The Future of the Jews, by David Vital
David Vital brings to this extended essay on Jewish national identity the virtues of clarity and cogent analysis that have made him a distinguished historian of Zionism and a highly regarded authority on international relations. The Future of the Jews may indeed bring to bear excessive clarity on a subject clouded with stubborn ambiguities. In any case, it is a challenging book that raises important, troubling questions which need to be confronted.
Vital sets the grounds for his prognosis with an initial chapter devoted to the impact on Jewish peoplehood of the French Revolution and its Napoleonic aftermath. This fateful entry of the Jews into secular modernity entailed a new profession of primary allegiance to the nation-state rather than to a community of faith or to any transnational ideal of a Jewish people. He cites instructive contemporary documents that announce this switch in allegiance, and assuming it has in fact been fully internalized, he sees it as a key to what is happening globally among the Jews two centuries later. Not only is the first loyalty of Jews to the country in which they live, but everywhere, to a degree that far exceeds earlier Diaspora precedents, they take on the coloration of their national habitat—its political assumptions, its language and culture, its habits of mind. The often proclaimed unity of the Jewish people is thus rapidly turning into an obsolete myth and an empty slogan:
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