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An Impressive Volume Uses a Discussion of “Jewish Modernity” as an Occasion for Fashionable Anti-Israelism

A massive collection of 43 specially commissioned biographical essays, Makers of Jewish Modernity: Thinkers, Artists, Leaders, and the World They Made covers figures ranging from Theodor Herzl to Emile Durkheim and from Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook to the art critic Aby Warburg. While Elḥanan Yakira deems the quality of the individual essays mixed and some of the particular choices of both subjects and authors “disturbing,” he objects most strongly to the way the book serves as a vehicle for anti-Zionism:

[N]early all the Israeli writers in this anthology belong to a specific political-ideological group. It is clear to the reviewer that this tendency was important in the choice of contributors. This feature is particularly striking in the article on Theodor Herzl, which must be read with extreme caution. . . .

[It] is neither well written nor original. The reader learns more about its author Raef Zreik’s attitude toward Zionism than about Herzl. [Zreik] argues that there are logical flaws in Herzl’s thinking and that the “conclusion in favor of the Jewish state does not derive naturally from the fact of anti-Semitism.” Furthermore, Herzl had “a typical colonial mindset.” . . . Finally, after several clichés, he asserts that “the Herzlian state . . . assumes two kinds of liquidation: that of Jewish religious life in exile and that of an Arab collective life in Palestine.”

The article is sorely lacking in scholarly objectivity. It is clear that Zreik does not have much understanding of his subject, and Herzl simply serves as a vehicle for voicing his dislike of Zionism and the state of Israel. [Elsewhere,] Zreik goes further and calls Zionism a “settler-colonial project,” and argues that the process of decolonizing Israel must “rally all powers against the Israeli aggression. One of the factors in this rallying process is fury: moral rage, anger, even enmity. Some sense of enmity is required in political struggles, and some level of ignorance of ‘The Other’ might be productive in such political struggles.”

While Zreik is entitled to his opinions, the reader may question the editors’ choice of this author for the article on so important a maker of Jewish modernity. Indeed, this is symptomatic of the book and reveals its subtext—a fashionable anti-Israelism and vague favoritism toward life in the Diaspora.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Anti-Zionism, Herzl, History & Ideas, Israel & Zionism, Jewish history

Israel’s Economy Thrives While the Middle East Disintegrates

Jan. 19 2018

Now that the data have come in from 2017, it is clear that the Israeli economy had another successful year, expanding at a rate higher than that of any other advanced country. Israel’s per-capita GDP also grew, placing it above those of France and Japan. Daniel Kryger notes some of the implications regarding the Jewish state’s place in the Middle East:

The contrast between first-world Israel and the surrounding third-world Arab states is larger today than ever before. Israel’s GDP per capita is almost twenty times the GDP per capita of impoverished Egypt and five times larger than semi-developed Lebanon.

Like any human project, Israel is a never-ending work in progress and much work remains to integrate ḥaredi Jews and Israeli Arabs into Israel’s knowledge economy. Properly addressing Israel’s high costs of living requires more economic and legislative reforms and breaking up inefficient oligopolies that keep the prices artificially high. However, by any standard, the reborn Jewish state is a remarkable success story. . . .

Much has changed since OPEC launched its oil embargo against the West after the failed Arab aggression against Israel in October 1973. Before the collapse of the pro-Arab Soviet empire, China and India had no official ties with Israel and many Western and Japanese companies avoided doing business with Israel. Collapsing oil prices have dramatically eroded the power of oil-producing countries. It has become obvious that the future belongs to those who innovate, not those who happen to sit on oil. Israel has today strong commercial ties with China and a thriving partnership with India. Business delegations from Jamaica to Japan are eager to do business with Israel and benefit from Israel’s expertise. . . .

[For its part], the boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) movement may bully Jewish and pro-Israel students on Western campuses. However, in real life, BDS stands no chance of succeeding against Israel. The reason is simple: reborn Israel has . . . become too valuable a player in the global economy.

Read more at Mida

More about: BDS, Israel & Zionism, Israeli economy, Middle East, OPEC