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 Has Survived Eight Years of Barack Obama’s False Friendship

Jan. 20 2017

In his speech justifying America’s decision to allow passage of the UN Security Council resolution declaring it a violation of international law for Jews to live in east Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Golan Heights, Secretary of State John Kerry declared that “friends need to tell each other the hard truths.” John Podhoretz comments:

The decision in December by President Obama to abstain on the UN Security Council vote . . . marked the moment he crossed the finish line in the course he had charted from 2008 onward. The turn against Israel was complete. And, as he had when he began it, in farewell interview after farewell interview he characterized his assault on the legitimacy of the Jewish presence in the Holy Land as an act of tough love. . . .

Which raises the key question: why [only] abstain [from the resolution]? If “hard truths” define friendship, then by all means they should have made the truths as hard as possible. If Barack Obama and John Kerry truly believe the Jewish presence in east Jerusalem is illicit, then they should have voted for the resolution. Instead, they took the coward’s way out. They opened the vault to the criminals and placed the jewels in their hands while wearing white gloves so there would be no residual trace of their fingerprints. The abstention was in some weird sense the mark of their bad conscience. They wanted something to happen while maintaining some historical deniability about their involvement in it.

In the eight years of the Obama presidency, war broke out twice between the Palestinians and the Israelis and nearly broke out a third time. In each case, the issue was not the West Bank, or east Jerusalem, or anything near. . . . The idea that the settlements and the Jewish presence in East Jerusalem are the main barrier to peace between Israel and the Palestinians was proved to be a lie right before Obama’s eyes in 2009, and 2012, and 2014. And he didn’t care to see it, because he is blinded by an antipathy he wishes to ascribe to Israeli action when honesty would compel him to find it in his own misguided leftist ideology—or within his own soul.

Israel has survived the horrendous blessing of Barack Obama’s false friendship.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Barack Obama, Israel & Zionism, John Kerry, U.S. Foreign policy, US-Israel relations