The Apocalyptic Sting and the Rise of Israeli Unrealism: Toward a Negative-Dialectical Critique

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This paper explores Gershom Scholem’s notion of an ‘apocalyptic sting’—a messianic political theology which, he feared, haunted Jewish and Israeli politics through the Hebrew language. The paper makes four key moves. First, I unpack Scholem’s ‘sting’ in relation to contemporary Israeli religious radicalism. Second, I tie that notion of a sting to Frankfurt-School discussions of reification and its political effects. Third, I survey attempts to critique this notion of a sting, through the work of Israeli International Relations (IR) Realist Yehoshafat Harkabi. Drawing on the negative dialectics of Theodor Adorno, I then draw out and deepen Harkabi’s reflexive stance, with an eye to setting out a vocation for critical IR-realism in the context of contemporary Israeli security discourse.
critical realism, classical realism, critical theory, ‘apocalyptic sting’, Yehoshafat Harkabi, Gershom Scholem