In this article, I launch a wholesale reexamination of the under-studied subject of American Jewish nationalism. With the focus on the road to Israeli statehood, scholars have ignored the complex, contradictory patterns of nationalist identification that marked American Zionist politics in the first half of the twentieth century. I explore this thesis through a re-reading of two key historical episodes: the American Jewish Congress movement of 1914–1920 and the American Jewish Conference, 1943–1949. In the process, I discuss the relationship between liberalism and nationalism in American Jewish political thought; the political conflicts between Jewish nationalism and anti-nationalism; and the nomenclature of Jewish nationhood in the United States. Ultimately, I conclude that the consensus position of American Jewish support for Israel after 1948 emerged only after statist Zionism had been separated from a more capacious form of American Jewish nationalism that existed before 1948. This helps us understand the origins and rise to significance of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), with implications for the current moment of American Jewish politics.
This article examines the academic historiography on the Jewish Workers’ Bund produced by Israeli and Zionist scholars. While the contribution of Israeli scholars to the historiography on the Bund has been significant in both quantity and quality, their works have had to grapple with the tension between the goals of Zionist historiography and the Bund’s political and ideological commitments, namely the party’s radical opposition to nationalism in general and to Zionism in particular. To various degrees, Israeli scholars sought to “nationalise” the Yiddish-speaking labour movement in Eastern Europe and incorporate it into a coherent narrative of the Jews’ past as an “organic” nation. As a result of their authors’ ideological and methodological preconceptions, and by portraying it as a nationalist movement, these works often misrepresent the Bund’s ideas, policies and activities.