Utopian Zionism or Zionist Proselytism? A Reading of Herzl's Altneuland
After discussing the basic premise and narrative structure of Theodor Herzl's novel about a new Jewish society in Palestine, this article highlights three fundamental paradoxes posed by the work: Herzl's disavowal of the utopian label, the absence of Jewish culture in the new society, and the novel's espousal of ideas known to be at odds with its author's beliefs. The article shows how all these paradoxes are resolved if the novel is seen as intended not for a Jewish audience, but as a work of persuasion for European Gentiles.
Muhammad Ali Khalidi is professor of philosophy at the American University of Beirut.