Monday, September 26, 2011

Hannah Arendt “Non-nationalist” Nationalism

Gershom Scholem, Hannah Arendt and the Paradox of “Non-nationalist” Nationalism

Raluca Munteanu

Eddon Department of Political Science Yale University
Prepared for delivery at the 2003 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, August 28 - August 31, 2003.
Copyright by the American Political Science Association
Authors: Munteanu, Raluca.

The opposition to the idea of Jewish sovereignty, which defined Scholem’s involvement in the Brit Shalom in the late 1920s and early 1930s, was a cause Arendt passionately embraced a decade later. The grounds for Arendt’s opposition can be easily gleaned from the historical analysis of the “Jewish Question” she puts forth in The Origins of Totalitarianism.

The solution this group envisioned to their paradoxical condition consisted in an attempt to redefine nationalism so as to eliminate what they considered its morally reprehensible aspects, notably the idea of sovereignty, and thus presumably deprive it of the potential to become an oppressive ideology.

The result was a “non-nationalist” conception of nationalism.

Arendt considered it ill-advised and nearly absurd for the Jews to want to create a nation state of their own, as this would recreate the very structure that, she thought, had failed, and had failed them, so dismally under the political pressures of the 20th century.

The “non-nationalist” nationalism of the Brit Shalom

The one group of German Zionists whose convictions throughout the 1920s and early 1930s mirrored Arendt’s, and for reasons very similar to hers, in 1925 formed an association known as the Brit Shalom, or Covenant for Peace. The goal of the Brit Shalom was to steer the Zionist Organization away from the imperialist interests Arendt so bitterly denounced and to foster Jewish-Arab cooperation and institution-building as an alternative.
Hannah Arendt, “Zionism Reconsidered” in JP, 153. 40 See Kedar, “Brit Shalom.”

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