THE JEWISH DIVIDE OVER ISRAEL: Accusers and Defenders

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BOOK-REVIEW:

THE JEWISH DIVIDE OVER ISRAEL: Accusers and Defenders,
ed. Edward Alexander, University of Washington, and
Paul Bogdanor

In The Jewish Divide Over Israel: Accusers and Defenders (Transaction Publishers, 2006) Edward Alexander and Paul Bogdanor have assembled eighteen essays that strip away the prophetic robes of Israel’s Jewish detractors. Jews who hate Israel and compete with unabashed antisemites in the savagery and unscrupulousness of their attacks on the Jewish state are the “accusers” in the subtitle of this book; Israel’s “defenders” are its writers.

Before 1967, Israel had the overwhelming support of world opinion. So long as Israel’s existence was in harmony with politically correct assumptions, it was supported, or at least accepted, by the majority of “progressive” Jews, especially in the wake of the Holocaust. This is no longer the case. The Jewish Divide Over Israel studies the role played by prominent Jewish intellectuals in turning Israel into an isolated pariah nation.

After their catastrophic defeat in 1967, Arabs quickly overcame inferiority on the battlefield with superiority in the war of ideas. Their (English-language) propaganda stopped trumpeting their desire to eradicate Israel. Instead, in a nimble appeal to liberals and radicals, they redefined their war of aggression against the Jews as a struggle for the liberation of downtrodden Palestinian Arabs. The tenacity of the Arabs’ rejection of Israel and their relentless campaign–in schools, universities, churches, professional organizations, and, above all, the news media–to destroy Israel’s moral image had the desired impact. Many Jewish liberals became desperate to escape from the shadow of Israel’s alleged misdeeds and found a way to do so by joining other members of the left in blaming Israeli sins for Arab violence. Jewish liberals now routinely rationalize violence against the innocent as resistance to the oppressor, excuse Arab extremism as the frustration of a wronged party, and redefine eliminationist rhetoric and physical assaults against Jews as “criticism of Israeli policy.” Israel’s Jewish accusers have played a crucial and disproportionate role in the current upsurge of antisemitism precisely because they speak as Jews; indeed, since most of them are indifferent to religion and tradition, anti-Zionism is precisely what–or so they think–makes them Jews. Eager to evade the (supposed) “moral taint” of justifying Israel’s right to self-defense or even to exist, Israel’sJewish accusers find themselves, in an age of suicide bombers, complicit in the murder of theirfellow Jews, accomplices of Iran’s president calling for Israel’s erasure from the family of nations

The essays in this book seek to understand and also throw back the assault on Israel led by such Jewish liberals and radicals as Tony Judt, Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Tanya Reinhart, George Steiner, Daniel Boyarin, Marc Ellis, Michael Neumann, Israel Shahak, Michael Lerner, Joel Beinin, Seymour Hersh, Judith Butler, and many others. These figures have been selected not because they are “critics of Israel” or of Israeli policies, but because they either explicitly advocate Israel’s elimination or else seek to besmirch, vilify, and delegitimize it so as to render it morally and politically vulnerable to its numerous enemies. The book’s essayists, in additon to the editors, are Cynthia Ozick, Alvin Rosenfeld, Efraim Karsh, Benjamin Balint, Assaf Sagiv, Menachem Kellner, Alan Mittleman, Martin Krossel, David Roskies, Rael Isaac, Jacob Neusner, and Irving Louis Horowitz.Diverse in their approaches, they share the conviction that the foundation of Israel in 1948 was one of the few redeeming events in a century of blood and shame.

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THE JEWISH DIVIDE OVER ISRAEL: Accusers and Defenders

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AUTHOR

Edward Alexander

Edward Alexander is Prof. Emeritus in the Department of English at the University of Washington, among his most recent books are The State of the Jews: A Critical Appraisal (Transaction, 2012) and Jews against Themselves (Transaction, 2015)


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