“Beyond the Zionist Nation State” by Dmitry Shumsky (Oct. 2018). Partial comments by Gil S. Rubin in the January 9, 2019 online TABLET magazine:
“In Beyond the Nation-State, Dmitry Shumsky argues that, like [Vladimir] Jabotinsky, [c. 1930] an entire cast of mainstream Zionist leaders and thinkers envisioned the future Jewish state in Palestine as either binational or part of a larger multinational framework.
… "Shumsky critiques the “conspicuous lack of interest in East Central Europe” among historians of the origins of Israel. Once we turn our gaze from the Middle East to Eastern Europe—the cradle of the Zionist movement, Shumsky argues—we can easily explain the centrality of multinational ideas to the Zionist political imagination….
“Beyond the Nation-State was published just several months after Israel passed the Nation-State Law. The law codified the exact opposite vision of Zionism than that which Shumsky describes—only Jews are allowed to pursue national self-determination in Israel...
"While Shumsky’s study is convincing in describing the late-19th- and early-20th-century imperial origins of multinational ideas in Zionist thought, his study is less interested in examining how a Jewish ethnic nation-state ultimately came into being, and he dedicates only several pages to elucidating this shift.
"For Shumsky, the idea of a Jewish ethnic state was imposed on Zionism from the outside. Zionist leaders embraced it reluctantly and almost against their will....
"Yet the idea of an ethnic nation-state appears foreign to Zionist thought in Shumsky’s account because he construes too rigid a dichotomy between multinational visions and an ethnic nation-state. Shumsky portrays the interwar binationalist Zionist discourse as a moralistic vision aimed at creating a just society in Palestine…
"Shumsky is correct to emphasize the Eastern European origins of Zionist thought. But by focusing too heavily on Eastern Europe, Shumsky overlooks the radically different ways in which multinational and binational ideas operated in Eastern Europe and in Palestine…
"Shumsky also takes Ben-Gurion’s admission of support for binationalism at face value, without asking what it is that Ben-Gurion believed he gained from presenting himself in this way, while at the same time repeatedly opposing Jewish-Arab power sharing arrangements in practice…
"By positing a rigid dichotomy between multinational visions and an ethnic nation-state, Shumsky’s account also obscures the ways in which visions of Arab autonomy remained part of the Zionist political imagination long after 1948…Shumsky’s book is framed as a history of roads not taken…
"Shumsky’s book beautifully reminds us that the idea of autonomy originated in Eastern Europe as part of an egalitarian vision aimed at extending the right of self-determination to all minorities. But in so doing, his account obscures the fact that autonomy had been used in the past and remains today a tool designed primarily to prevent Palestinian self-determination.