In 1957 Amir began publishing Keshet, a cultural quarterly. In the 1960s he founded a “Hebrew Thought Club” with Dr. Ezra Sohar and Adia Gurevitch (Edya Horon). Rejwan recalls that “even that tiny band of aging Young Hebrews was to be dismantled because of equally tiny differences of opinion. It is, after all, in the nature of all such small and highly ideologically-oriented groups to be torn by such differences.”

Gurevitch died soon after and Sohar ran for Knesset for a tax policy party. Today Sohar serves on the steering committee of the Ariel Center for Policy Research. He and Amir both gravitated toward the right in Israeli politics, with Amir arguing in favor of annexing the West Bank. While Uri Avnery used the 1967 conquests to immediately advocate, through a letter to Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, independence for the Palestinians, Amir advocated annexation and Sohar wrote about the demographic problem.


To what degree is today’s radical left in Israel influenced by the ideas of Canaanism? What connects leftists to Canaanists is the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, which employed a disproportionate number of Canaanites and today features a disproportionate number of radical Israel bashers (Gideon Levy, Amira Hass, Yitzhak Laor, etc.) who lose no opportunity to write the most extreme things about their country. But they are not Canaanists. They don’t have any interest in a Hebrew nation in Palestine; for them there is only the Palestinian Arab nation.

On a fundamental level, this evolution of Canaanism was only logical. Deracinating the Jewish people in order to turn them into a “Hebrew nation,” seen at the time as a noble goal that would lead to the creation of a new nation-state and a final break with the Diaspora, was in fact a crime against Jewish peoplehood and Jewish history.

The story of Matti Peled should suffice to demonstrate the problematic nature of Canaanism. Born in Haifa in 1923, he grew up in Jerusalem and became a member of the Palmach in 1941. In 1967 he was one of the hawkish generals who demanded a preemptive strike against Egypt. In the wake of the war he completed a Ph.D. in the U.S and returned to Israel to help found the Arabic Language and Literature department at Tel Aviv University. In 1975 he joined the Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace.

On September 4, 1997, Peled’s granddaughter Smadar was blown up by a suicide bomber on Ben Yehuda street in Jerusalem. Peled’s daughter, Hebrew University Professor Nurit Peled-Elhanan, the mother of Smadar, insisted that “my little girl was murdered because she was an Israeli, by a young man who was humiliated, oppressed and desperate to the point of suicide and murder and inhumanity, just because he was a Palestinian.”

She compared the terrorist to Israeli soldiers at security checkpoints and declared, “there is no basic moral difference.”

Meanwhile, Peled’s son Miko, who lives in San Diego, is a supporter of the “one state solution” and condemns the “Israeli Apartheid system.”

There can be no greater testament to the failure of Canaanism than Miko Peled’s hostility to Israel and Prof. Peled-Elhanan’s justification of the murder of her own daughter.


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Seth Frantzman is a columnist for the Jerusalem Post. His front-page essay “Early Reform and Islamic Exoticism” appeared in the June 5 issue of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at