Ernest Gellner pointed out that nationalism in general succeeds because of the functions it performs for modern societies, not because of the greatness of its leaders or the truth of its claims. On the other hand, every particular nationalist struggle requires effective leadership; and especially Zionism, that faced such long odds and such peculiar circumstances. As Tom Segev makes clear in this monumental biography, Zionism had such a leader. David Ben-Gurion (née David Gruen) offered no brilliant or innovative ideas about politics, history, or the human condition. What he contributed was a shrewd, ruthless, and consuming dedication to achieving as much of the Zionist fantasy of Jewish nationalism as...

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