by Joseph Heller, Ph.D.

[Of the Hebrew Univ., Jerusalem]


In the books first essay, The Ben-Gurion Magnes Debate, Jewish State or Binational State, Professor Heller juxtaposes David Ben-Gurion and Judah L. Magnes as pivotal adversaries speaking to the primary problems of Zionist ideology and identity. He chooses the mythic personification of the State of Israel, the new nation’s sturdiest founding father, its first commander-in-chief, first Prime Minister, and first Minister of Defense, David Ben-Gurion, to represent the Zionist position of a country just for the Jews. On equally matter-of-fact pragmatic grounds, Heller selects Ben-Gurion’s foremost critic, the founding embattled Chancellor and President of the Hebrew University, Judah Magnes, to represent the bi-nationalist proponents of an Arab-Jewish joint entity that had not the remotest chance of acceptance by either Arabs or Jews. Conversely, the high expectations, moral fervor, and utter candor that imbue the Ben-Gurion-Magnes discourse, including joint interviews arranged by Magnes with Arab intellectuals that all failed, as conveyed by Heller, capture the essence of the Jewish-Arab dilemma and the beguiling authenticity, spaciousness and universalism of the Zionist vision at its most imaginative.


Joseph Heller was born in Tel Aviv and educated in Jerusalem and London. He is an esteemed historian of Israel and of Zionism and emeritus professor of International Relations at the Hebrew University. Professor Heller is the winner of the President Zalman Shazar Prize for research in Jewish History, 2005, and the author of numerous books, including The Birth of Israel, 1945-49: Ben-Gurion and His Critics (University Press of Florida, 2000); and From Brit Shalom to Ichud: Judah Leib Magnes and the Struggle for a Binational State in Palestine (The Hebrew University: Magnes Press, Jerusalem, 2003).

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