The creation of the State of Israel by European Jews was predicated upon reconfiguring Jewish identities. European Zionist leaders asserted that the creation of a Jewish state would normalize the abnormal situation of European Jewry insofar as it would give them, like Christian Europeans, a state of their own. In addition to defendirng European Jews against anti-Semitic attacks, Zionism was also going to make possible activity denied to them in Europe, especially in agriculture and soldiery. Hence, the objective of the Zionist movement was not simply to transplant European Jews in a new area, but to transform the very nature of their society as it had existed in the Diaspora until then.
Joseph Massad is a doctoral candidate in political science at Columbia University. He would like to thank Lisa Anderson, Neville Hoad, and especially Ella Shohat for reading and commenting on an earlier, longer version of this paper.