Review: The 7 Principles of Zionism, by Dan Illouz

The 7 Principles of Zionism: A Values-Based Approach to Israel Advocacy, by Dan Illouz. Lexington: CreateSpace, 2012. 144 pp. $8.71 (softcover).


Given that Israel’s legitimacy is regularly questioned in the media, a short book providing well-reasoned moral arguments defending Israel would be a useful addition to the library of any serious advocate of the state. Unfortunately, in The 7 Principles of Zionism: A Values-Based Approach to Israel Advocacy, Dan Illouz focuses primarily on the collectivist and nonessential historical arguments for Israel as the realization of “Jewish statehood” (p. 30) and spends few pages presenting genuine, objective moral arguments for its legitimacy.

Illouz presents the case for Israel from the perspectives of “Historical Justice,” “Legal Justice,” “Peace,” “Truth,” “Liberty and Freedom,” “Democracy,” and “Hope”—all of which serve as chapter headings in this short book. It is clear that Illouz believes the most significant argument in defense of Israel is from the perspective of historical justice, which he says is of “extreme importance” (p. 14). “In order to build an ethical defense for the State of Israel,” he writes, “one cannot ignore the historical circumstances that lead to the building of the modern state of Israel” (p. 11).

Illouz is at pains to prove a physical and spiritual connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel, going so far as to present what he regards as archaeological evidence of the connection, including the following:

The City of David is one of the most incredible archeological finds in the world. . . . In the first dig, Charles Warren found Hezekiah’s Tunnel. An ancient Hebrew inscription, the Shiloah Inscription, was found in this tunnel. . . . This find, as well as numerous others . . . show that this was the location of ancient Jerusalem and that this was a Jewish city. (pp. 16–17)

In addition, he quotes prayers from the Bible, offers historical poems, and provides other Jewish sources to illustrate the deep connection Jews have to the land over the many centuries of exile. Illouz cites, for example, this prayer recited at weddings by Jewish grooms throughout history:

If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither, let my tongue cleave to my palate if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy. (p. 23)

Illouz aims to refute the notion that Israel is merely the recent result of a lot of Jewish refugees fleeing Europe after the Holocaust. It is, however, difficult to see how any of these historical details support the legitimacy of Israel. If Jews had returned to the land of their forefathers only to establish a theocracy or a biblical monarchy (as existed in Israel before the exile), no rational person would regard the state as legitimate. Furthermore, what is wrong with people arriving at a country with which they have no ancestral or historical connection and establishing a free state that ultimately protects the rights of all its inhabitants—such as the establishment of the United States? Illouz does not consider such issues.

When discussing what he regards as the legal case for Israel, he relies heavily on the notion of “international law,” which he believes provides an “objective” justification for the state: . . .

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