Việc Bịa Đặt về Dân Tộc Do Thái Giáo
Giáo sư sử học Shlomo Sand đại học Tel Aviv, nói chuyện tại Câu lạc Bộ Frontline tại Luân Đôn
Lịch Sử Do Thái và Việc ăn cắp đất của Palestine- Giáo Sư sử học Do Thái Ilan Pappe Tại Câu Lạc Bộ Báo Chí Quốc Gia Úc Canberra.
Ông là Giáo Sư tại Đại Học Tel Aviv Do Thái, nhưng vì quan điểm công lý sử quan của ông, nên buộc phải rời bỏ Do thái để đến sinh sống và giảng dạy tại Anh quốc.
Gíao sư sử học chính trị Mỹ gốc Do Thái, Norman Finkelstein trình bày về vấn đề Israel- Palestine, từ quan điểm công lý sử quan. Ông cũng bị sức ép của nhà nước Mỹ và tập đoàn Do Thái tại Mỹ loại khỏi diễn đàn “khoa bảng”.
Miko Peled, một sĩ quan quân đội Do Thái, cha của Ông là một trong những vị tướng lãnh của quân đội Do Thái trong thời kỳ chiến tranh 6 ngày 1968, và một trong những người sĩ quan đầu tiên của Do Thái trong thời “lập quốc Israel” 1948.
Dưới con mắt của những con vật bầy đàn bán khai theo chủ nghĩa quốc gia nhà nước dân tộc tổ quốc, 3 vị giáo sư và vị cựu sĩ quan này là 4 tên phản quốc, phản dân tộc, “tự-ghét” đáng phỉ nhổ!!!
Các xã hội bán khai tổ quốc dân tộc làm sao có được những nhà sử gia chân chính, con người nhân tâm tôn trọng sự kiện và dám chất vấn ngược lại nguyên lý quyền lực?
Á châu nói chung, Việt nam nói riêng chưa thể có những nhà sử học, sử gia tầm mức này! Chưa thể có những cựu sĩ quan “yêu nước” như thế này. Tiếc rằng chuyên môn của người viết không phải là khoa sử, mà chỉ một mớ rác kinh tế ngoại thương và bang giao quốc tế đang phải tận rửa (unlearn) để học lại (relearn) cho đúng đắn.
Author of ‘The Invention of the Jewish People’ vents again
The concept of homeland is one of the most amazing and most ruinous of the modern era, says Prof. Shlomo Sand.
The concept of homeland is one of the most amazing and also, perhaps, one of the most ruinous of the modern era, says Prof. Shlomo Sand. In his new book, “When and How Was the Land of Israel Invented?” (Kineret, Zmora-Bitan Dvir, Hebrew), Sand examines the attitude of the Zionist movement toward that territory since its inception. More particularly, he is out to discover how Zionism adopted the idea of the “historic right” to that land, and consolidated an ethos based on the memory of an ancient people whose ancestors were Hebrews who lived in the Kingdom of Judah in the First and Second Temple periods. According to Sand, the Land of Israel was not the historic homeland of the Jewish people.
“Zionism plundered the religious term ‘Land of Israel’ [Eretz Yisrael] and turned it into a geopolitical term,” he says. “The Land of Israel is not the homeland of the Jews. It becomes a homeland at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th − only upon the emergence of the Zionist movement.”
Sand’s previous book, “The Invention of the Jewish People” (Verso, 2009; translated by Yael Lotan), stirred a furor. Sand rejected the existence of a Jewish people that was exiled two millennia ago and survived. The majority of the Jews of Eastern Europe, he maintained, are descendants of societies or of individuals who were converted to Judaism on European soil. This concept flagrantly contradicts Israel’s Declaration of Independence, according to which “Eretz-Israel (the Land of Israel, Palestine) was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books” [source: Israeli Foreign Ministry]. Sand argues that for 2,000 years the Jews did not constitute a people and that only religion, belief and culture united them.
It was to be expected that “The Invention of the Jewish People” would not be greeted in Israel with great acclaim. However, its author admits that he did not imagine the book “would fall with the impact of a bomb.” The negative reactions have been diverse. Some rejected outright the principal conclusion and the historical facts on which it was based, while others dismissed the research and claimed there was nothing new in the book, that everything was known and accepted, at least by historians. (For a slightly different reason he was also disappointed when the Arabic-language edition of the book was published in Ramallah: Sand was not invited to the book launch, though he was hosted at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem by the institution’s president, Prof. Sari Nusseibeh.)
That was about four years ago, but the hostility toward him seems to be intensifying. Recently, he says, he has been receiving more hate mail and getting obscene phone calls. Last week, he received an envelope in the mail that contained a white powder and a letter branding him an “anti-Semite” and a “Jew hater,” together with a promise that his days were numbered.
“The Invention of the Jewish People” was on Israel’s best-seller lists for 19 weeks and has been translated into 16 languages. Editions in Chinese, Korean, Indonesian and Croatian are in the works. In March 2009, he received the Aujourd’hui Award, presented by French journalists for a leading nonfiction political or historical work. Previous winners of the award include renowned scholars such as Raymond Aron and George Steiner.
Sand also racked up a lot of flying time en route to lecture on the book in France, Britain, Canada, the United States, Belgium, Japan, Russia, Germany, Slovenia, Morocco, Bulgaria, Hungary, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Italy. His desk drawer and inbox contain hundreds of letters from around the world, from both Jews and adherents of other religions, taking issue with him.
Sand teaches political ideas and cultures in the history department of Tel Aviv University. When he walks down the corridors of the Gilman Building, which houses the Faculty of Humanities − where he was a student 40 years ago and afterward returned as a lecturer following 10 years in Paris − he feels a growing sense of loneliness. Colleagues who were once his friends and invited him to their homes pass him by as though he were invisible. “They are just envious,” Sand snaps.
Do you feel pleased to be at the center of a controversy in which so many scholars have attacked you?
“A man of my age who decided to write these books and became a pariah of the academic community in Israel gets no enjoyment from it. I would rather be liked, and not squabble. I am liked better abroad. Scholars from Tony Judt to Eric Hobsbawm … told me the book is groundbreaking. I have an ego like everyone else, and maybe a little more, and without such appreciation I could not have written the new book. I imagine that people will find a few mistakes in it, too. It is impossible to cruise across civilizations and cultures over that span of time without making mistakes. In the previous book, the most vituperative review found four mistakes, which have since been corrected. But if someone were to prove that the book’s basic theses are totally unfounded, that would crush me.”
Are you aware of the fact that some of your critics hold you in contempt?
“They are not contemptuous, they hate me. [Historian] Anita Shapira accused me of ‘denying the Jewish people,’ but added that the book is brilliant. [Historian] Israel Bartal, who assailed me and ‘The Invention of the Jewish People,’ is living off me by appearing on all kinds of academic platforms around the world and arguing against the book. I understand that the book generated considerable distress.”
“If my thesis is correct, and 500 years ago there was no French people, Russian people, Italian people or Vietnamese people − and, by the same token, no Jewish people − and the story of the exile of a Jewish people in the first or second century C.E., in conjunction with the destruction of the Second Temple was imagined − the implication is that historians from the departments of the history of the Jewish people have been dealing with brara [Hebrew slang for rubbish] for years. Their departments have no legitimization. You will not find a department of the history of the English people at Cambridge University. Along comes Sand, from the Department of General History, and claims these people are working in a department that is a myth and whose existence is unjustified, because there was no Jewish people of a single extraction. If I am right, they are standing on water.”
Nationalizing the Bible
“And all the congregation of Judah, with the priests and the Levites, and all the congregation that came out of Israel, and the strangers that came out of the land of Israel, and that dwelt in Judah, rejoiced.”
− 2 Chronicles 30:25
The idea for the new book, Sand says, was sparked by the criticism of “The Invention of the Jewish People.”
“The pro-Zionist British historian Simon Schama wrote that my book had failed in its attempt to sever the connection between the land of the forefathers and the Jewish experience. Other critics wrote that my intention had been to challenge the Jews’ historic right to their ancient homeland, the Land of Israel. I was surprised. Not for a moment did I think the book challenged that right, because I never thought the Jews had a historic right to this land.
“I never imagined,” Sand continues, “that at the beginning of the 21st century there would be critics who would justify Israel’s existence through arguments based on patrimony thousands of years old. Since I have been aware of myself, I have defended our presence here owing to the plight of the Jews, from the end of the 19th century, when Europe spewed out the Jews and the United States shut its gates at a certain stage, and not because of national yearnings or historical right.”
Were you persuaded that “Invention” is a flawed book?
“I realized that the book was not sufficiently balanced and that I had to add what was missing by means of another study, about the modes of invention of the Land of Israel as a territorial space of the Jewish people. This refers to the concept of the Land of Israel in Zionist historiography, focusing on territory and on the settlement process that has been going on here for the past 120 years.
“I applied my theoretical assumptions both in regard to the emergence of nations and peoples, and with respect to the term ‘homeland.’ I examined when this place became a national territory for the Jews and why it was necessary to adhere at any cost to the narrative of a people with one origin, who left its homeland 2,000 years ago, wandered and wandered, reached the gates of Moscow, made a U-turn and decided to return to its native land.
“The second myth that needed to be deconstructed is that the Land of Israel was always the property of the Jewish people and was promised it by God, who even gave his emissaries a deed of title, namely the Bible, which Zionism, despite its secularity, nationalized and turned into a salient work of history.”
In this year’s Bible quiz, at Pesach, Minister of Education Gideon Sa’ar said, “We believe with all our heart that the actualization of settlement is a return to the land of our forefathers and that this right is intertwined with the Jewish people’s right to national security … The patriarch Abraham and the patriarch Jacob came to Beit El and Hebron almost 4,000 years ago, long before they were the subjects of media interest.”
“There is no such thing as national territory that has belonged to the Jewish people since the biblical period, and I prove that in the book. That is a mythic statement which is characteristic of national leaders in the modern history of the last 200 years. The territorial myth has worked well since the start of the 20th century. Zionism is not the only case. To create nations in the present and with a view to the future, ‘eternal’ peoples are created with a view to the past. Seventy years ago, every Frenchman was convinced that he had been a Gaul, just like the Germans in the first half of the last century, who believed they were the direct descendants of the Teutons. That [sort of perception] generally disappears amid the philosophy and thought and everyday life of the Western Europeans. Here, though, it remains implanted within the historical-political consciousness of many Israelis.”
Many studies cast doubt on the Bible’s historical truths. In his new book, “Ha-Shem: The Secret Numbers of the Hebrew Bible and the Mystery of the Exodus from Egypt” (Hebrew), Prof. Israel Knohl, who is religiously observant, challenges the Mount Sinai event as it is described in the Torah, and maintains that the Exodus from Egypt has no connection with reality.
“I have a higher regard for studies by archaeologists such as Israel Finkelstein and Ze’ev Herzog from Tel Aviv University, and for the Bible scholar Nadav Na’aman, but I do not agree with all of them. I am far more persuaded by Bible research conducted by non-Israeli and non-Zionist scholars, like Niels Peter Lemche, Philip Davies and Thomas Thompson. I rely on them and have adopted their approach that the Bible was written more or less between the fifth century B.C.E. and the third century C.E. It began to be written after the political-intellectual elite was exiled from Judah to Babylon. The books of the Bible were apparently composed only after many of those who had been in Babylon came to Jerusalem with the agreement of the Persians. There is no doubt that the talented authors knew the meaning of exile first-hand: It resonates like a concrete threat throughout the Torah and the books of the prophets.
“Researchers such as Thompson view the Bible as theological fiction: In the same way that Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’ is not informative in regard to the ancient period of imperial Rome, the Bible cannot teach us historical facts. The stories in the Bible are the basis of Western civilization and also the basis for the New Testament and the Koran. They are astonishing literary texts, but the last thing they are is history books − which is why I, as a historian, ignore them. Finkelstein and Herzog found that the Exodus from Egypt never happened and that the land of Canaan was not conquered swiftly; not to mention Abraham, who is a mythological figure. In short, I think that modern Jewish nationalism − Zionism − took theology and turned it into history.”
“Now when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying: Awake, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel; for those who sought the life of the child are dead.”
− Matthew 2: 19-20
The word homeland (moledet, in Hebrew), appears 19 times in the entire Hebrew Bible, about half of them in Genesis, but the term refers to one’s land of birth or to the place from which a family originates. The heroes of the Bible never set out to defend their homeland in order to win an election or for reasons of political patriotism, Sand points out in the new book. The biblical texts, he writes, show that the “Jahwist religion” did not spring up in the territory which God earmarked for his chosen ones. Indeed, he emphasizes, according to the Bible itself the birth of monotheism occurred outside the Promised Land.
God appears for the first time in the context of a passage about Haran, in today’s southern Turkey, where he commands Abram, an Aramean, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto the land that I will show thee” (Genesis 12:1). Abram indeed makes his way to the land, but does not stay there long and goes on to Egypt. The second encounter with God − the giving of the Law to Moses − takes place in the Sinai desert, according to the Bible, after the Exodus from Egypt.
Sand reminds his readers that neither Abraham (as Abram is later referred to) nor Moses were natives of Canaan. Abraham sends his son, Isaac, back to his homeland to marry, and Isaac in turn sends his son, Jacob, from Canaan to Aram Naharayim, where he marries Leah and Rachel, and fathers 12 sons and one daughter with them and with his concubines. The sons, together with Joseph’s two sons, will become the “fathers” of the Tribes of Israel; all were born in a foreign land with the exception of Benjamin, who was born in Canaan.
“Abraham, his wife, his son’s bride, the daughters-in-law and concubines of his grandson and nearly all his great-grandchildren were, according to the mythic story, natives of the northern Fertile Crescent who immigrated to Canaan at the commandment of the Creator,” Sand writes. He recalls that all of Jacob’s sons “went down” to Egypt, where his offspring − that is, the “seed of Israel” − were born in the course of 400 years and did not hesitate to marry local women.
In that case, what is the origin of the term “Land of Israel” as the homeland of the Hebrews?
“In my view, the term appeared after the Romans changed the name of the country from Judah to Syria-Palestine, and people then started to emphasize the term ‘Land of Israel.’ But in the Talmud it is an area that extends geographically from south of Acre to north of Ashkelon, and the term appears in the context of a commandment. The Talmudic Land of Israel is not a geopolitical term; it is a theological term which refers to a holy land whose residents must obey special commandments relating to that land.”
Sand notes that neither in the past nor today does the term “Land of Israel” correspond to the area of jurisdiction of the State of Israel. In Hebrew it has been used for many years as the standard name for the region that lies between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. In the fairly recent past, it was also applied to extensive areas east of the Jordan.
Sand looked in vain for the term “Land of Israel” in both Books of Maccabees and in the historical writings of Josephus Flavius, all of which are about the Second Temple period. “When he [Josephus] describes the territory that was the arena of the events for the rebellion,” Sand writes, “he divides it into three separate lands: the land of Galilee, the land of Samaria and the land of Judah. These three regions do not constitute a single territorial unit, and the Land of Israel as a ‘concept’ is not to be found in his writings.”
Sand reached the conclusion that the name “Land of Israel,” as one of the many epithets for this territory − others being Holy Land, land of Canaan, land of Zion, land of the Hart − probably first appeared after the destruction of the Second Temple, and, ironically, in the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. However, even that is an exceptional one-time usage: the New Testament generally preferred “land of Judah.”
Within Jewish communities as well, the term “Land of Israel” only took root some time after the destruction of the Second Temple, when Jewish monotheism showed signs of regression across the Mediterranean Basin in the wake of the failure of three anti-pagan revolts that were fomented within 70 years (the Great Revolt, the Diasporic Revolt and the Bar Kochba uprising). It was only in the second century C.E., when the Romans named the territory Palaestina and many of the inhabitants began to convert to Christianity that we find, in the Mishna and the Talmud, the first hesitant use of the “Land of Israel,” Sand notes.
But that term, he writes, in its Christian or Jewish rabbinic version, differs from its modern meaning: “It was not until the beginning of the 20th century, after a sojourn of years in the crucible of Protestantism, that the theological Land of Israel was finally converted and polished as a saliently geo-national term.”
Yet the Declaration of Independence tells a different story: “After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom. Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland.”
“This land is a holy place in which it is difficult to subsist. I cite, without distortion, references about how careful the Jews were not to live here, because they feared they would desecrate the holy soil due to the great burden of fulfilling the precepts on it. They were concerned at the possibility of contaminating the holy place by pursuing everyday life: having children, falling ill and so forth.
“For 1,600 years believing Jews did not want to come here. The Talmud contains an explicit prohibition ‘not to storm the wall,’ which remains in force from the Talmudic period until the time of Moses Mendelssohn, the first of the Jewish philosophers of the modern era. They all know that the Jewish people must not ‘storm the wall,’ meaning that there must not be a collective immigration to the Holy Land.”
Why did Christian pilgrims come to the Holy Land in their masses, whereas only few Jews came, and even those for the most part only to die and be buried there?
“I was surprised to discover that thousands of Christian pilgrims came here, whereas until the 11th century we do not know of one case of a Jewish pilgrim. Other testimonies, too, do not suggest that Jews came here before the 11th century. We know about the poet and thinker Rabbi Yehuda Halevi, who planned to come to the Holy Land in the year 1140 but did not succeed. One reason for this is that the Jews belonged to conservative communities who feared for their very existence and did not welcome spontaneous private journeys. A Jew who wanted to embark on a journey like this knew that there was no institutional structure to help him.
“The Christian pilgrim, in contrast, could avail himself of churches and inns everywhere. The journey was also far more difficult for Jews, who had to eat kosher food and fulfill the precepts and ensure the existence of a prayer quorum. Jews came to the Holy Land at the end of their life, in order to die and be buried there and thus to ensure themselves a place in the next world. Why did my father’s grandfather betray his family, take all the savings and travel from Lodz to Jerusalem? Because he wanted to be like those who pass you on the right: He wanted to be first before the onset of the resurrection of the dead.”
You write that it is not the homeland idea that spawned nationalism, but nationalism that spawned the homeland in the modern era. Was it Zionism that set this development in motion among the Jews?
“No. Zvi (Heinrich) Graetz wrote his 11-volume ‘History of the Jews’ beginning in the 1850s. That is the first proto-national work of [Jewish] history. Graetz invented the Jew in the modern sense of the term and set his place of birth in a Middle Eastern land. He writes: ‘Such a strip of land was Canaan (now called Palestine), which abuts the border of Phoenicia in the south and lies along the Mediterranean coastline.’ He did not know what the Land of Israel was or where its borders lay, as he mentions at the beginning of the book.
“The first practical Zionist,” Sand continues, “was Israel Belkind, who was one of the first settlers in Palestine, before the emergence of Palestinian nationalism. Belkind, the coordinator of the Bilu movement [whose members arrived in Palestine in 1882], wrote that the Arabs were descended from the ancient Hebrews. He and the first Bilu group, he added, encountered ‘a good many of our people, our own flesh and blood.’ Belkind drew his map: In the north the land extended as far as Acre, in the east to the Syrian desert and in the south as far as the river of Egypt.
“Similarly, Eliezer Ben Yehuda, in his book ‘Land of Israel,’ published in 1883 in Jerusalem, imagines the new land according to ‘the borders of Moses’ Torah, from Wadi el-Arish to Sidon, from Sidon to Mount Hermon.’ They conjure up an imagined territory and take the Bible as proof of its existence. They do not believe in God, but they believe in the Promised Land. Before dying, God promised them the land.
“The first book that demarcates and analyzes borders was written in Yiddish, in 1918, by the two brilliant intellectuals of the period. Its title is ‘The Land of Israel in the Past and the Present’ and the authors are Yitzhak Ben-Zvi and David Ben-Gurion. Their map of the Land of Israel encompasses both sides of the Jordan, includes the El Arish region and extends to Damascus.”
What about the Zionist Congresses?
“Herzl talked about a territory. There were no borders here in his period, because the country was part of the Ottoman Empire, and the word ‘Palestine’ refers to an indeterminate region. The term ‘Palestine-Land of Israel’ was devised by representatives of the British Mandate. The first Zionist Congresses used the term ‘Palestine’ but did not yet talk about borders; the Bible resonates powerfully in the background. That is very important. What, after all, is Zionism? It is a secular movement that knows it has to exploit a myth and turns to the Bible. Zionist leaders from Max Nordau to Arthur Ruppin took the Bible and turned it into secular history. This should not be considered manipulation per se; they truly believed in that. Such creators of myths cling to the myths and need land and an eternal people; in their imagination they construct a national territory. Zionism, which thought big, appropriated the term ‘Land of Israel’ from the Talmudic heritage and translated it into a national geopolitical term.”
Recollections of ’67
“On the 29th November, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Israel; the General Assembly required the inhabitants of Eretz-Israel to take such steps as were necessary on their part for the implementation of that resolution.”
− Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, May 14, 1948
Sand opens his new work by sharing with his readers a personal experience. His aim is to make clear the source of his intellectual approach to the mythology of “national soil, tombs of ancestral forefathers and large chiseled stones.” On June 5, 1967, Sand was a young reserve soldier in a brigade that fought in the Jerusalem area. His battalion conquered the Abu Tor neighborhood, at a heavy cost: 17 soldiers killed and dozens wounded. “My luck held, and with no few efforts I remained alive.” After the battle he and his buddies were taken to see the Western Wall.
“The size of the hewn stones made me fearful,” Sand writes. “I remember feeling small and very weak in their presence. I did not yet imagine that it had never been the wall of the Temple and that for most of the period since the destruction − in contrast to the summit of the Temple Mount, where Jewish believers were forbidden to tread for fear of being contaminated by the dead − it had not been considered a holy place.”
However, he continues, “secular agents of culture” started to recreate a tradition with the aid of so-called victory albums and focused on a photograph of three soldiers [the reference is to a photo by David Rubinger of soldiers at the Wall − eds.], “their eyes blurred with 2,000 years of longing for the thick wall and their hearts overflowing at the ‘liberation’ of the land of the forefathers.”
After the war, Sand and other soldiers were sent to guard the Intercontinental Hotel atop the Mount of Olives, previously in Jordanian hands (today it is the Seven Arches Hotel), adjacent to the old Jewish cemetery. When he called his father to tell him where he was, the latter reminded him about the story of his grandfather, a Hasid from Lodz, who decided shortly before his death to make the trip to Jerusalem and be buried on the Mount of Olives.
Shlomo Sand was born in 1946 in a refugee camp in Linz, Austria. He was raised in a secular communist home. His father left the synagogue to protest the removal of his mother (Sand’s grandmother) from the front rows after her husband died and she could not afford the price of the seat. Sand’s father did not want to have him circumcised, but when he went to Hamburg to demonstrate against the forced disembarkation of the illegal immigrants aboard the Exodus on German soil, his mother and grandmother yielded to tradition and to social pressure. (“I am in favor of circumcision on condition that everyone circumcise himself,” Sand says.)
In 1948, Sand’s communist father decided that his place was in Palestine, alongside the fighters against the British forces. The family moved into an abandoned apartment in Old Jaffa. Sand’s father found work as a porter and as a night guard in the building of the Communist Party; his mother worked as a cleaning woman. At his parents’ recommendation, Sand joined the Communist Youth League as a teenager. In the meantime, the family moved to a two-room apartment near the Noga Cinema in Jaffa. Sand was not much of a student but devoured books. Thrown out of school in the 10th grade, he started to study electronics in the evening, working by day for a radio repair business.
Sand was drafted in 1965 into the Nahal paramilitary brigade, serving in Yad Hanna, a communist kibbutz. After his discharge he renewed his ties with the party. In 1968 he was offered the opportunity to join its ranks and to study film in Lodz. Instead, he signed a petition against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and stayed in Tel Aviv. He joined the radical left-wing group Matzpen and was arrested a number of times for distributing leaflets. But he did not remain long in Matzpen, either. Sand recalls that he was among the few in the group who were not at university, either as students or lecturers, and accordingly suffered from the power structure of the organization’s intellectual hierarchy. In addition, the organization’s questioning of Israel’s existence was not to his liking, and he left.
After obtaining a matriculation certificate in 1971, he studied history and philosophy at Tel Aviv University. In 1975, he enrolled in the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in Paris, and wrote his doctoral dissertation on Georges Sorel and Marxism. Ten years later he returned to Israel and has been teaching at Tel Aviv University since. He is currently at work on a new book about identity politics in Israel and elsewhere, with the focus on the problem of maintaining a secular Jewish culture in the face of Israeli culture.
In his new work about the invention of the Land of Israel he reveals a secret he kept for 45 years. Two months after a stint of reserve duty in 1967, he was called up again and posted to the police station at the entrance to Jericho. The soldiers there told him that Palestinians who tried to cross the Jordan at night and return to their homes were gunned down systematically, whereas those who made the attempt in daylight were arrested. Sand was assigned to guard those prisoners.
One night in September 1967 he witnessed soldiers abusing an elderly Palestinian man who had been arrested with a large amount of dollars in his possession. “I climbed onto a crate and watched a harrowing scene through the window,” he writes. “The detainee was sitting tied to a chair, and my good buddies were beating him all over and occasionally pressing burning cigarettes into his arms. I climbed down from the crate, threw up and returned to my post shaking and frightened. A little later, a pickup left carrying the body … My friends shouted to me that they were going to the Jordan River to dump the body.”
You were armed − why didn’t you intervene? You could have fired in the air, summoned help.
“I lost my senses completely. I was afraid to intervene. The fact that I did not try to do anything to stop them depressed me for years and resonates within me to this day. That is why I write about in the book, because I still have guilt feelings. I am ashamed that I did not do anything. When I got back from reserve duty in Jericho, I went to see MK Meir Wilner [head of the Israel Communist Party] and told him about it. I also consulted with [the writer] Dan Omer, whom I had met during the fighting, when we both shook as we shot in Abu Tor. Omer, who was five years older than I, adopted me. He and Wilner said there were too many cases like that and there was nothing to be done. That night I felt that I had lost my homeland, namely my childhood neighborhood in Jaffa, along with my parents, the neighbors and the school. A concrete homeland that I lost at that time.”
Why are you invoking this now?
“In the book I do a national reckoning. You know, I am not anti-national. I am an Israeli and you can call me an Israeli patriot. There are neighborhoods in Tel Aviv which I feel are mine, street corners connected to events and experiences of friendships and loves. Israeli patriotism is not only a discourse about land or war myths. It partakes of small loves and small demonstrations and experiences connected to Hebrew literature and language. I lived in France for 10 years, and readers of my books discern my Frenchness in the mode of analysis and the approach to theories, but the books are written in Hebrew. I am approaching the exit: I am at an advanced age and can no longer become someone else.”
Did you go back to the murder of the Palestinian man in order to say , “Look, I am one of you and once I was even made to be a bit of a war criminal”?
“Like everyone, I too am a bit of a war criminal. That is part of my life. Some time after that reserve service in Jericho I became a daily activist in Matzpen and distributed leaflets and sprayed slogans on walls at night and got beaten up. I was a member of the political fringe. I am not a victim, but my psychological distress started then, at the age of 20. The years in Matzpen gave me a great deal, and the political activity was a type of healing. I later left the organization heartbroken, and in despair sank into drugs. My partner and my best friend got into heroin. Maybe because I am Polish I did not follow them, and instead of heroin I took matriculation exams and entered university. The best friend committed suicide. Others left the country.”
You left too, but came back. Have you ever considered leaving Israel since then?
“My Israeliness is without Holocaust justifications. It is a simple, everyday Israeliness which I did not choose. There was a moment when I could have stayed in France; I already had French citizenship. I returned here because of the Tel Aviv sun, because of the beach and because of Jaffa. I recently reread the famous interview with [writer and journalist] Amos Elon, in which he explains why he is leaving Israel for Tuscany. He said he no longer wanted to live here. I do not want to leave. I write a book instead of pulling up stakes. I am not some idiot who thinks books change the world, but I know that when the world changes, people look for other books.”
It takes a village
“The State of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.”
− Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, May 14, 1948
Sand dedicates his new book to the memory of the inhabitants of the village of Sheikh Munis, “a specific space that is enshrined as a wound within me.” The last chapter discusses the history of the village, on whose land Tel Aviv University and several museums were built after its original, peace-seeking inhabitants became refugees in 1948. Sand himself, in addition to working at the university, lives in Ramat Aviv Gimmel − an upscale neighborhood that also stands on land of the former village.
He does not propose “to erase the university in order to establish a village and plant orchards instead.” He does believe, however, that “it is the State of Israel’s obligation to recognize the catastrophe that was inflicted on others by the very fact of its establishment.” As for the university, it should “place at the entrance gate a memorial plaque for those who were uprooted from Sheik Munis, the peaceful village that disappeared as though it had never been.”
Why, in a historical work based on research and theory, did you find it necessary to promote your view that Israel should be “a state of all its citizens”?
“In my previous books I focused on intellectualism and on the connection between history and cinema. In ‘The Invention of the Jewish People’ and in the new book I wanted to be more honest, and I reveal my ideological motivations. The two books constitute a direct and even scathing attack on Zionist historiography. I quote Walter Benjamin, who said that the historian should brush history against the grain.
“The fact that I espouse an ideology does not make me either a good historian or a bad historian. All historians possess an ideology. A historian who writes national historiography must acknowledge that. I decided to set forth my ideology so that the reader will understand that I am coming from a very specific place.”
Weren’t you afraid of reprisals?
“I did not think the first book would fall with the impact of a bomb. I knew it would stir opposition, but I did not imagine that it would engender a tumult. When [the journalist and critic] Boaz Evron put forward similar arguments in his 1988 book ‘A National Reckoning’ [English version, 1995: “Jewish State or Israeli Nation?”] − no one protested. I understand now that I went out on a limb. [Former MK] Avraham Burg told me that in the 1950s the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team [identified with the right-wing Herut party] had 5,000 fans and Hapoel Katamon [identified with the labor federation] had one fan. In one game the Beitar fans shouted ‘The ref is a son of a bitch’ and the Hapoel fan got up and attacked them. Burg said I am like that fan.”
Some people took it as a provocation, and maybe there is something a bit megalomaniac about it.
“I am deeply fearful and the opposite of a megalomaniac. Do you want to say that I am impelled by being egocentric? Yes and no. I ponder things. If I were a megalomaniac I would not have written these books. I would have written ‘A Short History of Mankind,’ for example [referring to a current Israeli best-seller].
“It is also not accurate to say that I am preaching a political approach. In my previous book I am critical of an ethnocentric state, and in the new book I set forth a critical approach to a country that expands endlessly.
“I would like to exchange Land of Israel patriotism − which clings to myths and cannot leave Hebron, and is leading us to be an occupier nation of a conquered population − for Israeli patriotism. I am against a binational state. As a democrat, I advocate an Israeli republic within the 1967 boundaries, because of the fact that Zionism has succeeded in forging a life, society, language and culture here that cannot be erased. The justification for our existence here is the fact that the Zionist project created here an Israeli people, not a Jewish people. The ideal thing would be a type of confederation between two republics: Israeli and Palestinian.”
Finally, did a Palestinian people exist?
“No. The Palestinians were Arabs who lived in this region for hundreds of years. Zionist colonization forged the Palestinian people. Of all the fine reviews I received, one that stood out was by Moncef Marzouki, who is now president of Tunisia. He wrote: We should applaud Shlomo Sand and we too are obliged to write books like these about the history of the Arabs.”
Shapira and Bartal vs. Sand
Prof. Anita Shapira heads the Chaim Weizmann Institute for the Study of Zionism and Israel at Tel Aviv University. This fall, University Press of New England will publish her book “Israel: A History,” which tells the story of Zionism, the pre-1948 Jewish community in Palestine and the State of Israel, “from the beginning until the 21st century.”
“There was nothing new in Prof. Sand’s first book,” Shapira says. “It is, after all, the old debate about nationalism, from the 1980s: Does nationalism contain an ancient historical core, or is it a creation of the 19th century? Other than resorting to extreme terminology, Sand does nothing there that we didn’t argue about earlier.
“We [in the institute] teach on the basis of an established historical concept that there was in fact a Jewish collectivity which considered itself a people − not only in the religious sense, but in the sense of an entity whose essence transcends the merely religious. The expression ‘All Jews are responsible for each other’ is not a religious one. Sand repeats the same mantras that were already trite in the 1980s and 1990s, and recycles them. (And, by the way, I did not say that Sand’s book is ‘brilliant’; I said it is well-written.)
“The Jews are an extraterritorial people. When a Jew in Europe cares for a Jew in Yemen, he does so because he identifies with him as a member of his people. In the case of the Damascus blood libel − when the Jews of France and Britain, who are ostensibly French and English people of the Mosaic faith, were outraged − it was because they identified with the Jewish nation. It is a national identity. I have not seen concern among Catholics for their coreligionists in another country.”
Says Prof. Israel Bartal, from the Department of the History of the Jewish People and Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem: “I am ‘living off’ Sand? That is a wild exaggeration. I don’t recall ever having been invited to talk about his book. The only case in which I discussed his book was … at a public event held at Tel Aviv University.
“I deplore the … impertinent manner of speech which certain people take the liberty of using when their colleagues disagree with their opinions. It’s a style that generates sorrow and compassion and is intended to arouse passions. My work deals with Eastern Europe and with Polish history, and when I read Sand I am somehow reminded of the Soviet Union of the 1930s and 1940s. I wrote a review of his first book, but I am afraid he did not grasp the depth of my criticism − namely, that he took most of his arguments from Zionist historiography and then claimed that what these departments are doing in the universities is of no importance.
“In fact, I am one of the first researchers of the history of the Land of Israel and the history of Jewish nationalism who argued that Zionism recreated the Jewish people as the concept of a nation. My first book described how the Zionist movement took a pre-modern group and redefined it as a people and a nation. What, then, is he saying that’s new, and why does he say that it’s the opposite of what the Zionist historians say?”
Making Nations: Sovereignty and Equality
No nation possesses an ethnic base naturally, but as social formations are nationalized, the populations included within them, divided up among them or dominated by them, are ethnicized—that is, represented in the past or in the future as if they formed a natural community.
—Etienne Balibar, “The Nation Form: History and Ideology”
Nationalism was the form in which democracy appeared in the world, contained in the idea of the nation as a butterfly in a cocoon.
—Liah Greenfeld,Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity
Thinkers and scholars have struggled for more than a hundred years with the issue of nationalism but have not come up with an unambiguous and universally accepted definition. A widely accepted description will probably be achieved only after the age of the nation has ended, when Minerva’s owl takes flight and we see past this overarching collective identity that so powerfully shapes modern culture.1
But it is only proper that a historical work, particularly one likely to cause controversy, should begin its explorations with a look, however brief, at the
basic concepts that it will employ. In any event, this is sure to be a challenging, even exhausting, voyage, but a lexicon that consists of explanations of the conceptual apparatus employed in this book may prevent superfluous wandering and frequent stumbling.
European languages use the term “nation,” which derives from the late Latin natio.Its ancient origin is the verb nascere,“to beget”. Until the twentieth century, this term denoted mainly human groups of various sizes and with internal connections. For example, in ancient Rome it commonly referred to aliens (as well as to species of animals). In the Middle Ages it could denote groups of students who came from afar. In England at the start of the modern era it denoted the aristocratic strata. Now and then it was used in reference to populations of a common origin, sometimes a group speaking a particular language. The term was used in diverse ways throughout the nineteenth century, and its precise significance remains a subject of controversy to this day.
1 Please note that the term “nationalism” when used in this book should not immediately be equated with an extremist ideology.
The great French historian Marc Bloch said that “to the great despair of historians, men fail to change their vocabulary every time they change their customs.”2 We might add that one source of anachronism in historiographical research (though not the only one) is human laziness, which naturally affects the creation of terminology. Many words that have come down to us from the past and, in a different guise, continue to serve us in the present are sent back, charged with a new connotation. In that way, distant history is made to look similar, and closer, to our present-day world.
A close reading of historical and political works, or even of a modern European dictionary, reveals a constant migration of meanings within the boundaries of terms and concepts, especially those devised to interpret changing social reality3 We can agree that the word “stone,” for instance, though context-dependent, does correspond more or less to a specific and agreed object. Like many other abstract terms, however, concepts such as “people,” “race,” ethnos, “nation,” “nationalism,” “country,” and “homeland” have, over the course of history, been given countless meanings—at times contradictory, at times complementary, always problematic. The term “nation” was translated into modern Hebrew as le’om or umah, both words derived, like so many others, from the rich biblical lexicon.4But before taking the discussion to the crucial “national” issue, and trying to define “nation,” which still very reluctantly submits to an unequivocal definition, we should stop to consider two other problematic concepts that keep tripping up the clumsy feet of professional scholars.
LEXICON: “PEOPLE” AND ETHNOS
Almost all history books published in Israel use the word am (people) as a synonym for le’om (nation). Am is also a biblical word, the Hebrew equivalent of the Russian Narod, the German Volk, the French peuple, and the English “people.” But in modern Israeli Hebrew, the word am does not have a direct
2 Marc Bloch, The Historian’s Craft, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1954, 28. Nietzsche had already written, “Wherever primitive men put down a word, they thought they made a discovery. How different the case really was! … Now, with every new piece of knowledge, we stumble over petrified words and mummified conceptions, and would rather break a leg than a word in doing so.” Friedrich Nietzsche, The Dawn of Day,New York: Russell & Russell, 1964, 53.
3 On connotations of this term and their evolution, see the essays in S. Remi-Giraud and P. Retat (eds.), Les Mots de la nation, Lyon: Presses Universitaires de Lyon, 1996.
4 For example, “Two nations [le’umim] are in thy womb, and two manner of people [goyim] shall be separated from thy bowels,” Gen. 25:23; and “Come near, ye nations [le’umim], to hear; and hearken, ye people,” Isa. 34:1.
association with the word “people” in a pluralistic sense, such as we find in various European languages; rather it implies an indivisible unity. In any case, the am in ancient Hebrew, as well as in other languages, is a very fluid term, and its ideological use, which has unfortunately remained very sloppy, makes it difficult to include it in any meaningful discourse.5
The best way to define a concept is to follow its history, but as it is not possible to expand on the evolution of the term am in such a short chapter, the present discussion will confine itself to a number of comments on the history of the meanings it acquired in the past.
Most of the agrarian societies that preceded the rise of modern society in eighteenth-century Europe developed statewide supercultures that influenced their surroundings and gave rise to various collective identities among the elite. Yet in contrast to the image that a good many history books continue to peddle, these monarchies, principalities and grand empires never sought to involve all the “people” in their administrative superculture. They neither needed such participation nor possessed the necessary technological, institutional or communications systems with which to foster it. The peasants, the absolute majority in the premodern world, were illiterate, and continued to reproduce their local, unlettered cultures without hindrance. Where they resided in or near a ruling city, their dialects more closely resembled the central administrative language. These subjects represented what was then called “the people,” but for those who cultivated the soil in outlying regions, far from the political centre, the connection between their dialects and the language of the central administration was quite weak.6
So long as human societies were dominated by the principle of divine kingship, rather than by the will of the people, rulers did not need their subjects’ love.
5 The word am,which is translated as “people,” appears frequently in the Old Testament with a variety of meanings. It can mean a clan, or a throng gathered in the city center, or even a fighting force. See for example, “So Joshua arose, and all the people [am] of war, to go up against Ai,” Josh. 8:3; “And the people of the land [am ha’aretz] made Josiah his son king in his stead,” 2 Chron. 33:25. It can also indicate the “holy community,” namely, the People of Israel, chosen by God. For example, “For thou art an holy people [am] unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people [am] unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth,” Deut. 7:6.
6 Exceptions to this model include certain Greek polis cities, as well as some aspects of the early Roman republic. In both, the formation of small groups of citizens bears a slight resemblance to modern “peoples” and nations. But the Greek concepts of “demos,” “ethnos” and “laos,” and the Roman “populus,” which arose in the early stages of the Mediterranean slave-owning societies, did not have the mobile and inclusive dimension of modern times. They did not include the entire population—e.g., women, slaves and foreigners—and equal civil rights were granted only to locally born, slave-owning men, meaning they were strictly
limited social groups,
Their principal concern was to ensure they had enough power to keep people afraid. The sovereign had to secure the loyalty of the state’s administration in order to preserve the continuity and stability of the government, but the peasants were required simply to pass along the surplus agricultural produce and sometimes to provide the monarchy and nobility with soldiers. Taxes were of course collected by force, or at any rate by its constant implicit threat, rather than by persuasion or efforts at consensus. Nevertheless, it must not be forgotten that the existence of this power also gave the valued producers of food a physical security, an added value granted them by the very presence of authority.
The state apparatuses, occupied in collecting taxes and recruiting troops, subsisted mainly thanks to the integrated interests of the upper strata—the nobility and the politically powerful. The continuity and relative stability of these apparatuses—not only the crowning of a sovereign, but the invention of dynastic monarchies—had already been achieved by means of certain ideological measures. The religious cults that flourished around the centers of government reinforced the loyalty of the upper levels of the hierarchy through unearthly legitimation. This is not to say that the polytheistic or, later, the monotheistic religions came into being as direct functions of government (the circumstances of their rise were more complex), for otherwise they would have been unnecessary, but that they almost always, though not invariably, served to reproduce power.
The consolidation of belief around the ruling power created a slender, though important, social stratum that grew within the administrative apparatus, sometimes merging with it and later competing with it. This stratum, composed of priests, court scribes, and prophets—and later clergymen, bishops, and the ulema—was dependent on the political centers but acquired its most important symbolic capital through both its privileged connections and its direct dialogues with the deity. In early agrarian societies its power and its methods of organizing the religion varied in time and place, but since its principal strength sprang from belief, it constantly sought to widen the demographic base of its following. Like the administrative state apparatuses, it did not have the means to create a broad, homogeneous mass culture, but it did develop a strong ambition to reach an ever-growing number of convinced subjects, and it succeeded in this aim.
Neither the strategy of creating dominant collectives around the apparatuses of state power in agrarian societies nor the sophisticated technology employed by religious institutions resembled the identity politics that began to develop with the rise of nation-states at the end of the eighteenth century.
However, as stated before, laziness in coining new terms, along with the ideological and political interests that paralleled this terminological slackness, completely blurred the profound differences between past and present, between the ancient agrarian universes and the new commercial, industrial worlds in which we still live.
In premodern writings, historical and otherwise, the term “people” was applied to a variety of groups. They might be powerful tribes, populations of tiny kingdoms or principalities, religious communities of various sizes, or low strata that did not belong to the political and cultural elites (in Hebrew these were called, in antiquity, “the people of the land”). From the “Gallic people” in late antiquity to the “Saxon people” in the Germanic area at the start of the modern era; from “the people of Israel” when the Bible was written to “God’s people” or the peuple de Dieu in medieval Europe; from peasant communities speaking a particular dialect to rebellious urban masses—the term “people” was casually attached to human groups whose identity profile was elusive and far from stable. In fifteenth-century Western Europe, with the rise of the city and the beginning of more advanced forms of transportation and communication, firmer boundaries began to appear between broad linguistic groups, and the term “people” began to be applied mainly to these.
With the rise of nationalism at the end of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, this ideology and overarching identity, which in modern times embraces all cultures, has made constant use of the term “people,” especially to stress the antiquity and continuity of the nationality it sought to construct. Since the fundamentals of nation building almost always included some cultural components, linguistic or religious, that survived from earlier historical phases, clever engineering contrived to make them into hooks on which the history of nations could be skilfully hung. The people became a bridge between past and present, thrown across the deep mental chasm created by modernity, a bridge on which the professional historians of all the new nation-states could comfortably parade.
To complete the analysis of the term “people,” it is necessary to add some caveats. In the nineteenth century, national cultures often tied the soft “people” to the rigid and problematic “race,” and many regarded the two words as intersecting, supporting, or complementary. The homogeneous collective origin of “the people”—always, of course, superior and unique, if not actually pure— became a kind of insurance against the risks represented by fragmentary though persistent subidentities that continued to swarm beneath the unifying modernity. The imagined origin also served as an efficient filter against undesirable mixing with hostile neighboring nations.
The murderous first half of the twentieth century having caused the concept of race to be categorically rejected, various historians and other scholars enlisted the more respectable concept of ethnos in order to preserve the intimate contact with the distant past. Ethnos, meaning “people” in ancient Greek, had served even before the Second World War as a useful alternative to, or a verbal intermediary between, “race” and “people.” But its common, “scientific” use began only in the 1950s, after which it spread widely. Its main attraction lies in its blending of cultural background and blood ties, of a linguistic past and a biological origin—in other words, its combining of a historical product with a fact that demands respect as a natural phenomenon.7
Far too many authors have used this concept with intolerable ease, sometimes with astonishing intellectual negligence, though some of them do apply it to some premodern historical entity, some mass of shared cultural expressions from the past, that despite its dissolution persists in a different form. The ethnic community is, after all, a human group with a shared cultural-linguistic background, not always well defined but capable of providing crucial materials for a national construction. Yet a good many other scholars cling to ethnos as though to bring in by the back door the essential primevalism, the racial concept that in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries bolstered the promoters of the fragile national identity.
Thus ethnos has become not merely a historical and cultural unit but an ambiguous entity of ancient origin, at whose heart lies a subjective sense of closeness that it inspires in those who believe in it, much as race did in the nineteenth century. Committed scholars argue that this identity belief should not be challenged, because it carries a powerful sense of origin that should not only be taken into account during critical analysis and dissection—a legitimate, even essential process—but should even be adopted as a whole, and as a positive historical fact that need not be questioned. These scholars admit that the idea that the modern nation sprang from theethnos may be unverifiable. Nevertheless, we have no choice but to live with it; attempting to question it is pointless and ultimately undesirable.
Blurring the categories of ancient social groupings, as these scholars have helped to do, apparently seemed to them a necessary condition for the preservation of unstable identities in the present. Anthony D. Smith, who became one of the most active scholars in the field of nation studies, made a significant contribution to this process. At a relatively late stage in his work, he decided to grant the ethnic principle a decisive role in his research, and even described his approach as “ethno-symbolic.”
7 See the comments on the loose usage of this term in an important work by Dominique Schnapper, La Communauté des citoyens: Sur l’idée moderne de nation, Paris: Gallimard, 2003, 18.
The term “symbolic” helps soften the essentialist resonance of the phrase while supplying the desired ambiguity. For Smith, “an ethnic group, then, is distinguished by four features: the sense of unique group origins, the knowledge of a unique group history and belief in its destiny, one or more dimensions of collective cultural individuality, and finally a sense of unique collective solidarity.”8
The diligent British scholar, it seems, considers that the ethnos is no longer a linguistic community with a common way of life; that the ethnos does not inhabit a particular territory but needs only to be associated with one; that the ethnosneed not have an actual history, for ancient myths can continue to serve this function equally well. The shared memory is not a conscious process moving from the present to the past (since there is always someone around who can organize it) but rather a “natural” process, neither religious nor national, which flows by itself from past to present. Smith’s definition of ethnos, therefore, matches the way Zionists see the Jewish presence in history—it also matches the old concept of pan-Slav identity, or that of the Aryans or Indo-Europeans, or even of the Black Hebrews in the United States—but is quite unlike the accepted connotation among the traditional community of anthropologists.9
Toward the end of the twentieth century and in the early twenty-first, “ethnicity”—which Etienne Balibar rightly described as entirely fictitious— has experienced a resurgence in popularity. This French philosopher has reiterated that nations are not ethnic, and that even what is deemed to be their ethnic origin is dubious. It is in fact nationalization that creates a sense of ethnic identity in societies—”represented in the past or in the future as if they formed a natural community.”10Unfortunately, this critical approach, which warns against ethnobiological or ethnoreligious definitions, has not had sufficient impact. Various theoreticians of nationality, like nationality-supporting historians, continue to thicken their theories and hence their narratives with essentialist, ethnicist verbiage. The relative retreat of the classic sovereign nationalism in the Western world in the late twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first has not weakened this trend; indeed, in some ways it has strengthened it.
Anthony D. Smith, The Ethnic Revival, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1981, 66; and see also by Smith, The Nation in History: Historiographical Debates about Ethnicity and Nationalism, Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2000. See also a very similar definition in John Hutchinson, Modern Nationalism,London: Fontana Press,
8 No wonder that Smith has been a godsend to Zionist historians seeking to define the Jewish nation. See, for example, Gideon Shimoni, The Zionist Ideology,Hanover, NH: Brandeis University Press, 1995, 5-11.
9 Etienne Balibar, “The Nation Form: History and Ideology,” in Race, Nation, Class, Etienne Balibar and Immanuel Wallerstein, London: Verso, 1991, 96.
Be that as it may, if the present work sometimes errs and occasionally uses the term “people”—though not the term ethnos, on account of its biological resonances—it will be pointing very cautiously to a fairly fluid human community, usually a premodern one and especially one in the early stages of modernization. The cultural and linguistic structures held in common by such a group have never been very strong, but arose because of a particular administrative communication that gradually blended, under kingdoms or principalities, with “lower” cultures. The “people” is therefore a social group that inhabits a defined territory and exhibits at least the outlines of shared norms and secular cultural practices (related dialects, foods, clothing, music, and so on). Such linguistic and ethnographic features, which predate the nation-states, were not rigidly consolidated, and the boundary between them and the comparable features of other groups was not essential or unequivocal. It is precisely the accidental history of interstate relations that in many cases determined the location of the barrier between “peoples.”
Sometimes, as has already been stated, such a “people” has served as the Archimedean point for the launching of a new nation—a point that has often been worn down in the nationalizing enterprises of modern culture. The culture of the English “people” became hegemonic in Britain much as the culture of the Île-de-France and the administrative language of the Bourbon monarchs came to dominate their realm. By contrast, the Welsh “people,” the Breton, Bavarian, Andalusian, even the Yiddish “people,” have been almost entirely shredded in the process.
Constructing a nation can also lead to the opposite outcome. Culturallinguistic minorities, which had not been sharply defined before the era of nationalism, begin to acquire—owing to hasty engineering dictated from the center, or to alienating discrimination—a new, distinguishing sense of identity (modernization can intensify subtle differences). In such cases the reaction, especially among the intellectual elites of the group excluded from the hegemon, can harden, turning amorphous distinctions into an essentialist basis for a struggle for self-rule—namely, for national separation. (This issue will be more fully addressed below.)
Another comment, of special relevance to the present work: Where the common denominator of a premodern human group consisted solely of religious norms and practices (cults, rituals, precepts, prayers, religious symbols, and the like), the terms used here will be “religious congregation,” “religious community,” or “religious civilization.” I may as well add that, prior to the national era, “peoples” both emerged and disappeared, just as kingdoms did, in the unfolding of history. (Again, I shall return to this matter below.) Religious communities, on the other hand, usually persisted in the longue durée, to use the well-known term coined by Fernand Braudel, because they preserved and reproduced tradition-minded intellectual strata.
At times, even religious cultures—when weakened yet still relatively stable, or even when disintegrating—served, much as did popular folklore or the language of state administration, as valuable raw material for the forging of nations. Belgium, Pakistan, Ireland and Israel, despite manifold differences, serve as good illustrations. In all these cases, we find a common denominator in the form of national construction, even when the starting point was a religious community or “people.” Despite the major importance of religious elements in the ways a nation is created, we must not forget that nationality has helped define the contours of the emergent modern religious temperament. There must, therefore, be a significant decline in the intensity of religious fatalism when large human groups, mainly their political and intellectual elites, take control of their destiny and begin to make national history.11
Peoples, populations, native populaces, tribes and religious communities are not nations, even though they are often spoken of as such. To be sure, as cultural building materials they have been vital in the fashioning of the new national identities, but they lack the decisive characteristics that total modernity, falling upon them like a raptor, carries below its wings.
THE NATION: BOUNDARIES AND DEFINITIONS
Much has been written about the fact that the issue of nationality did not produce its own Tocqueville, Marx, Weber or Durkheim on the social thinking behind it. “Class,” “democracy,” “capitalism,” and even “state” were quite closely diagnosed, but “nation” and “nationalism” have been neglected—starved of theoretical calories. The main, though not sole, reason for this is that “nations,” as a synonym for “peoples,” were perceived as primary, almost natural, entities— in existence since time immemorial. A good many authors, including scholars of history, noted the developments that had taken place in the human groups
11 Paradoxically, even the extreme case of the Islamic Republic in Iran does not entirely contradict this position. The Islamic revolution sought to bring the message of Islam to the whole world, but in fact succeeded primarily in “nationalizing” the Iranian masses (much as Communism had done in other areas in the Third World). On nationalism in Iran, see Haggay Ram, “The Immemorial Iranian Nation? School Textbooks and Historical Memory in Post-Revolutionary Iran,” Nations and Nationalism 6:6 (2000), 67-90.
designated as nations, but these were perceived as minor changes in entities regarded as primeval.
Most of these thinkers lived in emerging national cultures, so they tended to think from within them and were unable to examine them from outside. Moreover, they wrote in the new national languages, and were thus held captive by their principal working tool: the past was made to conform closely to the linguistic and conceptual structures molded in the nineteenth century. As Marx, seeing the social realities of his time, assumed that history was essentially a vast supernarrative of class struggles, so most of the others, principally the historians, imagined the past as the constant rise and fall of eternal nations, and their mutual conflicts thickly and solemnly packed the history books. The new nation-states naturally encouraged and generously funded such imagery and writing, thereby helping to reinforce the contours of the new national identities.
Reading the works of the British philosopher John Stuart Mill or the
French philosopher Ernest Renan, we encounter some divergent insights, unusual for their time. As early as 1861, Mill wrote:
A portion of mankind may be said to constitute a Nationality, if they are united among themselves by common sympathies, which do not exist between them and any others—which make them co-operate with each other more willingly than with other people, desire to be under the same government, and desire that it should be government by themselves or a portion of themselves, exclusively12
Renan, on the other hand, declared in 1882:
A nation’s existence is, if you will pardon the metaphor, a daily plebiscite, just as an individual’s existence is a perpetual affirmation of life … The nations are not something eternal. They had their beginnings and they will end. A
European confederation will very probably replace them.13
Though both brilliant thinkers were capable of contradictions and hesitations, their awareness of the democratic core in the formation of a nation showed that they understood they were dealing with a modern phenomenon. There was a good reason that these two liberal writers, who viewed mass culture with
12 John Stuart Mill,Considerations on Representative Government, Chicago: Gateway, 1962, 303. Regarding Mill and the national question, see also Hans Kohn, Prophets and Peoples: Studies in Nineteenth-Century Nationalism, New York: Macmillan, 1946, 11-42.
some trepidation, nevertheless accepted in principle the idea of government by the people.
Unfortunately, neither writer went on to publish extensive, methodical inquiries into nationhood. The nineteenth century was not ready for this. Such famous thinkers on this subject as Johann Gottfried Herder, Giuseppe Mazzini and Jules Michelet did not fully fathom the cunning of national reason, which they mistakenly considered to be ancient or even, at times, eternal.
The first to deal with this issue in terms of theory were Marxists of the early twentieth century For ideologues such as Karl Kautsky, Kail Renner, Otto Bauer, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and Joseph Stalin, nationalism was a sucker punch. In its presence, history, the permanent proof of their rightness, seemed to betray them. They had to contend with the strange phenomenon that the prognosis of the great Marx failed to envision. A wave of national demands in Central and Eastern Europe forced them to engage in a discussion that produced intricate analyses as well as hasty conclusions that were always subjected to immediate parry exigencies.14
The Marxists’ significant contribution to the study of the nation was to call attention to the close connection between the rise of the market economy and the crystallization of the nation-state. They argued that the advance of capitalism destroyed autarkic markets, severed their specific social links and opened the way to the development of new species of relations and consciousness. “Laissez faire, laissez aller,” the first war cry of capitalist commerce, did not in its early stages lead to sweeping globalization, but enabled the conditions for the rise of market economies within the framework of the old state structures. These economies formed the basis for the rise of nation-states, with their uniform language and culture. Capitalism, the most abstract form of property control, required, above all, a system of law that sanctified private property, as well as the state power that ensured its enforcement.
Significantly, the Marxists did not ignore the psychological aspects of the national changes. From Bauer to Stalin, they involved psychology in their central polemics, though in simplistic terms. For Bauer, the famous Austrian socialist, “the nation is the totality of men tied by the community of destiny to the community of character”15 Stalin, on the other hand, summed up the discussion in more definite terms:
14 For more on Marxists and the nation, see Horace Davis,Nationalism and Socialism: Marxist and Labor Theories of Nationalism to 1917,New York: Monthly Review Press, 1967; and Ephraim Nimni, Marxism and Nationalism: Theoretical Origins of a Political Crisis, London: Pluto Press, 1991.
15 Quoted in G. Haupt, M, Lowy, and C. Weil, Les Marxistes et la question nationale, 1848-1914, Paris: Maspero, 1974, 254.
A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.16
This definition is undoubtedly too schematic and not especially well phrased. Nevertheless, this attempt to characterize the nation on the basis of an objective historical process, though not entirely satisfactory, remains intriguing. Does the lack of one element prevent the formation of a nation? And, as is no less relevant to our discussion, is there no dynamic political dimension that accompanies and shapes various stages in the process? The Marxists’ devotion to the theory that holds class struggle to be the key to understanding all of history, as well as their bitter rivalry with national movements in Central and Eastern Europe, which were rapidly outflanking them, prevented their producing more on the national issue than the simplistic rhetoric whose main purpose was to confront rivals and recruit followers.17
Other socialists who might not have significantly advanced the discussion used their sharp senses to discern the attraction and promise of popular democracy in the formation of the nation. It was they who discovered the seductive symbiosis between socialism and nationalism. From the Zionist Ber Borochov and the Polish nationalist Josef Pilsudski to the red patriots Mao Zedong and Ho Chi Minh, the formula of “nationalized” socialism proved triumphant.
In the field of pure research there have been discussions about the nation, as we shall see, but only in the 1950s do we encounter fresh intellectual efforts to deal with the social dimension in the rise of a nation. It was no accident that it was an immigrant who revived the debate. While Marxist thought provided, as it were, a lens through which to observe the nation from the outside, the experience of migration—of being uprooted from one’s birthplace—and of living as an “alien,” a subject minority in a dominant culture, proved an almost indispensable condition for the more advanced methodological tools of observation. Most of the leading researchers in the field of national ideology were bilingual in their childhood or youth, and many were children of immigrant families.
Karl Deutsch fled from the Czech Sudetenland region with the coming of the Nazis, and in time found a place in the American academic world.
Although his bookNationalism and Social Communication did not attract
16 Joseph Stalin, Marxism and the National Question, first published inProsveshcheniye
17 On the Marxist approach to the issue of nationalism, see also John Breuilly, Nationalism and the State, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1982, 21-8.
much attention, it was a significant stage in the further discussion of the concept of the nation.18 Deutsch had insufficient data, and his methodological apparatus was awkward, but he showed extraordinary intuition in discerning the socioeconomic processes of modernization that underlie the formation of the nation. The need for a new kind of communication for the alienated urban masses, uprooted from the array of agrarian forms of communication, prompted the integration or disintegration of national groupings. Mass democratic politics, he argued, completed the consolidation. In Deutsch’s second work on the nation, published sixteen years later, he continued to develop the thesis in a historical description of social, cultural and political aggregations that underlay the process of nationalization.19
Three decades passed after Deutsch’s first book before another breakthrough was made in this field of research. The rapid communications revolution in the final quarter of the twentieth century, and the gradual conversion of human labor in the West into an activity of symbols and signs, provided a congenial setting in which to reexamine the old issue. It is possible, too, that the first signs of the declining status of classical nationalism, in precisely the territory that had first produced national consciousness, contributed to the appearance of the new paradigms. Two landmark books on the subject appeared in Britain in 1983: Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities and Ernest Gellner’s Nations and Nationalism.From then on, the issue of nationalism would be examined primarily through a sociocultural prism. The nation
became an unmistakable cultural project.
Anderson’s life, too, was one of wandering across large cultural-linguistic expanses. Born in China to an Irish father and an English mother, he was taken to California as a child but was educated mainly in Britain, where he graduated with a degree in international relations, a discipline that led him to divide his time between Indonesia and the United States. His life story resonates in his book on national communities, which critically rejects any position that smacks of Eurocentrism. This attitude led him to assert, though not very convincingly, that the pioneers of national consciousness in modern history were the Creoles—the locally born offspring of settlers in the Americas.
For the present purpose, it is the original definition that he offers in his book that is most significant: “the nation … is an imagined political community— and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign.”20 Indeed, every
18 Karl W. Deutsch, Nationalism and Social Communication, New York: MIT Press,
19 Karl W. Deutsch, Nationalism and Its Alternatives, New York: A. A. Knopf, 1969. 20 Anderson, Imagined Communities, 6.
community that is bigger than a tribe or a village is imagined, because its members do not know one another; such were the great religious communities before modern times. But the nation has new tools for people’s imaginary belonging to it that were unavailable to the old societies.
Anderson reiterates that the advent of the capitalism of printing in the fifteenth century began to dissolve the long historical distinction between the high sacred languages and the various local vernaculars used by the masses. The language of administration in the European kingdoms also expanded significantly with the advent of printing, laying the groundwork for the future formation of the national territorial languages we know today. The novel and the newspaper were the first players in the new world of communications that began to demarcate the rising national boundaries. The map, the museum, and other cultural amenities would later complete the task of national construction.
For the contours of the nation to harden, the religious commonwealth and the dynastic kingdom—the two long-standing historical frameworks that preceded the nation—had to be significantly downgraded, both institutionally and conceptually. Not only had the status of the great imperial systems and the church hierarchies been relatively weakened, but a significant break had occurred in the religious perception of time, which also affected traditional belief in the divine right of kings. The citizens of the nation, as distinct from the subjects of kingdoms or the tenant farmers in principalities, began to see themselves as equals and, moreover, as rulers of their own destinies—as sovereigns, in other words.
Ernest Gellner’sNations and Nationalism may be read as largely complementing Anderson’s project. In his writings, too, the new culture is depicted as the principal catalyst in the creation of the nation, and he also viewed the processes of modernization as the source of the new civilization. But before we proceed to Gellner’s ideas, we may note that the rule of the “outsider,” of “writing from the margins,” applies to him as well. Like Deutsch, he was a young refugee compelled to leave Czechoslovakia with his family on the eve of the Second World War. His parents settled in Britain, where he grew up and became a successful British anthropologist and philosopher. All his writings include the comparative analysis of cultures that marked all his intellectual endeavours. His brilliant, concise book opens with a double definition:
1. Two men are of the same nation if and only if they share the same culture, where culture in turn means a system of ideas and signs and associations and ways of behaving and communicating.
2. Two men are of the same nation if and only if theyrecognize each other as belonging to the same nation. In other words, nations maketh man; nations are the artifacts of men’s convictions and loyalties and solidarities.21
The subjective aspect must, therefore, complement the objective one. Together they describe an unfamiliar historical phenomenon that had not existed prior to the emergence of the new bureaucratic, industrialized world.
Agrarian societies contained discrete cultures that existed side by side for hundreds or thousands of years. The more advanced division of labor, however— in which human activity is less physical and more symbolic, and occupational mobility keeps increasing—undermined the traditional partitions. The world of production demanded for its actual operation homogeneous cultural codes. The new occupational mobility, both horizontal and vertical, shattered the insularity of the higher culture and forced it to become an ever-expanding mass culture. Universal primary education and literacy were the essential conditions for a developed, dynamic industrial society. And this, according to Gellner, was the great secret of the political phenomenon known as the nation. Thus the formation of a national group is an unmistakable sociocultural process, although it can take place only in the presence of some state apparatus, local or alien, whose presence facilitates or stimulates the awakening of a national consciousness, the construction of a national culture, and their continuation.
Many scholars expressed reservations about certain premises in Gellner’s thesis.22 Did nationalism always wait for complete industrialization before hoisting its flags and symbols? Had there been no national feelings—no aspirations for sovereignty—in early capitalism, before the rise of a complex, developed division of labor? Some of the criticism was persuasive, but it did not detract from Gellner’s important philosophical achievement in determining that the advanced consolidation of a nation is closely connected with the formation of a unified culture, such as can exist only in a society that is no longer agrarian and traditional.
To define the term “nation” in light of Anderson’s and Gellner’s theoretical propositions, as well as some working hypotheses of scholars who followed in their footsteps, it might be suggested that the “nation,” though its historical rise is multifaceted and fluid, is distinguished from other social groupings in history by several features:
21 Gellner, Nations and Nationalism, 7.
22 See the following largely supportive but critical essay collection: John A. Hall (ed), The State of the Nation: Ernest Gellner and the Theory of Nationalism,Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
1. A nation is a human group wherein universal education gives rise to a homogeneous mass culture that claims to be common and accessible to all its members.
2. The nation gives rise to a perception of civil equality among all who are seen and who see themselves as its members. This civil body regards itself as sovereign, or demands political independence in cases where it has not yet achieved that independence.
3. There must be a unifying cultural-linguistic continuum—or at least some general idea of such a continuum—between the actual representatives of the sovereign power, or those aspiring to it, and every last citizen.
4. In contrast to the subjects of past rulers, the citizenry that identifies with the nation is conscious of belonging to it, or aspires to be a part of it, with the aim of living under its sovereignty.
5. The nation has a common territory about which the members feel and assert that they are its sole owners, and any attack on it is felt to be as powerful as a threat to their personal property.
6. The aggregate economic activity within the boundaries of this national territory, after the achievement of its sovereignty, was more closely interconnected, at least until the late twentieth century, than its relations with other market economies.
This is, of course, an ideal depiction in the Weberian sense. We have already implied that there are scarcely any nations that do not harbor or coexist with cultural and linguistic minorities, whose integration in the dominant superculture has been slower than that of other groups. Where the principle of civil equality has been slow to apply to them, it has led to constant friction. In exceptional cases, such as Switzerland, Belgium and Canada, the national state has formally maintained two or three dominant languages that had developed separately and remained unbridgeable.23 Furthermore, in contrast to the proposed model, certain productive and financial sectors have eluded the rule of the dominant national market and have been subjected directly to global supply and demand.
But it should be reiterated that only the post-agrarian world, with its altered division of labor—its distinctive social mobility and thriving new communications technologies—has produced conditions conducive to linguistic and cultural homogeneity, leading to an identity and self-awareness not confined to narrow elites or groups, as was always the case in the past, but now broadly manifest among the productive masses.
23 This has been done while combining other cultural elements, and with a high degree of decentralization and citizen involvement in politics. On the Swiss example, see Hans Kohn’s old book, Nationalism and Liberty: The Swiss Example, London: Allen &
Unwin, 1956; and also the new work of Oliver Zimmer, A Contested Nation: History, Memory and Nationalism in Switzerland, 1761-1891,Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Whereas earlier, in the era of the great empires, through the nature of the feudal and religious fabric, human societies had always been marked by definite cultural-linguistic divisions and strata, henceforth all the people—high and low, rich and poor, educated or not—would feel they belonged to a particular nation and, what is no less meaningful, would be convinced they belonged to it in equal degree.
The consciousness of legal, civil and political equality—produced mainly by social mobility in the era of commercial, and later of industrialized, capitalism—created an umbrella under which everyone could share an identity. Whoever was not covered or included by it could not be a member of the national body, an immanent aspect of equality. It is this equality that underlies the political demand that construes “the people” as a nation that warrants full self-government. This democratic aspect—”the rule of the people”—is utterly modern and clearly distinguishes nations from the older social formations, such as tribes, peasant societies under dynastic monarchies, religious communities with internal hierarchies, even premodern “peoples.”
No premodern human community manifested an inclusive sense of civil equality or a persistent desire for self-rule that was felt by the entire populace. But when people begin to see themselves as sovereign creatures, there arises the consciousness, or illusion, that enables them to believe they can rule themselves through political representation. This is the attitudinal core of all national expressions in the modern age. The principle of self-determination, accepted since the end of the First World War as a guiding principle in international relations, is to a large extent a universal translation of this process of democratization, demonstrating the sway of the new masses in modern politics.
The birth of the nation is undoubtedly a real historical development, but it is not a purely spontaneous one. To reinforce an abstract group loyalty, the nation, like the preceding religious community, needed rituals, festivals, ceremonies and myths. To forge itself into a single, firm entity, it had to engage in continual public cultural activities and to invent a unifying collective memory. Such a novel system of accessible norms and practices was also needed for the overarching consciousness, an amalgamating ideological consciousness: namely, nationalism.
FROM IDEOLOGY TO IDENTITY
For a long time, scholars—especially historians—regarded nations as an ancient, indeed primeval, phenomenon. Reading their writings today, one sometimes gets the impression that history began with the rise of national groups. These thinkers stirred together past and present, and projected their contemporary, homogeneous and democratic cultural world onto perished civilizations. They based their arguments on historical documents produced by the higher political and intellectual powers of traditional societies, translated them into standard contemporary languages, and adapted them to their own conceptualized national world. Because in their view, nations have always existed, they regarded as a new phenomenon the rise of nationalism as a formulated idea.
Gellner’s theoretical land mine shook most scholars. “It is nationalism which engenders nations, and not the other way round,” he declared with his trenchant radicalism, forcing everyone, even the reluctant, to reevaluate the issue.24 Economic, administrative and technological modernization had created the infrastructure and the need for the nation, but the process was accompanied by deliberate ideological practices for steering—or wishing to steer, where the state system had yet to achieve power—the language, education, memory and other cultural elements that create and define the nation’s contours. The supreme reasoning uniting all these ideological practices required that “the political and the national unit should be congruent.”25
Gellner was prominently followed by Eric Hobsbawm, whose book Nations and Nationalism since 1780examined how and when political systems, or movements that sought to found states, produced national entities out of blends of existing cultural, linguistic and religious materials. But Hobsbawm appended a warning to Gellner’s theoretical audacity, writing that nations are “dual phenomena, constructed essentially from above, but which cannot be understood unless also analysed from below, that is in terms of the assumptions, hopes, needs, longings and interests of ordinary people.”26
It is not easy to discover what “ordinary people” thought in historical times, because they left almost no written sources, the supposedly trustworthy testimonies on which historians base their work. But the willingness of citizens of the new nation-states to join armies and fight in wars that became all-out
24 Gellner, Nations and Nationalism, 55.
25 Ibid, 1.
26 Eric Hobsbawm,Nations and Nationalism since 1780, Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1992, 10-11.
confrontations, the masses’ intoxicating enthusiasm for international sports events, their eagerness during state occasions, their political preferences in the most decisive elections throughout the twentieth century—all of these tend to demonstrate that nationalism has been a captivating success story.
And rightly so, since only in the national democratic state are the citizens both formally and mentally the legitimate proprietors of the modern state. Historical kingdoms belonged to the monarchs, princes and nobility, not to the societies that bore these persons on their productive backs. Modern democratic political entities, by contrast, are perceived by the masses to be their collective property. The imagined ownership of the new state is also seen as proprietorship of the national territory. Printed maps, which were not of course available in premodern times, familiarize people with the exact dimensions of their state, the boundaries of their common and “eternal” property. Hence the appearance of, among other things, passionate mass patriotism and the impressive willingness to kill and be killed, not only for the abstract homeland but for every inch of its ground.
It is true that nationalism has spread in different ways through different social classes, and it has certainly not fully erased earlier collective identities, but its victorious hegemony in the modern era is beyond question.
The assumption that it was national ideology that created, invented or shaped the forms of identity and the envisioning of the nation does not imply that this ideology was the accidental invention or the whim of evil rulers and thinkers. We are not dealing here with a dark world of conspiracies, nor even with an industry of political manipulation. Although ruling elites did foster the development of a national identity by the masses, primarily in order to maintain their loyalty and obedience, nationalism is an intellectual and emotional phenomenon that exceeds modernity’s basic power relations. It springs from the intersection of various historical processes that began in the developing capitalist West about three centuries ago. It is both ideology and identity, embracing all human groupings and providing them with an answer to a variety of needs and expectations.
If identity is a lens through which the individual makes sense of the world, and is in fact a condition of subjecthood, national identity is a modern lens through which the state makes sense of a diverse population, making it feel it is a homogeneous and unique historical subject.
The early stages of modernization—the destruction of agrarian dependency relations, the collapse of the associated traditional communal connections, and the decline of the religious beliefs that had provided comforting frameworks of identity—already presented conceptual breaches through which nationalism could enter at an accelerating rate. The breakdown in the forms of solidarity and identity of the small human communities in the
villages and towns—caused by occupational mobility and urbanization, and by the abandonment of extended-family homes and of familiar objects and spaces—produced cognitive lacerations that only a total identity politics, such as nationalism, could heal, through powerful abstractions given shape by the dynamic new means of communication.
We find the early buds of national ideology, though still hidden in religious foliage, beginning to flower in the political spring of the Puritan revolution in seventeenth-century England. (Perhaps they had been pollinated by the new Church of England, in its break with the Roman papacy.)27Following that upheaval, these buds proceeded to open and then spread east and west, along with the process of modernization. The revolutionary period of the late eighteenth century saw their fullest flowering. A national consciousness was beginning to flourish among North American and French revolutionaries, hand in hand with the idea of “the people’s sovereignty,” the mighty war cry of the new era.
The famous phrase “No taxation without representation!” taken up against Britain by the bold settlers of America, already presented this advancing entity’s Janus face of nationalism and democracy. When the Abbé Sieyes wrote his famous essay in 1789, “What is the third estate?,” the still virginally shy national-democratic ideology could be glimpsed between the lines. Three years later, it was borne aloft through the turbulent streets of France. The cult of the national state, with its rituals, festivals and anthems, began to seem natural and obvious in the eyes of the Jacobin revolutionaries and their successors.
Napoleon’s conquests undermined the traditional monarchist structures and accelerated the spread of what might be described as the central ideological virus of political modernity. The national-democratic bug entered the hearts of France’s soldiers when they came to believe that each one of them might be carrying a marshal’s baton in his knapsack. Even the circles that sought to oppose the Napoleonic conquests, even the democratic movements that began to challenge the traditional kingdoms, soon became nationalistic. The historical logic of this spreading phenomenon was plain to see: “government by the people” could only be realized in the national state.
There was more. Old, enfeebled dynastic empires—the Prussian and the
Austro-Hungarian and, later, the Tsarist Russian—were also obliged to adopt, cautiously and incrementally, the national innovation, in hopes of extending their own survival. In the course of the nineteenth century, nationalism triumphed almost everywhere in Europe, although it would mature only with the passage of the law of compulsory education and, toward the end of the century, the universal franchise. These two major projects of mass democracy also helped shape the national structures.
27 For a further discussion on the later nationalism in England, see Krisham Kumar, The Making of English National Identity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Nationalism was further invigorated in the twentieth century. The repressive enterprises of colonialism produced many new nations. From Indonesia to Algeria, Vietnam to South Africa, national identity became universal.28 There are few human beings today who do not see themselves as members of a defined nationality, and do not aspire to complete self-governance for their home country.
It was the American historian Carlton Hayes, arguably the first academic investigator of nationalism, who as early as the 1920s compared its force to that of the great traditional religions.29 Hayes, who was probably a religious believer, assumed that nations had existed for a long time, but he also emphasized the inventive aspect and the structure of modern nationalism, and drew a comprehensive comparison between faith in the supreme deity and passionate belief in the supremacy of the nation. Although he was chiefly concerned with the history of ideas, Hayes argued that nationalism was a great deal more than simply another political philosophy expressive of a socioeconomic historical process, because its potential for destruction is immense. He wrote his first book with the images of the First World War, and its millions of new, highly nationalistic casualties, filling his mind’s eye.
As Hayes saw it, the decline of Christianity in eighteenth-century Europe did not reflect a complete disappearance of the ancient and persistent human belief in transcendental powers. Modernization merely replaced the former objects of religion. Nature, science, humanism and progress are rational categories, but they also incorporate powerful external factors to which human beings are subject. The climax of the intellectual and religious transformation in the late eighteenth century was the advent of nationalism. Arising as it did from the heart of Christian civilization, it exhibited certain distinctive features from the start. Just as the church organized the faith during the medieval era in Europe, the national state regiments it in the modern era. This state sees itself as performing an eternal mission; it demands to be worshipped, has substituted strict civil registration for the religious sacraments of baptism and marriage, and regards those who question their national identity as traitors and heretics.
28 On nationalism outside the European sphere, see the two books by Partha Chatterjee, Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World, Tokyo: Zed Books, 1986;The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories,Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993.
29 Carlton J. H. Hayes, “Nationalism as a Religion,” in Essays on Nationalism, New York: Russell,  1966, 93-125; and Nationalism: A Religion, New York: Macmillan, 1960.
Hayes’s ideas were taken up by many who viewed nationalism as a sort of modern religion. Benedict Anderson, for example, saw it as a type of faith that confronts the finality of death in a novel way.30 Others defined nationalism as a species of religion that succeeds, amid modernity’s fracturing upheavals, in endowing human life with new meaning. Giving meaning to constantly changing reality was one of the main functions of the new secular religion. Still other scholars diagnosed nationalism as a modern religion whose function was to construct a permanent cultic scaffolding for the social order and the class hierarchy. However, if we accept these or other assumptions about nationalism’s religious nature, we are left with a double question that is yet to be answered: Does nationalism really provide what may be described as a genuine metaphysics of the soul, and will it last as long as the monotheistic religions?
There are significant differences between nationalism and the traditional religions. For example, the universalistic and proselytizing aspects that characterize a good part of the transcendental religions differ from the contours of nationalism, which tends to enclose itself. The fact that the nation almost always worships itself, rather than a transcendental deity, also affects the manner of rallying the masses for the state—not a permanent feature of the traditional world. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that nationalism is the ideology that most closely resembles the traditional religions in successfully crossing class boundaries and fostering social inclusion in a common system of relationships. More than any other worldview or normative system, nationalism has shaped both a personal and a communal identity, and despite its high degree of abstraction, has succeeded in bridging the gap and strengthening the union between the two. Identities of class, community or traditional religion have not been able to resist it for long. They have not been erased, but their continued existence became possible only if they integrated into the symbiotic interconnections of the newly arrived identity.
Other ideologies and political movements have likewise been able to flourish only insofar as they negotiated with the new national idea. This was the fate of all varieties of socialism, as well as of Communism in the Third World, in occupied Europe during the Second World War and in the Soviet Union itself. We must not forget that fascism and National Socialism, before they became an oppressive answer to the conflict between capital and labor, were specific varieties of radically aggressive nationalism.
30 Anderson, Imagined Communities, 10-12.
The modern colonialism and imperialism of the liberal nation-states were almost always supported at the center by popular national movements, and nationalist ideology served them as the principal source of emotional and political credit in financing every stage of their expansion.
So nationalism is a worldwide concept, born of the sociocultural process of modernization and serving as a leading answer to the psychological and political needs of the immense human masses rushing into the labyrinth of a new world. Nationalism might not have literally invented nations, as Gellner asserted, but neither was it invented by them, or by the “peoples” who preceded them. Without nationalism and its political and intellectual instruments, nations would not have come into being, and nation-states would certainly not have arisen. Every step in defining the outline of the nation and determining its cultural profile was taken deliberately, creating and managing the apparatus for its implementation. The national project was, therefore, a fully conscious one, and the national consciousness took shape as it progressed. It was a simultaneous process of imagination, invention, and actual self-creation.31
The forms of imagination and invention varied from place to place, hence also the boundaries of the new human divisions. Like all ideological and political phenomena, they depended on their particular histories.
FROM ETHNIC MYTH TO CIVIL IMAGINARY
Hans Kohn, a Zionist of Czech-German background who began to despair of
Jewish nationalism, left Mandatory Palestine for the United States at the end of the 1920s. There he became, along with Carlton Hayes, one of the fathers of the academic study of nationalism. His youth in Eastern Europe, where he had fought in the First World War, along with his experiences and disillusion in the Zionist colonialist enterprise and his migration to New York, equipped him with more valuable firsthand data than his colleague Hayes possessed.32 He, too, was a captive of the essentialist premise that peoples and nations had always existed, and he, too, assumed that only the national consciousness was a novel phenomenon that had to be interpreted in the context of modernization.
31 The self-construction of nations is not the same as the self-creation of a modern working class, but the dismantling of the essentialist approach to the two “things”—nation and class—has much in common. See E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class,London: Penguin,  2002.
32 On his fascinating life and the development of his thought, see Ken Wolf, “Hans Kohn’s Liberal Nationalism: The Historian as Prophet,” Journal of the History of the Ideas 37:4 (1976). 651-72.
Thus, much of his writing belongs to the “history of ideas,” though it includes a cautious attempt to make use of sociopolitical history as well. His crucial contribution to the study of nationalism was his pioneering effort to map its different expressions.
Kohn began writing on the issue of nationalism back in the 1920s, but it was only in his comprehensive study The Idea of Nationalism, published in 1944, that he formulated his famous theory of dichotomy, which won him many supporters as well as many opponents.33 If the First World War pointed him toward the study of nationalism, it was the Second World War that determined his political and ideological sensibilities and, in effect, determined his scholarly achievement. Kohn saw nationalism as made up of two dominant categories: Western nationalism, with an essentially voluntarist approach, which developed on either side of the Atlantic Ocean, bounded on the east by Switzerland; and the organic national identity that spread eastward from the Rhine, encompassing Germany, Poland, the Ukraine and Russia.
Nationalism in the West, except in Ireland, is an original phenomenon that sprang from autochthonous sociopolitical forces, without outside intervention. In most cases it appears when the state, which is engaged in modernization, is well established or is being established. This nationalism draws its ideas from the traditions of the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment, and its principles are based on individualism and liberalism, both legal and political. The hegemonic class that engenders this national consciousness is a powerful, secular bourgeoisie, and it constructs civil institutions with political power that play a decisive role in the formation of liberal democracy. It is a self-confident bourgeoisie, and the national politics it fosters tend generally toward openness and inclusiveness. Becoming a citizen of the United States, Britain, France, the Netherlands or Switzerland depends not only on origin and birth but also on the will to join. For all the differences between national perceptions, anyone naturalized in these countries is seen, legally and ideologically, as a member of the nation, with the state as the common property of the citizenry.
According to Kohn, the nationalism that developed in Central and Eastern Europe (the Czech case being something of an exception) was, by contrast, a historical product catalyzed principally from outside. It came into being during Napoleon’s conquests and began to take shape as a movement of resistance against the ideas and progressive values of the Enlightenment. In these countries, the national idea arose before, and in fact unconnected with, the consolidation of a modern state apparatus. In these political cultures the middle classes were weak, and the civil institutions they founded were deferential toward the central and aristocratic authorities. The national identity they embraced was hesitant; it lacked confidence. As a result, it rested on kinship and ancient origin, and defined the nation as a rigid, organically exclusive entity.
33 Hans Kohn, The Idea of Nationalism, New York: Collier Books,  1967. His early, pioneering work, A History of Nationalism in the East, New York: Harcourt, 1929, remains notable.
The national philosophies that flourished in the lands of the future state of Germany, of Poland-to-be, and of Russia, exclusive property of the tsars, were reactionary and irrational. They foreshadowed the political tendencies that would develop in these regions. The mystique of blood and soil characterized German nationalism, much as conservative romanticism animated the national ferment in the Slav countries of Eastern Europe. Henceforth it would be impossible to join the emerging nations, because they were perceived as exclusive ethnobiological or ethnoreligious entities. The boundaries of the nation were congruent with the “ethnic” boundaries, which could not be entered at will. Such was the unmistakable historical product of this identity politics.
Kohn’s dichotomic theory, broadly sketched above without its finer nuances, was without doubt fundamentally normative and born chiefly in reaction to the rise of Nazism. The immigrant, who had already passed through several cultures and national movements, regarded the collective superidentity of the United States, his final refuge, as the highest realization of the universalistic aims that animated Western culture. By contrast, Germany and the East represented the terminus of all the myths and legends about ancient collectives, organic and ethnicist.34
Certainly Kohn’s idealization of the American concept of citizenship and Anglo-Saxon nationalism in general does not withstand present-day criticism, and so not unexpectedly found a good many opponents. But the criticism of Kohn’s theory may be broadly classified as of two kinds. One noted his excessively schematic division and pointed out empirical weaknesses in its historical descriptions but did not reject the essential elements of his analysis; the other entirely rejected the fundamental basis of his distinction between politicalcivil and ethnic-organic nationalisms, with implicit apologetics for the latter.35
34 See also Hans Kohn, Nationalism, Its Meaning and History, Princeton: Van
Nostrand, 1955, 9-90; The Mind of Germany: The Education of a Nation, London: Macmillan, 1965; and Hans Kohn and Daniel Walden, Readings in American Nationalism, New York: Van Nostrand, 1970, 1-10.
35 See Taras Kuzio, “The Myth of the Civic State: a Critical Survey of Hans Kohn’s Framework for Understanding Nationalism,” Ethnic and Racial Studies 25:1 (2002), 20-39.
In reality, an analysis of the development of Western societies, which Kohn classified as civil, voluntarist, inclusive nations—the United States, Britain, France, the Netherlands—reveals tensions and struggles among diverse tendencies. Throughout the nineteenth century, Protestant Anglo-Saxon identity formed the principal focus of American nationalism, so that Native Americans, Asian and Eastern European immigrants, and black African slaves often experienced hostility and strong identity anxieties. In the 1940s, when Kohn was writing his pioneering book, black citizens had not yet been “imagined” as an immanent part of the great democratic nation.36
Although the British have always been proud of their mixed origins (Norman, Scandinavian, and so on), at the height of the liberal British Empire political thinkers and leaders saw the inborn English character as the source of its greatness, and their attitude toward the inhabitants of the colonies was always contemptuous. Many Britons took pride in their Anglo-Saxon heritage, and viewed the Welsh and the Irish “of pure Celtic origin” as their inferiors, races alien to the “chosen Christian people.” In the course of the nineteenth century, during which national identity crystallized throughout the West, there were always Frenchmen who described themselves as direct descendants of the Gallic tribes, bolstering their hostility toward the Germans within the framework of the eternal struggle against the Frankish tribes invading from the east.
At the same time, we find in Central and Eastern Europe not a few thinkers, currents and movements that sought to devise an open, inclusive identity politics, bounded not by ethnobiological or ethnoreligious but by cultural and political boundaries. In Germany, the central object of Kohn’s dichotomic model, there was not only the ethnocentric national tradition whose outstanding ideologists were Heinrich von Treitschke and Werner Sombart; there were also cosmopolitan writers such as Friedrich von Schiller and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, national liberals such as Theodor Mommsen and Max Weber, as well as the great social-democratic mass movement that viewed Germanity as a hospitable culture and saw all who lived within its territory as its inherent parts. Similarly, in Tsarist Russia it was not only the various socialist movements that took the inclusive political position that anyone who saw oneself as a Russian must be regarded as such, but also liberal currents and broad intellectual strata that regarded Jews, Ukrainians and Belorussians as integral parts of the great nation.
36 On nationalism in the US, see the interesting article by Susan-Mary Grant, “Making History: Myth and the Construction of American Nationhood,” in Myths and Nationhood, G. Hoskin and G. Schöpflin (eds.), New York: Routledge, 1997, 88-106.
Nevertheless, Kohn’s primary intuition was correct and to the point. In the early phases of every Western nation—indeed in every emerging national ideology—ethnocentric myths surround the dominant cultural and linguistic group revered as the original people-race. But in Western societies, for all their subtle variations, these myths fade, though they are never quite extinguished, slowly giving way to a complex of ideas and sensibilities that hold every citizen and naturalized immigrant to be integral parts of the nation. At some point, the hegemonic culture comes to see itself as belonging to all members of the nation, and the dominant identity aspires to encompass them all. This inclusive democratization is not an unbroken process—it experiences regressions and deviations, as well as political upheavals in times of instability and crisis. Yet despite such setbacks, all the liberal democracies have given rise to an imagined citizenship in which the future is more significant than the past. This imagined concept has been translated into legal norms and eventually permeates the state educational systems.
This took place through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in the Anglo-Saxon countries, the Low Countries, France and Switzerland. Not that racism vanished from these societies, or that contempt and conflict between different sectors within them ceased. But the processes of integration— sometimes through the absorption of divergent parts, sometimes by their suppression—were perceived as necessary, even as desirable. If hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue, then citizenship nationalism is the relatively open culture in which the racist, or the excluding ethnicist, is always forced to apologize.
By contrast, in Germany, Poland, Lithuania, the Ukraine and Russia, despite considerable movements supporting a definition of national identity on the political basis of citizenship, it was the groups that continued to cultivate myths about an ancient homogeneous origin that carried the day. Such old concepts about a rigid ethnic entity that remained unchanged through history, a genealogy of a primeval and unique “people,” effectively barred anyone from joining the nation or, for that matter, from quitting it—hence, Germans or Poles and their offspring in the United States would remain forever, in the eyes of nationalists, members of the German or the Polish nation.
The Gallic tribes were depicted in the French educational system as a kind of historical metaphor—even the children of immigrants repeated at school that their ancestors were Gauls, and their teachers took pride in these new “descendants”37—whereas the Teutonic knights, or the ancient Aryan tribes, increasingly became toward the end of the nineteenth century the idealized forebears of the modern Germans. Whoever was not considered a descendant of theirs was not regarded as a true German.
37 On the consciousness that France is not “Gaul’s descendant,” see the testimony
Similarly, in the Poland that arose after the First World War, whoever had not been conceived in a purely Catholic womb, who happened to be the child of Jews, Ukrainians or Ruthenians, even if a citizen, was not regarded as a member of the noble, longsuffering Polish nation.38Likewise, to many Slavophiles, subjects who had not been born within the bosom of the Orthodox Church and were not authentic Slavs were therefore not part of the holy Russian people and were not to be included within Greater Russia.
The life of linguistic or religious minorities in these countries was immeasurably harder than in the West, even if we leave to one side for the moment the pogroms against Jews in Russia and the murderous campaigns of the Nazis. It is enough to look at the character of the national entities that arose after the collapse of Yugoslavia, and the fragile criteria for membership in them, to perceive the connection between ethnoreligious definitions and the outburst of intercommunal xenophobia. These entities resorted to almost extinct “religion” in order to assert their national ethnos, which had never had much of an existence. It was only the use of ancient (and utterly fictitious) myths that made it possible to set “Catholic” Croatians against “Orthodox” Serbs, and these in an especially vicious way against “Muslim” Bosnians and Kosovars. Following the failure of the former Communist regime’s integrative policies, minute cultural and linguistic differences turned into exclusionary walls.39
Until the final decade of the twentieth century, Germany and Eastern Europe remained dominated by persistent ethnicist nationalism. Cultural and linguistic minorities, even when in possession of citizenship, were still not included in the dominant public consciousness within the national boundaries. Locally born second- and even third-generation immigrants were not granted citizenship. Yet “ethnic Germans” who had lived for generations in the East, in some cases since the Middle Ages, and who had lost all cultural and linguistic connection with any kind of “Germanity,” still had the privilege of becoming
of Ernest Lavisse, the “pedagogic father” of French national historiography, in the book of Claude Nicolet, La Fabrique d’une nation: La France entre Rome et les Germains, Paris: Perrin, 2003, 278-80.
38 On the nature of Polish nationalism, see Brian Porter, When Nationalism Began to Hate: Imagining Modern Politics in Nineteenth-Century Poland, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003-
39 On nationalism in the Balkans and elsewhere at the end of the twentieth century, see the interesting book by Michael Ignatieff, Blood and Belonging: Journeys in the New Nationalism, New York: Farrar, 1993.
German citizens anytime they wished. Only as the European Community grew, and traditional nationalism somewhat declined, did ethnocentric identities begin to weaken in Central and Eastern Europe, as it silently submitted to the requirements of full democratic citizenship in the new, unified Europe. It must not be forgotten that ethnicist nationalism meant that democracy— namely, government representing the entire population equally—was always imperfect because not all citizens were held to be legitimate members of the national body.
The historical origin of this difference lies in the unresolved division between the process that matured into a political nationalism based on citizenship, which one could call citizenship nationalism, as opposed to a nationalism based on an allegiance to ethnicity, which one could call ethnic nationalism. Unfortunately, Hans Kohn’s explanations were not entirely satisfactory. For example, Italy’s unification came late, paralleling that of Germany, and, as in Germany, the weak middle class did not accelerate its nationalization. In both countries national movements arose some time before actual unification, and in both it was the monarchies, rather than bourgeois strata with mass support, that created the states. Yet in Germany it was the ethnic, or ethnobiological, version of nationalism that triumphed, while in Italy by the end of the nineteenth century the political citizenship version had won.
The difficulty in understanding this contrast can be further highlighted by comparing the later movements—German National Socialism and Italian fascism. Both were strongly nationalistic, and among their various projects was popular unification, which had not been fully accomplished by the monarchies. Both movements were authoritarian, both viewed the nation as a collective greater than the sum of its parts (the individuals of which it was composed), and both despised Western individualism. But National Socialism adopted the ethnobiological heritage on which it had been nurtured from the start, whereas Italian fascism continued to draw, at least until 1938, on the inclusive political nationalism of Italy’s legendary founders, Giuseppe Mazzini and Giuseppe Garibaldi. German speakers in northern Italy, Jews in the urban centers, and Croatians annexed by war were all perceived as parts of the Italian nation, or future members of it.
Even the historian Hobsbawm’s interesting chronological classification is only partially convincing. He noted that the nationalist phenomenon had two hues: the first appeared during the revolutionary era of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, bearing liberal-democratic characteristics; the latter surged in a new form at the end of the nineteenth, based on reactionary ethnolinguistic and racist markers.40 While it is true that toward the end of that century the processes of urbanization and migration in Eastern Europe intensified, and the friction between them produced resentment and racism, Hobsbawm’s analysis cannot account for the German development. Moreover, Greece, which attained national independence in the first half of the nineteenth century and won the sympathy of all the democrats and liberals in Europe at that time, preserved almost to the end of the twentieth century its rigid ethnoreligious nationalism. By contrast, the nature of Italian nationalism, which matured later, was quite political and citizen-focused. Likewise, Czech nationalism—resulting in a nation-state, together with the Slovaks, that was attained only after the First World War—displayed a certain inclusiveness (though not toward German-speakers), which was quite rare among the other nationalities that arose with the fall of the Hapsburgs.
Liah Greenfeld, a noted scholar in the field of nationalism—as a child she emigrated from the USSR to Israel, and then left it to further her academic career in the United States—has tackled the issue with the tools of comparative sociology borrowed from Max Weber.” She accepted in broad terms the division between citizenship and ethnic nationalism, but chose to include the collectivist touchstone: if Britain and the United States are individualistic states, the state of France—born from the great Revolution—linked civil identity with reverence for the body politic. Hence its culture is more homogeneous and less tolerant and liberal toward resident minorities than that of its Western neighbors. However, the countries between the Rhine and Moscow developed a more problematic nationalism, being both collectivist and ethnicist. In these countries the nation is seen as an unchangeable primeval body, to which people can belong only by virtue of genetic inheritance.
For Greenfeld, the difference between the strategies of national identity formation was caused principally by the character of the historical subject responsible for them. In the West, broad social strata adopted and internalized the national consciousness—in England, it was the minor aristocracy and the fairly literate urban population; in North America, the generality of settlers; and in France, the strong bourgeoisie. In the East, however, quite narrow strata led the way in the adoption of nationalism—in the Germanic
40 Hobsbawm,Nations and Nationalism since 1780, 101-130.
41 See Liah Greenfeld,Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992; and also her article “Nationalism in Western and Eastern
Europe Compared,” in Can Europe Work? Germany and the Reconstruction of Postcomtnunist
Societies, S. E. Hanson and W. Spohn (eds.), Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1995, 15-23.
cultural world it was small circles of intellectuals who sought a rise in status at the heart of the conservative social hierarchy, while in Russia it was the weak aristocracy that adopted a new modern identity through which it hoped to preserve its remaining privileges. The prolonged isolation of the groups who created “Eastern” nationalism was largely responsible for its exclusivity and its persistent attachment to a mythological past.
Other scholars have proposed further explanations for the disparate kinds of national temperament that produced such different histories in Europe and worldwide. According to Gellner, in the West it did not take many broken eggs to make the national omelette—thanks to the long existence of a high culture, only a few moderate corrections were needed to define the national boundaries. But the “East,” given its general disarray, had no such long-standing high culture, hence the need felt by a particular cultural and linguistic group to forcibly modify the body politic through the use of exclusion, expulsion, even the physical annihilation of other cultural groups.42 Here, too, Gellner’s analysis, like Hobsbawm’s, fails to fit the Germanic world: although it had a high culture ever since the Reformation, outright ethnocentric nationalism ultimately won.
Roger Brubaker, an American sociologist who conducted a thorough methodical comparison between the development of nationhood in France and in Germany, also concluded that the complex mosaic of, and sharp frictions between, cultural-linguistic groups on the Germanic-Slavic frontiers were among the main causes of their differences. For a long time, there had not been a strong nation-state capable of “Germanizing” Poles and others who lived among speakers of German dialects. Nor did a revolutionary regime arise, as in France, capable of unifying all the “ethnic Germans” surrounded by other linguistically defined cultures.43
To this day, no agreed synthesis has been proposed that accounts for the spectrum of national expressions and for their development over the past two centuries. Socioeconomic, psychological and demographic factors, geographic location, even political and historical contingencies—the explanations remain partial and incomplete. Nor has a satisfactory answer been found thus far to the question of why certain nations preserved ethnocentric myths for a long time and used these in their self-definition, while other nations grew up relatively fast and so succeeded in establishing mature democracies. It appears that further research is required, as well as additional empirical findings.
42 Gellner, Nations and Nationalism, 100.
43 Rogers Brubaker,Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992, 5-11. Brubaker later rejected the conceptual distinction between civil and ethnic nationalism, preferring to distinguish between “state-framed” and “counter-state” nationalism. See “The Manichean Myth: Rethinking the Distinction Between ‘Civic’ and ‘Ethnic’ Nationalism,” in Hanspeter Kries et al. (eds.), Nation and National Identity: The European Experience in Perspective, Zürich: Rüegger, 1999, 55-71.
THE INVENTION OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE
A primeval ancestral identity, an image of a biological genealogy, and the idea of a chosen people/race did not spring up in a vacuum. For the consolidation of a national consciousness, civil or ethnocentric, it was always necessary to have a literate elite. To enable the nation to “remember” and consolidate its historical imagery, it required the services of scholarly producers of culture, masters of memory, creators of laws and constitutions. While diverse social strata utilized or derived various advantages from the rise of the nation-state, the central agents in the formation of national entities—those who perhaps derived the greatest symbolic profit from them—were, above all, the intellectuals.
THE INTELLECTUAL AS THE NATION’S “PRINCE”
Carlton Hayes, who painstakingly researched national ideas in the classic texts of modern thought, had concluded in the 1920s that “the upshot of the whole process is that a nationalist theology of the intellectuals becomes a nationalist mythology for the masses.”44To this Tom Nairn, a much later scholar, no less original and, significantly, a Scot, added, “The new middle-class intelligentsia of nationalism had to invite the masses into history; and the invitation-card had to be written in a language they understood.”45
These two working hypotheses can stand, insofar as we succeed in shaking off the long scholarly tradition of viewing the ideas of its leading thinkers as the causes, or points of departure, for the actual historical development. Nationalism is not a theoretical product that germinated in scholars’ studies and was then adopted by the masses yearning for ideology, thereby becoming a way of life.46To understand the way nationalism spread, we must define the role of intellectuals in this phenomenon, and perhaps begin by considering their differing sociopolitical status in traditional and in modern societies.
There has never been an organized society, except perhaps in the early tribal stages, that did not produce intellectuals. While the noun “intellectual” is a fairly late one, born at the end of the nineteenth century, the most basic divisions of labor had already seen the rise of individuals whose main activity or livelihood was the production and manipulation of cultural symbols and signs.
44 Hayes, Essays on Nationalism, no.
45 Tom Nairn, The Break-Up of Britain: Crisis and Neo-Nationalism, London: New Left Books, 1977, 340.
46 Elie Kedourie’s classic, Nationalism (London: Hutchinson, 1960), embodies this approach.
From the sorcerer or shaman, through the royal scribes and priests, to the church clerics, court jesters and painters of cathedrals, cultural elites emerged in all agrarian societies. These elites had to be capable of providing, organizing and disseminating words or images in three major areas: first, the accrual of knowledge; second, the development of ideologies that would preserve the stability of the social order; and third, the provision of an organizing metaphysical explanation for the seemingly magical cosmic order.
Most of these cultural elites, as noted earlier, were in some ways dependent on and entangled with the politically and economically dominant strata. The dependence could be lesser or greater; here and there, a measure of autonomy—and even, given a solid economic basis, a degree of independence—was achieved. Nor was the dependence one-sided: political power, which in traditional societies intermeshed with the web of economic production differently than it does in modern societies, needed cultural elites in order to maintain control.
By combining the explanation given by Antonio Gramsci for the various ways in which intellectuals exist in the world of production with Gellner’s theory of modernization, we gain further insight into their role in the formation of nationalism and the nation. According to the Italian Marxist,
Every social class, coming into existence on the original basis of an essential function in the world of economic production, creates with itself, organically, one or more groups of intellectuals who give it homogeneity and consciousness of its function.47
To retain control for a long time, it is not enough to possess visible power; it is necessary to produce ethical and legal norms. An educated stratum provides a hegemonic consciousness to underpin the class structure, so that it will not need to keep defending that structure by violent means. In the premodern world the traditional intellectuals were the court scribes, artistic protégés of a prince or a king, and the various agents of religion. Above all it was the clergy in historical societies who helped consolidate a consensual ideology. Gramsci, in his time, admitted that it was still necessary to investigate the rise of the intellectuals in the feudal and classical world, and indeed his writing on the subject is tentative and rather disappointing. Gellner, on the other hand,
ventured a more interesting hypothesis.
47 Antonio Gramsci, “The Formation of Intellectuals,” in The Modern Prince and Other Writings, New York: International Publishers, 1957, 118.
As stated earlier, before the invention of printing, court scribes and priests did not have the means of communication to reach the masses, nor did they need them. The divine right of royalty conveyed ideological legitimacy primarily to the administrative circles and landed aristocracy, and these groups controlled the territory. It is true that the religious elite slowly began its effort to reach the generality, namely, the peasant population, but it also avoided close contact with it. Gellner gives a good description of the intellectual mechanism in agricultural societies:
The tendency of liturgical languages to become distinct from the vernacular is very strong: it is as if literacy alone did not create enough of a barrier between cleric and layman, as if the chasm between them had to be deepened, by making the language not merely recorded in an inaccessible script, but also incomprehensible when articulated;48
Unlike the relatively small priestly circles in the polytheistic royal courts around the ancient Mediterranean, the spreading monotheism gave rise to broader intellectual strata. From the ancient Essenes through the missionaries, monks, rabbis and priests, to the ulema, there were increasing numbers of literate individuals who had extensive and complex contact with the masses of agricultural producers—one reason that the religions survived through the ages while empires, kingdoms, principalities and peoples rose and fell. Religious bodies that did not fully blend with secular authorities acquired varying degrees of autonomy vis-à-vis the political and social classes. They cultivated lines of communication and were always perceived to be the servants of society as a whole, hence the impressive survival of the beliefs, cults and icons they disseminated. Another reason for the longevity of religions was that the value of the spiritual merchandise they provided to the masses must have been more meaningful than the earthly (and exploitative) security provided by the political powers: “divine providence” secured for believers the purity, grace and salvation of the next world.
We might add that the autonomy of religious bodies in the premodern world was achieved not only thanks to their reputation and widespread universal message, but also to the direct material support they received from the devout producers of food. Moreover, many literate individuals combined physical labor with their spiritual occupations, and those who belonged to the upper reaches of the establishment became in time a socioeconomic class and even a judicial establishment—for example, the Catholic Church.
48 Gellner, Natiotis and Nationalism, 11.
Despite the growing popularity of religious elites in the agrarian world, and their devotion to the human flock, they took good care of the working tool that enabled them to maintain their authority. Reading and writing, as well as the sacred tongue, were preserved by the “book people,” and there was neither the will nor the means to propagate these practices throughout the populace. Anderson puts it well: “the bilingual intelligentsia, by mediating between vernacular and Latin, mediated between earth and heaven.”49 Not only did the religious elites know the sacred languages and, in some cases, the language of the administration, but they were also familiar with the peasant dialects. This mediating function of bilingual or trilingual intellectuals gave them a power they would not readily give up.
But the process of modernization—the decline in the power of the church, the shrinking of the religious communities, the disappearance of the patronprotégé relations that had sustained the medieval producers of culture, and the formation of a market economy in which almost everything might be bought and sold—inevitably contributed to the transmutation of all cultural morphologies, leading to major alterations in the place and status of the intellectuals.
Gramsci repeatedly emphasized the links between these new literati and the rising bourgeoisie. These intellectuals, whom he described as “organic,” were not large capitalists but came mainly from the urban and rural middle strata. Some became skilled experts who administered production, while others followed the free professions or became public officials.
At the top of the pyramid Gramsci placed the “creators in the various fields of knowledge: philosophy, art, etc.,”50but he used the term “intellectual” broadly, including in effect the politicians and bureaucrats—that is, most of the modern states organizers and directors. In fact, although he does not say so, for him the new state apparatus as an intellectual collective replaced the rational “Prince,” the famous, idealized autocrat depicted by Niccolo Machiavelli. But unlike that mythological figure, the modern prince is not a single and absolute ruler, but rather a corps of intellectuals who control the apparatus of the nation-state. This body does not express its own interests but is supposed to represent the totality of the nation, for which purpose it produces a universal discourse claiming to serve all its members. In bourgeois society, Gramsci argued, the political-intellectual prince is a dependent partner of the property-owning classes that control production. Only when the party of workers comes to power—a new intellectual prince—will the universal dimension be realized in society’s upper political spheres.51
49 Anderson, Imagined Communities, 15-16.
50 Gramsci, The Modern Prince and Other Writings,125.
Actually Gramsci applied the term “prince” to a political organism seeking to seize the state structure in the name of the proletariat. I apply here the concept to the entire state apparatus,
It is not necessary to believe in Gramsci’s political Utopia—designed to justify his work as an intellectual in a workers’ party—to appreciate his theoretical achievement in analyzing the intellectual function that characterizes the modern state. Unlike the powers that ruled agrarian societies, modernization and the division of labor required that the political apparatus perform diverse, ever-multiplying intellectual functions. While the majority of the populace remained illiterate, this apparatus expanded and cultivated within it the bulk of the literate population.
Which social classes produced these first “intellectuals” in the growing state bureaucracy? The answer might help solve the question of the historical differences in the formation of civil and ethnic nationalisms. In Britain, after the Puritan revolution, the state apparatus was staffed by members of the new minor aristocracy and commercial bourgeoisie. In the United States the staff came mainly from wealthy farming families and prosperous city dwellers. In France it was mainly educated members of the commercial class and the petty bourgeoisie who filled the ranks of the “gown nobility,” while the upheavals of the Revolution continued to inject new social elements into the body politic.
In Germany, on the other hand, the Prussian imperial state system was made up principally of conservative members of the Junker class, their offspring, and their associates, and things did not immediately change when Prussia became part of the German Reich after 1871. In Russia, too, the Tsarist state drew its public servants from the traditional nobility. In Poland, the first social class that aspired and struggled for a national state were the aristocrats. Without revolutions to introduce educated, dynamic elements and members of the new mobile classes, the early stages of state formation did not include intellectuals who were commoners in the political game or, therefore, in the dominant protonational ideologies.
The French thinker Raymond Aron wondered whether racism is not, among other things, the snobbery of the poor.52 This observation not only diagnoses a familiar mental state of the modern mass; it can also point to the historical sources of the concept of “blood ties,” which dictated the boundaries of certain national groups. Before the modern age it was the nobility that marked blood as the measure of kinship.53 Only the aristocrats had blue blood in their veins, which they inherited from their precious ancestral seed. In the old agrarian world, biological determinism as the criterion for human classification was perhaps the most important symbolic possession of the ruling classes.
52 Raymond Aron, Les Désillusions du progrès: Essai sur la dialectique de la modernité, Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1969, 90.
53 In the ancient Jewish world, it was mostly the priesthood that demarcated its identity by blood, and in the late Middle Ages it was, strangely, the Spanish Inquisition.
It was the basis of the legal customs that served as the infrastructure of its prolonged, stable power over the land and the realm. As Alexis de Tocqueville observed in his time, upward mobility during the Middle Ages was possible only in the church: it was the only system not based exclusively on genealogy and was thus the source of modern egalitarianism.54
The dominant presence of members and associates of the declining nobility among the new intellectuals in the government systems of Central and Eastern Europe apparently affected the direction of the future national identities that were then developing. When the Napoleonic wars forced the kingdoms east of France to don national costumes, their loyal and conservative literate circles sowed the ideological seeds that exchanged the horizontal concept of blue blood for a vertical one, and the reversal of aristocratic identity initiated the hesitant beginnings of a protonational identity. This identity, assisted by later intellectuals, soon led to the ideological and legal principle defining the membership of the “ethnic” nationality as blood-based (jus sanguinis). The national membership granted in the West on grounds of birth in the territory (jus soli) was entirely absent in the nation-states of Eastern Europe.
Yet here, too, the Italian example flies in the face of overconfident schematization. Why did civil-political nationalism succeed here at such an early stage? Surely the first intellectuals of the state apparatus throughout the future Italy also derived from the traditional aristocracy? A possible, if inadequate, explanation for the relative restraint of ethnicism in the consolidation of Italian identity could be the tremendous weight of the papacy and the Catholic universalism that it imbued in all the strata from which the Italian bureaucracy arose. Perhaps also the clearly political myth of the ancient Roman republic and empire helped immunize this unusual civil identity; moreover, the marked differences between northern and southern Italians could have prevented a dubious ethnic nationalism.
Or we may ditch all of Gramsci’s analyses and choose a firmer basis on which to clarify the role of the intellectuals in national modernization. We can limit the term “intellectuals” to the producers, organizers and propagators of culture in the modern state and its extensions in civil society. With this approach, it will still be possible to discover how indispensable they were for the consolidation of nationalism and the formation of nation-states.
54 See Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, London: Oxford University Press, 1946.
As Anderson pointed out, one of the major developments leading up to the age of nationalism was the printing revolution that began in Western Europe at the end of the fifteenth century. This technocultural revolution weakened the status of the sacred languages and helped spread the languages of state administration that would eventually become national languages. The position of the clergy, whose use of the sacred languages was their main symbolic possession, declined. The clerics, who had attained their status and even earned their living thanks to their bilingualism, lost their historical role and were forced to seek other sources of income.55
The symbolic properties inherent in the national languages offered an expanding market of fresh opportunities. Flourishing book production required new specializations and new intellectual endeavors. Philosophers, scientists, and, before long, writers and poets abandoned Latin and turned to French, English, German and other vernaculars. The next stage, the rise of journalism, would hugely increase the number of readers, and thus the corps of writers catering to the public. But the real catalyst of national language and culture was the state, whose nature kept evolving. To promote production and compete with other national economies, the state apparatus had to take on the task of educating the populace and turn it into a national enterprise.
Universal education and the creation of agreed cultural codes were preconditions for the complex specializations demanded by the modern division of labor. Therefore every state that became “nationalized,” whether authoritarian or liberal, made elementary education a universal right. No mature nation failed to declare education compulsory, obliging its citizens to send their children off to school. This institution, which became the central agent of ideology—rivaled only by the military and by war—turned all subjects into citizens, namely, people conscious of their nationality.56If Joseph de Maistre maintained that the executioner was the mainstay of social order in the state, Gellner’s provocative insight was that the decisive role in the state belonged to none other than the educator.57 More than to their rulers, the new national citizens became loyal to their culture.
55 On the rise and consolidation of national languages, see Michael Billing, Banal Nationalism, London: Sage Publications, 1995, 13-36.
56 There are not enough empirical studies of the nationalization of the masses in the Western nations. One exception is the relatively early book by Eugen Weber, Peasants into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France, 1870-1914, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1976.
57 Gellner, Nations and Nationalism, 34.
Yet Gellner’s argument that this has turned the modern state into a community made up entirely of priests/scribes is imprecise.58 Though literacy has become universal, there is a new division of labor in the nation—between those who create and disseminate literacy and make their living doing so, and those who consume its products and make use of it. From the elected minister of culture through the university scholar and lecturer to the schoolteacher, a hierarchy of intellectuals serves the state, filling the roles of director and playwright, and even leading actors in the immense cultural spectacle called the nation. Agents of culture from the fields of journalism, literature, theater and, later, cinema and television form the supporting cast.
In the kingdoms that preceded the consolidation of nations, notably those in Western Europe, the agents of culture constituted an efficient corps that worked in tandem with administrative officialdom, the judiciary, and the military, and collaborated with them in the nation-building project. Among minority groups—cultural-linguistic or religious, and generally defined as ethnic—that had suffered discrimination under the supranational kingdoms and imperial powers, the intelligentsia were almost the only midwives of the new, rapidly rising nations.
Within the broad boundaries of the Austro-Hungarian, Tsarist Russian and Ottoman empires, and later the British, French, Belgian and Dutch colonies, there arose small circles of vigorous intelligentsia characterized by an acute sensitivity to cultural discrimination, linguistic repression, or exclusion on religious grounds. These groups arose only when the nationalist ferment was already seething in the metropolitan center—still weak and fictive in the crumbling kingdoms, but authentic and hegemonic in the new empires. These circles were familiar with the high culture that was taking shape and spreading in the centers of power, but still felt inferior to it, because they had come in from the margins and were constantly reminded of that fact. Since their working tools were cultural and linguistic, they were the first to be affected and thus formed the vanguard of the nationalist revolt.
58 Ibid., 32.
62 THE INVENTION OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE
These dynamic groups started a long campaign to lay the foundations for the emerging national movements that would claim sovereignty over the nations they represented while, at the same time, bringing them into being. Some of these intellectuals retrained to become the political leaders of the new mass movements. Others clung to their intellectual occupations and passionately continued to delineate the contours and contents of the new national culture. Without these early literati, nations would not have proliferated, and the political map of the world would have been more monochromatic.59
These intellectuals had to utilize popular or even tribal dialects, and sometimes forgotten sacred tongues, and to transform them quickly into new, modern languages. They produced the first dictionaries and wrote the novels and poems that depicted the imagined nation and sketched the boundaries of its homeland. They painted melancholy landscapes that symbolized the nation’s soil60 and invented moving folktales and gigantic historical heroes, and weaved ancient folklore into a homogeneous whole.61Taking events related to diverse and unconnected political entities, they welded them into a consecutive, coherent narrative that unified time and space, thus producing a long national history stretching back to primeval times. Naturally, specific elements of the various historical materials played a (passive) part in shaping the modern culture, but it was principally the intellectual sculptors who cast the image of the nation according to their vision, whose character was formed mainly by the intricate demands of the present.
Most of them did not see themselves as the midwives of the new nation but as the offspring of a dormant nation that they were arousing from a long slumber. None wanted to see themselves as a baby left on a church doorstep without an identifying note. Nor did the image of the nation as a sort of Frankenstein’s monster, composed of organs from different sources, especially disturb its devotees. Every nation had to learn who its “ancestors” were, and in some cases its members searched anxiously for the qualities of the biological seed that they propagated.
Genealogy gave added value to the new identity, and the longer the perceived past, the more the future was envisioned as unending. No wonder, then, that of all the intellectual disciplines, the most nationalistic is that of the historian.
The rupture caused by modernization detached humanity from its recent past. The mobility created by industrialization and urbanization shattered not only the rigid social ladder but also the traditional, cyclic continuity between past,
59 On the stages in the development of national minority movements in Eastern and Central Europe, see the important empirical work by the Czech scholar Miroslav Hroch, Social Preconditions of National Revival in Europe, New York: Columbia University Press, 2000. The author himself attributed the book’s awkward title and its obsolete terminology to the fact that its first version appeared back in the early 1970s.
60 On the visual depiction of nations, see Anne-Marie Thiesse’s excellent, La Création des identités nationales: Europe XVIIIe-XXe siècle, Paris: Seuil, 1999, 185-224,
61 On why and how national heroes are created, see P. Centlivres, et al. (eds.), La Fabrique des héros, Paris: Maison des sciences de l’homme, 1998.
present and future. Previously, agrarian producers had no need for the chronicles of kingdoms, empires and principalities. They had no use for the history of
large-scale collectives, because they had no interest in an abstract time unconnected to their concrete existence. Lacking such a concept of development, they were content with the religious imagination that comprised a mosaic memory devoid of a tangible dimension of progressive movement. The end became a beginning, and eternity bridged life and death.
The secular, upsetting modern world, however, turned time into the main artery through which symbolic and emotional imagery entered social consciousness. Historical time became inseparable from personal identity, and the collective narrative gave meaning to the national existence, whose consolidation required heavy sacrifices. The suffering of the past justified the price demanded of citizens in the present. The heroism of the receding world prophesied a brilliant future, perhaps not for the individual but certainly for the nation. With the help of historians, nationalism became an essentially optimistic ideology. This, more than anything else, was the secret of its success.