Making the Desert Bloom: Hannah Arendt and Zionist Discourse

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This article discusses an aspect of Hannah Arendts treatment of the conflict between the Zionists and the Palestinians that has thus far been overlooked in scholarship: her justification of Zionism through the achievements of the Jewish pioneers in cultivating the land, in contrast to the Palestinians failure to do so. The inability of natives to cultivate their land was a familiar argument in the history of colonialism, used to legitimize the colonialists right to settle a land and often to displace the natives. How should we understand Arendts use of this argument? I show that Arendts argument should be understood in the context of, first, the recurrence of this argument in Western political thought and practices. Second, the Zionists - Arendt included - need of legitimizing Jewish settlements in Palestine. And third, the influence of Arendts own political philosophy on her understanding of culture in general, and Palestinian culture in particular.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)393-407
Number of pages15
JournalEuropean Legacy
Issue number4
StatePublished - 18 May 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 International Society for the Study of European Ideas.


  • Colonialism
  • Culture
  • Hannah Arendt
  • Land
  • Palestine
  • Zionism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Philosophy


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