It would be a mistake to assume that the events of 9-11 have no long historical context. In fact, events of over hundreds of years
help set the stage for such acts. One writer who prophesized such inevitable acts
was Hannah Arendt. The following lesson looks at the late mid-20th century political scientist and
philosopher with specific focus emphasis on her writings related to the
· Introduction to Hannah Arendt
· Historical perspective of the Israeli-Palestinian problem
· Develop new approaches to resolving the middle-east question
Hannah Arendt, (1906-1975)
As one cannot take the Israeli-Palestinian problem out of the mix of factors contributing to 9-11, it is useful to look back at its history
for insight. While many have written on the situation I have chosen to put forward
for discussion the writings of Hannah Arendt whose writings are steeped in not in any apparent partisanship
but have a humanitarian and egalitarian focus. It is through Hannah
Arendt’s observations and writings in the early 1940’s and 50’s which seem so eerily prescience today that I think we get our best
understanding of the current intractable situation. By all accounts she was out of step with most Jewish political leaders and
intellectuals of her time. Arendt bluntly attacked the notion of a sovereign Jewish state in the Middle East
and predicted endless strife. In her essay Zionism Reconsidered in an edited volume of the same title
(Selzer, 1969) she outlined the sequence of events in which Jewish nationalism had grown, to the detriment of Arab
Palestinians, of Diaspora Jewry, and of international understanding.
“The social revolutionary Jewish national movement, which started a half a century ago…overlooked the Near East and the general
wickedness of the world, has ended-as do most such movements-with the
unequivocal support not only of national but of chauvinistic claims-claim not against the foes of the Jewish
people but against its possible friends and neighbors.” She indicted the
Jewish leadership for appeasing the Nazis, for reliance of England, and ignoring the political realities of the social experiment, the
Kibbutz. “Up to now,” she concluded, “no new approaches, no new insights, no reformulation of Zionism or the demands
of Jewish people have been visible. And it is therefore only in the light of this past, with consideration of this
present, that we can gauge the chances of the future.”
She was isolated but not alone in her unpopular but prophetic thinking, Judah Magnes, founder of the Ikhud
or Unity party in Palestine, had for decades criticized the 1917 Balfour Declaration by which England
promised the land of Palestine to the Jews warning that such a promise could only result in hostility from the
Arabs living on the land. Two others who shared this view and
became colleagues of Arendt were the historian Hans Kohn and Robert Weltsh, editor of Judische
According to one of her biographers (Bruehl, 1982), whenever Arendt wrote about Palestine, she repeated
her prophecy that political organization in the postwar world would take one of two forms, empires or
federations, and that the Jewish people would only have a chance for survival if federations were formed.
She had urged the avoidance of establishing a Jewish state, which she
believed, would become the pawns of foreign powers while alienating the “goodwill of neighbors”.
Assignment: Two groups, Israelis and Palestinians, have historically claimed the same territory as their
country. Their claims date back to Biblical times to Abraham and his two sons: Isaac, who founded the
Jewish nation, and Ishmael, the symbolic father of all Arabs. On the web you will find current and historical
essays and opinions about how to resolve the middle-east crisis that is embedded in motivations behind 9/11
and is critical to whatever resolution we develop to end terrorism. Research a minimum of five articles
written since 1990 and cover the time span between the early 90’s and now. Identify the author’s position,
whether the essay is factual or personal opinion, and the reasons for which you accept or reject the author’s conclusions. Using Arendt’s Zionism Reconsidered compare and contrast other views on the
Israeli-Palestine question; and finally construct a resolution to the Middle East question.
Short Biography and Bibliography
ARENDT, Hannah, (1906-1975), German-American political scientist who characterized 'totalitarianism'. Received Doctorate
from the University of Heidelberg at the age of 22 after studying under Martin
Heidegger. In 1933 she went to France to escape the Nazis and, in 1941, fled to the U.S., becoming a U.S.
citizen in 1951. Arendt was research director, Conference on Jewish
Relations (1944-46); chief editor, Schocken Books (1946-48); executive secretary, Jewish Cultural Reconstruction (1949-52);
visiting professor, Princeton (1959), Columbia (1960); professor, U. of Chicago at Berkeley (1963-67), New
School for Social Research (1967-75). Author of Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), The Human Condition
(1958), On Revolution (1963), Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963), On Violence (1970). For a lengthier
biography and bibliography go to: http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/biography/arendt.html
Arendt, Hannah. (1996). Love and Saint Augustine. (Edited and with interpretive…). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Arendt, Hannah. (1982). Lectures on Kant’s political philosophy. (Edited and with interpretive…). Chicago: University of
Arendt, Hannah. (1972). Crises of the Republic; lying in politics, civil disobedience on violence, thoughts on politics and revolution.
New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Arendt, Hannah. (1970). On Violence. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World.
Arendt, Hannah. (1968). Men in dark times. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World.
Arendt, Hannah. (1968). Between past and future: eight exercises in political thought. New York: Viking Press.
Arendt, Hannah. (1966). The origins of totalitarianism. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World.
Arendt, Hannah. (1963). On Revolution. New York: Viking Press.
Arendt, Hannah. (1963). Eichmann in Jerusalem; a report on the banality of evil. New York: Viking Press.
Arendt, Hannah. (1961). Between past and future, six exercises in political thought. New York: Viking Press.
Arendt, Hannah. (1958). The human condition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Arendt, Hannah. (1958). The origins of totalitarianism. New York: Meridian Books.
Arendt, Hannah. (1951). The origins of totalitarianism. New York: Harcourt, Brace.
Arendt, Hannah. (1974). Rahel Varnhagen, the life of a Jewish woman. (translated by Richard and Clara Winston). New York:
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Arendt, Hannah. (1978). The life of the mind. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Arendt, Hannah. (1978). Thinking. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Arendt, Hannah. (1970). Zionism Reconsidered in Zionism Reconsidered (Ed. Michael Selzer). London, The Macmillan
Arendt Papers, US Library of Congress
BIBLIOGRAPHY (work done on Hannah
Canovan, Margaret. (1974). The political thought of Hannah Arendt. New York: Harcourt Brace
Kateb, George. (1983). Hannah Arendt, politics, conscience, evil. Totowa, N.J.: Rowan &
Parekh, Bhiku, C. (1981). Hannah Arendt and the search for a new political philosophy. Atlantic Highlands, N.J. : Humanities Press.
Tolle, Gordan, J. (1982). Human nature under fire: the political philosophy of Hannah Arendt. Washington D.C.: University Press of America.
Whitfield, Stephen, J. (1980). Into the dark: Hannah Arendt and totalitarianism. Philadelphia: Temple
Whitfield, Stephen, J. (2001). “Hannah Arendt”. Jewish Virtual Library.
Young-Bruehl, Elisabeth. (1982). Hannah Arendt, for love of the world. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Arendt, Hannah. (1978). The Jew as pariah: Jewish identity and politics in the modern age. (edited and with an introd. By Ron H. Feldman). New York: Grove Press.
Arendt, Hannah. (1978). Willing. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Arendt, Hannah. (1979). The recovery of the public world. (edited by Melvyn A. Hill). New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Arendt, Hannah. (1971). Walter Benjamin, Bertolt Brecht; zwei Essays. Mhunchen: R. Piper.