by Judith Sone

The Question of Zionism: A Symposium on the Left and Its Relationship to Israel

April 19, 2012
9:30–5:00 pm
Union South Varsity Hall
1308 W. Dayton Street

In recent decades, sympathy toward Israel among Leftists in Europe and the United States has given way to hostility.  Perceived in its early years as a vital experiment in socialist democracy, Israel is now typically viewed by radicals and even many progressives as a colonialist power.  What explains this shift in opinion?  Does it reflect larger changes in the politics of the Left or, rather, changes in Israel?  Does hostility toward Israel and Zionism have ramifications beyond the Left itself?  These questions will frame a day-long symposium that features three internationally renowned scholars of socialist history, theory, and politics.  Each will deliver a lecture and participate in a concluding roundtable discussion.

This symposium is free and open to the public. For more information, please contact Tony Michels, Mosse Professor of American Jewish History.

Listen to the symposium

Lectures by Mitchell Cohen, Moishe Postone, and Barbara Epstein are available for download through iTunes U. Click here for more information.


9:30     Welcome and opening remarks
Tony Michels (University of Wisconsin–Madison)

9:45     Does the Left Have a Zionist Problem?
Mitchell Cohen (Baruch College and Graduate School, City University of New York)

11:00     Break

11:15     Israel, the Left, and the Crisis of the Late 1960s
Moishe Postone (University of Chicago)

12:30     Lunch

2:00     Left Hostility to Israel: Sources, Consequences, and Alternatives
Barbara Epstein (University of California, Santa Cruz)

3:15      Break

3:30     Concluding Roundtable
Moderator: Chad Goldberg (University of Wisconsin–Madison)
Mitchell Cohen, Moishe Postone, and Barbara Epstein

About the Speakers

Mitchell Cohen is a professor of Political Science at Baruch College and the Graduate School of the City University of New York.   His books include Zion and State:  Nation, Class, and the Shaping of Modern Israel (Columbia Univ. Press), The Wager of Lucien Goldmann: Tragedy, Dialectics, and the Hidden God (Princeton Univ. Press), and as co-editor, Princeton Readings in Political Thought (Princeton Univ. Press).  In addition to scholarly journals, Prof. Cohen as written for The New York Times Sunday Book Review, the Times Literary Supplement, and The New Republic.   From 1991 to 2009, he co-edited Dissent magazine.

Moishe Postone is a professor of History at the University of Chicago. He is author of Time, Labor and Social Domination: A Reinterpretation of Marx’s Critical Theory (Cambridge Univ. Press), History and Heteronomy (The University of Tokyo Center for Philosophy), and co-editor (with Eric Santner) of Catastrophe and Meaning: The Holocaust and the Twentieth Century (Univ. of Chicago Press), among many other books and articles.

Barbara Epstein is a professor in the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she teaches on the history of social movements and theory relevant to social change.  Her books include Political Protest and Cultural Revolution:  Nonviolent Direct Action in the 1970s and the 1980s (Univ. of California Press) and The Minsk Ghetto, 1941-1943: Jewish Resistance and Soviet Internationalism (Univ. of California Press).  Between the 1970s and 1990s, Prof. Epstein was a member of the editorial collective of Socialist Revolution, later renamed Socialist Review. She is currently at work on a study of socialist-humanist thought and politics after World War II.