'A Hebrew from Samaria, not a Jew from Yavneh': Adya Gur Horon (1907-1972) and the articulation of Hebrew nationalism

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Romans Vaters


This study analyses the intellectual output of Adya Gur Horon (Adolphe Gourevitch, 1907-1972), a Ukrainian-born, Russian-speaking, French-educated ideologue of modern Hebrew nationalism, and one of the founding fathers of the anti-Zionist ideology known as "Canaanism", whose heyday was mid 20th-century Israel. The dissertation's starting point is that if the "Canaanites" (otherwise the Young Hebrews) declared themselves to be above all a national movement independent of, and opposed to, Zionism, they should be analysed as such. In treating "Canaanite" support for the existence of an indigenous Hebrew nation in Palestine/Israel as equally legitimate as the Zionist defence of the Jews' national character (both ultimately constituting "imagined communities"), this work comes to the conclusion that the movement should indeed be classified as a fully-fledged alternative to Zionism; not a radical variation of the latter, but rather a rival national ideology.My chief assertion is that the key to a proper understanding of "Canaanism" is Horon's unique vision of the ancient Hebrew past, which constitutes the "Canaanite" foundational myth that stands in sharp contradiction to its Zionist counterpart. Furthermore, I demonstrate that Zionism and "Canaanism" are incompatible not only because they differ over history, but also because some of the basic socio-political notions they employ, such as national identity or nation-formation, are discordant. A methodology such as this has never before been applied to the "Canaanite" ideology, since most of those who have studied the movement treat "Canaanism" either as an artistic avant-garde or as a fringe variation of Zionism.This study demonstrates that, despite being sidelined by most researchers of "Canaanism", Adya Horon is beyond doubt the leading figure of the "Canaanite" movement. I believe that only by giving due weight to the divergence in national historiographies between "Canaanism" and Zionism can we grasp the former's independence from the latter, both intellectually and politically, without negating "Canaanism's" complex relationship with Zionism and the sometimes significant overlaps between the two. The dissertation makes systematic use of many newly discovered materials, including Horon's writings from the early 1930s to the early 1970s (some of them extremely rare), as well as his private archive. My study thus sits at the intersection of three fields of academic enquiry: nationalism studies; language-based area studies; and historiographical discourse analysis.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Aug 2015