Pursuing the Zionist Dream on the Palestinian Frontier
A Critical Approach to Herzl’s Altneuland
Keywords:Zionism, frontier, immigration, Palestine, narrative, history, Jews, colonization
This paper critically examines Theodore Herzl’s canonical Zionist novel, Altneuland /Old New Land as a frontier narrative which depicts the process of Jewish immigration to Palestine as an inevitable historical process aiming to rescue European Jews from persecution and establish a multi-national Utopia on the land of Palestine. Unlike radical Zionist narratives which underlie the necessity of founding a purely Jewish state in the holy land, Altneuland depicts an egalitarian and cosmopolitan community shared by Jews, Arabs and other races. The paper emphasizes that Herzl’s Zionist project in Altneuland is not an extension of western colonialism par excellence. Herzl’s narrative is a pragmatic appropriation of frontier literature depicting Palestine as a new frontier and promoting a construct of mythology about enthusiastic individuals who thrived in the desert while serving the needs of an enterprising and progressive society. Unlike western colonial narratives which necessitate the elimination of the colonized natives, Herzl’s novel assimilates the indigenous population in the emerging frontier community.
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