of colonialism fails to provide adequate historical comprehension of either Zionism or the Jewish-Arab conflict. More importantly, only full recognition of the fundamental ontological nature of Zionism as an ethno-nationalist ideology and movement can provide genuine historical comprehension of Zionism. Even if aspects of the colonization praxis of Zionism can be shown to be similar to theoretical models of colonialism, Zionism’s essentially nationalist nature renders it uniquely different from all such models in aspects of paramount explanatory significance. Foremost of these is the obvious fact that, unlike almost every known case of colonialism, Zionist settlement in Palestine neither emanated from, nor acted in the interests of, a state or metropolitan centre outside of Palestine. In such circumstances it is possible to have colonization without colonialism, much as fin-de-siècle organized immigration of Jews from Eastern Europe to Argentina and the establishment there of agricultural colonies with the support of philanthropist Baron De Hirsch, was a case of colonization without colonialism. The colonizing praxis of Zionism was never an end in itself; it developed, alongside energetic political diplomacy and ramified cultural renascence, essentially as a strategy of nationalism; a tool rendered indispensable in the socioeconomic circumstances of the time and place in which Jewish nationalist aspirations were played out.

Hence the telling economic fact that the Zionist movement characteristically invested in Palestine rather than in any way drawing profit or resources out of it. Furthermore, and once again because purely nationalist motives were the very essence of all Zionist practice, the Zionist labour groups, which generated the major part of the movement’s practical progress in Palestine, consciously cultivated downward social mobility of Jewish immigrants to Palestine in order to create a Jewish peasant and working class. The nationalist objective of Zionism made this an ideological imperative. Thus exploitation of local Arab labour was eschewed and the main thrust of all socioeconomic development was toward segmented Jewish development in both economic and political spheres. The aim of ‘normalizing’ the socioeconomic character of the Jewish people in order to shape the Jewish segment of Palestine’s population (known in Hebrew as the yishuv) into a-state-on-the-way, necessitated as much autarky and separate development as was possible. This is not to say that there is no evidence of Jewish settlers’ economic self-interest and exclusionary policies in relation to Arab labour, such as may be revealed by conventional market-economy analysis. But it does mean that, in the final analysis, these must be contextualized historically within the framework of Zionism’s overriding nationalist purpose of attaining sovereign Jewish statehood, in order to provide what Zionists conceived ideologically as the only viable solution for the existential ‘Jewish problem’ in both its material and cultural aspects.

Thus, the colonialist-model exercise, exemplified by Gershon Shafir’s work, rests on a fallacy: denial at worst, or blurring at best, of the primacy of nationalist motivation and intention in Zionism. This results from tendentious structural analysis devoid of causality and detached from historical context, and from an attendant preconceived theoretical privileging of consequences over intentions. From the vantage point of empirical historiography this is unacceptable. It results in a topsy-turvy or inverted explanatory logic of the kind that issues, by way of illustration, in a typical Shafir statement that ‘the struggle for “the conquest of labour” in fact transformed the Jewish workers into militant nationalists’, whereas the patently correct fact is that those Zionist Jewish workers came to Palestine already as nationalists, being the products of Zionism as a nationalist movement whose genesis was within the European context. Their principle of self-labour and aspiration to create a class of Jewish workers was the outcome of their militant nationalist motivation, not its cause.

The same essentially nationalist context applies to comprehension of the place that symbolic ‘Orientalist’ discourse played in the history of Zionism. As noted above, although there is evidence of such discourse, from the outset there was a countervailing symbolic discourse valorizing the ‘Orient’ and romantically casting Zionism as a Jewish return to its glorious Oriental roots. Accordingly, the proper historical context for appreciating the very fact that the discourse of some Zionists contradicted the normative Eurocentric ‘Orientalist’ default is the nationalist essence of the Zionist enterprise. Valorizing the Orient and romanticizing the putative Oriental roots of the Jewish people was perceived by its votaries as advantageous for the pursuit of essentially nationalist ends, much as deprecating the Orient served the same nationalist purposes for the rival Zionist school of thought, exemplified by Jabotinsky.

In terms of the prevalent anti-Israel catechism of many ‘Third World’ and radical leftist ideologues, labelling something ‘colonialist’ or ‘Orientalist’ is invariably predicated on moralistic judgements that robotically valorize any seemingly social ‘subaltern’ and stigmatize any seemingly privileged social group. So, other than gratifying those who seek to malign if not de-legitimize Israel, what does a postcolonial theory perspective contribute to comprehension of the nature of the conflict that developed between Jews and Arabs? It does, of course, help us to understand the subjective Arab perception of Zionism. But, other than this, it has no explanatory value for comprehending the Jewish-Arab conflict.

More illuminating is the question whether there is reasonable evidentiary basis for assuming that it would have made any difference if Zionists and their colonizing praxis had been entirely free of any and every ‘sin’ of Orientalist discourse such as postcolonial theorists are apt to identify? Surely the answer is a resounding ‘no’, once again because the core of the conflict is nationalism, not social relations or individual human and civic rights. Each side in the conflict offered human and civic rights to the other, at any rate at the most refined level of argumentation. It has always been a conflict between two national movements, seeking national self-fulfilment, ultimately in the form of sovereign national self-determination in the same territory—Eretz Israel for the Jews, Filastin for the Arabs. Consequently, there is a tragic zero-sum game at the core of this intractable conflict. Neither ignorance nor prejudiced discourses are its causes, although they certainly were aggravating factors. Empirical enquiry into the conflict may identify distorted Orientalist and Occidentalist representations respectively by Jews of the Arab ‘Other’ and by Arabs of the Jewish ‘Other’, and one may infer by way of hypothesis that cognitive dissonance and states of denial were at play concerning the validity or reality of the other’s case. But the evidence for the Zionist side (and one would assume it is likely that the same holds for the Arab side) shows overwhelmingly that its leadership was never blinded to reality by Orientalist representations of the Other. Zionist leaders recognized, however reluctantly, that the Arab Other had a valid claim but believed, and argued accordingly, that the Jewish claim deserved precedence on the grounds of the Jews having a greater existential need. The Zionists argued that, for the Arabs, possessing a dual pan-Arab as well as a local Palestinian national need, absence or impairment of national self-determination in Filastin would admittedly constitute a wound, whereas for the Jews, having no other place or opportunity whatsoever, denial of national self-determination in Eretz Israel would be a fatal death blow, not merely a wound. In the final analysis the Zionist case over the right to national self-determination in Eretz Israel was thus based on greater existential need and the utilitarian moral principle of doing the maximum of good and the minimum of harm in the circumstances of the clash between two just national claims. Thus even Jabotinsky, exemplifying the right wing of the Zionist movement, stated to the Peel commission in 1937:

It is quite understandable that the Arabs of Palestine would also prefer Palestine to be the Arab State No. 4, No. 5, or No. 6—that I quite understand; but when the Arab claim is confronted with our Jewish demand to be saved, it is like the claims of appetite versus the claims of starvation. No tribunal has ever had the luck of trying a case where all the justice was on the side of one party and the other party had no case whatsoever. Usually in human affairs any tribunal, including this tribunal, in trying two cases, has to concede that both sides have a case on their side and, in order to do justice, they must take into consideration what should constitute the basic justification of all human demands, individual or mass demands—the decisive terrible balance of need.

In similar vein, Chaim Weizmann, president of the Zionist Organization and exemplar of the centre in the movement’s political spectrum, told the Anglo-American Committee of 1946:

I recognize fully that what I ask for will meet with considerable opposition on the part of the Arabs … but there is no counsel of perfection in this world, and there is no absolute justice in this world. What you are trying to perform, and what we are all trying to do in our small way, is just rough human justice. I think the decision which I should like this committee to take, if I dare say this, would be to move on the line of least injustice.

By the same token, on the left of the political spectrum, one may quote the words of the foremost leader of the Zionist Labour movement, David Ben-Gurion, to United Nations Special Committee On Palestine (UNSCOP) in 1947:

An Arab minority in a Jewish State would mean that a certain number of individual Arabs would not enjoy the privilege of Arab statehood, but would in no way diminish the independence and position of the free Arab race. The Arab minority in Palestine, being surrounded by Arab States, would remain safe in national association with its race. But a Jewish minority in an Arab state, even with the most ideal paper guarantee, would mean the final extinction of Jewish hope, not in Palestine alone, but for the entire Jewish people, for national equality and independence, with all the disastrous consequences so familiar in Jewish history. The conscience of humanity ought to weigh this: where is the balance of justice, where is the greater need, where is the greater peril, where is the lesser evil and where is the lesser injustice?

Of course, on the Arab side it was argued with equal conviction that by virtue of its overwhelmingly Arab majority Filastin should become another Arab state to satisfy the need of its local Arab inhabitants for national self-determination. As was stated, for example, in evidence to the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry in 1946:

The whole Arab people is unalterably opposed to the attempt to impose Jewish immigration and settlement upon it, and ultimately to establish a Jewish State in Palestine. Its opposition is based upon right. The Arabs of Palestine are descendants of the indigenous inhabitants of the country, who have been in occupation of it since the beginning of history: they cannot agree that it is right to subject an indigenous population against its will to alien immigrants whose claim is based upon a historical connection which ceased effectively many centuries ago.

The Arabs saw neither moral nor material justification for any compromise whatsoever, whether in the form of bi-national parity or partition. At best, Jews who had been resident there before what the Arabs regarded as the Zionist incursion would be granted religious and civic rights. Contending with unyielding presumption that ‘the Jews today are neither a people nor a nation; Judaism is merely a religious creed’, the Arab Higher Committee, which claimed to represent the Arabs of Palestine, refused totally to recognize any Jewish national claim.

Thus, in the perception of Arabs and Jews alike, national needs, claims, and aspirations have always constituted the irreducible core of the conflict. Neither religious nor civic needs and claims were ever more than marginal issues; even more marginal were issues of colonialism or ‘Orientalist’ discourse.

This is not to say that theoretically there were, and are even today, no possible compromise solutions to this essentially nationalist conflict. Within the Zionist camp, a bi-national dispensation was repeatedly proposed and debated, and partition was not only mooted but in fact accepted when the United Nations voted for it in November 1947. It remains central to the agenda of possible compromise solutions to this very day.

To sum up: whatever value inheres in postcolonial theory for comprehending the history of Zionism relates to explanation of its genesis as a nationalist movement emerging out of the emancipation and post-emancipation situation of the Jews; a situation analogous to the colonial and postcolonial situation of many other peoples in many other places. Other than this, postcolonial theory can contribute only marginally to comprehension of the Middle Eastern Arab-Jewish conflict, and even less to the prospects for a solution. The root problem is far more fundamental and grave than any manifestations of so-called ‘Colonialism’ and ‘Orientalism’. Imagine if there were absolutely none of this. Surely, the ethno-nationalist movement known as Zionism would still have arisen out of independent, profoundly immanent causes. By the same token, can there be any doubt that Edward Said would have rejected the claim of the Jews to national self-determination in Palestine even if he could find no evidence whatsoever of colonialist praxis or discourse within Zionism? Notwithstanding the incidence of so-called ‘Orientalist’ discourse within the ranks of Zionism, its leaders were never blind to the harm done to the Palestinian Arabs as an actual or potential national entity. Even so, they were immanently and desperately motivated to seek their own national salvation by every available means, including methods of colonization. Categorization of Zionism as a case of colonialism, thereby stigmatizing it, may serve the partisan rhetorical ends of the Palestinian cause, but it is fallacious as an analytical tool for impartial comprehension of the Arab-Jewish conflict. In the final analysis, theories of nationalism, which command a vast and profound literature, are far more valuable aids in comprehending the history of Zionism and the nature of the Arab-Jewish conflict than whatever goes by the description of postcolonial theory. Examination of the applicability of such theories of nationalism, however, lies beyond the scope of the present essay.