Zionism Once Looked Like Something (Aesthetics & Ideology)

Incredible selection of old Zionist and early Israeli agitprop poster art. Thanks to Larry Yudelson for posting this at FB. The early material from the 1940s is terrific. All images include translations and descriptive explanations.  They give you a clear idea as to what Zionism-early Israel “looked” like, ideologically, across the political spectrum, from the pro-Stalinist left to the Revisionist right from the 1940s and forwards.

The image I selected above is pretty tame. Most of it more militant, what with the ships, guns, soldiers, mothers, hammers, maps, furrows. Pretty Bolshevik stuff. The clean and sharp lines, iconographic, hard edged, militaristic, visually mobilized, ideologically fraught, all sharpen the historical perspective. Zionism meant something back then. It looked like something. It “did” something. One need not like the violence to understand and even admire the stylized verve, at once ideological and graphic.

At some point in the 1960s, the posters  begin to lose the clear ideological edge. The posters included from the 1990s and 2000s are sentimental and hideous for the most part. The images no longer mobilize. There’s no articulation to the graphic, and they aren’t worth looking at. I think this says something about Zionism. There is no causal relation one way or another between its losing its ideological and visual coherence. One does not happen before the other. Their loss is isomorphic, simultaneous to each other.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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