ABOUT THIS BOOK
Emotion lies at the heart of all national movements, and Zionism is no exception. For those who identify as Zionist, the word connotes liberation and redemption, uniqueness and vulnerability. Yet for many, Zionism is a source of distaste if not disgust, and those who reject it are no less passionate than those who embrace it. The power of such emotions helps explain why a word originally associated with territorial aspiration has survived so many years after the establishment of the Israeli state.
Zionism: An Emotional State expertly demonstrates how the energy propelling the Zionist project originates from bundles of feeling whose elements have varied in volume, intensity, and durability across space and time. Beginning with an original typology of Zionism and a new take on its relationship to colonialism, Penslar then examines the emotions that have shaped Zionist sensibilities and practices over the course of the movement’s history. The resulting portrait of Zionism reconfigures how we understand Jewish identity amidst continuing debates on the role of nationalism in the modern world.
Derek J. Penslar is the William Lee Frost Professor of Jewish History at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is the author of several books, including Theodor Herzl: The Charismatic Leader and Jews and the Military: A History.
“Derek Penslar has written a brave and thought-provoking book that seeks to understand the well-springs of hope and belief in Zionism. Yet he does not shy away from less attractive passions, especially hatred in the name of Zionism and hatred of Zionism itself. Anyone keen to understand the way such deep emotions animate and shape history must read this compelling book.”
— Ruth Harris, author of Dreyfus: Politics, Emotion, and the Scandal of the Century
“Derek Penslar introduces a ‘new key’ to the history of Zionism with his examination of the emotions involved, helping us understand the passionate dynamics of both Zionist and anti-Zionist sensibilities as they have emerged and developed over time. This is a must read.”
— Ute Frevert, author of Emotions in History—Lost and Found
“Derek Penslar’s masterfully written history of emotions adds a whole new dimension to our understanding of both Zionism and the State of Israel and is crucial reading for anyone interested in grasping the nature of modern nationalism.”
— Michael Brenner, author of In Search of Israel: The History of an Idea
"For a topic as contentious and complex as Zionism, Penslar’s expertise, sober voice, and informed critique shine through as he provides a much-needed addition to ongoing debates that touch at the heart of Jewish identity today."
— Shaul Magid, author of Meir Kahane: The Public Life and Political Thought of an American Jewish Radical
"Perhaps the finest book on Zionism written in recent memory. This slim, brilliant volume probes with rare equanimity every volatile corner of this topic with its focus squarely on why it generates such promiscuous, even universal heat. Derek Penslar is an outstanding historian who knows so well how to marshal knowledge of the past to illuminate the aching complexities of the present."
— Steven J. Zipperstein, author of Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History
"Why does Zionism evoke such intense passions? Because as much as it is a political and ideological movement, it is also an emotional movement. Penslar has outdone himself with this intriguing history of the emotions of Zionism's champions and its adversaries."
— Susannah Heschel, author of The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany
“If you think you understand Zionism, read this book and think again. Carefully, elegantly and with tremendous erudition, Derek Penslar takes an ideology many think they understand and illuminates it in a fascinating new way.”
— Peter Beinart, author of The Crisis of Zionism