Stanislawski, “Zionism”

In December, Oxford University Press will release Zionism: A Very Short Introduction by Michael Stanislawski (Columbia University). The publisher’s description follows:

zionismZionism is the nationalist movement affirming Jewish people’s right to self-determination through the establishment of a Jewish national state in its ancient homeland. It is one of the most controversial ideologies in the world. Its supporters laud its success at liberating the Jewish people after millennia of persecution and at securing the creation of Israel. But to its opponents, Zionism relies on a racist ideology culminating in Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and is one of the last manifestations of colonial oppression in the world. Since the late 1990s, the centrality of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the world news has sharpened this controversy, dramatically politicizing any attempt to understand Zionism and its significance as an intellectual and cultural movement.

In this Very Short Introduction, Michael Stanislawski presents an impartial and disinterested history of Zionist ideology from its origins to the present. Sharp and accessible, this book charts the crucial moments in the ideological development of Zionism, including the emergence of modern Jewish nationalism in early nineteenth century Europe, the founding of the Zionist movement by Theodor Herzl in 1897, the Balfour Declaration, the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion, the Six Day War in 1967, the rise of the “Peace Now” movement, and the election of conservative prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Stanislawski’s balanced analysis of these controversial events illuminates why, despite the undeniable success in its goal of creating a Jewish state, profound questions remain today about the long-term viability of Zionist ideology in a rapidly destabilizing Middle East.

Sheldon, “Tragic encounters and ordinary ethics”

In October, the Manchester University Press will release “Tragic encounters and ordinary ethics: Palestine-Israel in British universities,” by Ruth Sheldon (University of London).  The publisher’s description follows:

For over four decades, events in Palestine-Israel have provoked raging conflicts within British universities around issues of free speech, ‘extremism’, antisemitism and 9781784993146Islamophobia. But why is this conflict so significant for student activists living at such a geographical distance from the region itself? And what role do emotive, polarised communications around Palestine-Israel play in the life of British academic institutions committed to the ideal of free expression?

This book draws on original ethnographic research with student activists on different sides of this conflict to initiate a conversation with students, academics and members of the public who are concerned with the transnational politics of Palestine-Israel and with the changing role of the public university. It shows how, in an increasingly globalised world that is shaped by entangled histories of European antisemitism and colonial violence, ethnography can open up ethical responses to questions of justice

Friedmann, “The Purse and the Sword”

This month, the Oxford University Press will release “The Purse and the Sword: The Trials of Israel’s Legal Revolution,” by Daniel Friedmann (Minister of Justice in Israel from 2007-2009). The publisher’s description follows:

The Purse and the Sword presents a critical analysis of Israel’s legal system in the context of its politics, history, and the forces that shape its society. This book 9780190278502examines the extensive powers that Israel’s Supreme Court arrogated to itself since the 1980s and traces the history of the transformation of its legal system and the shifts in the balance of power between the branches of government. Centrally, this shift has put unprecedented power in the hands of both the Court and Israel’s attorney general and state prosecution at the expense of Israel’s cabinet, constituting its executive branch, and the Knesset–its parliament. The expansion of judicial power followed the weakening of the political leadership in the wake of the Yom Kippur war of 1973, and the election results in the following years. These developments are detailed in the context of major issues faced by modern Israel, including the war against terror, the conflict with the Palestinians, the Arab minority, settlements in the West Bank, state and religion, immigration, military service, censorship and freedom of expression, appointments to the government and to public office, and government policies. The aggrandizement of power by the legal system led to a backlash against the Supreme Court in the early part of the current century, and to the partial rebalancing of power towards the political branches.

Pelham, “Holy Lands”

This month, Columbia Global Reports released “Holy Lands: Reviving Pluralism in the Middle East,” by Nicholas Pelham. The publisher’s description follows:

How did the world’s most tolerant region become the least harmonious place on the planet?

The headlines from the Middle East these days are bad, characterized by violence, 51ykklyeumlterror, and autocracy. Whatever hopes people may have for the region are being dashed over and over, in country after country. Nicolas Pelham, the veteran Middle East correspondent for The Economist, has witnessed much of the tragedy, but in Holy Lands he presents a strikingly original and startlingly optimistic argument.

The Middle East was notably more tolerant than Western Europe during the nineteenth century because the Ottoman Empire permitted a high degree of religious pluralism and self-determination within its vast borders. European powers broke up the empire and tried to turn it into a collection of secular nation-states—a spectacular failure. Rulers turned religion into a force for nationalism, and the result has been ever increasing sectarian violence. The only solution, Pelham argues, is to accept the Middle East for the deeply religious region it is, and try to revive its venerable tradition of pluralism.

Holy Lands is a work of vivid reportage—from Turkey and Iraq, Israel and Palestine, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain, Dubai and Jordan—that is animated by a big idea. It makes a region that is all too familiar from news reports feel fresh.

To hear more about this book from the author himself, click here to listen to a podcast from The Economist Radio.

Mahler, “Politics and Government in Israel”


This month, Rowman & Littlefield releases “Politics and Government in Israel: The Maturation of a Modern State,” by Gregory S. Mahler (Earlham College).  The publisher’s description follows:

This balanced and comprehensive text explores Israeli government and politics from both institutional and behavioral perspectives. After briefly discussing 1442265353Israel’s history and the early development of the state, Gregory Mahler then examines the social, religious, economic, cultural, and military contexts within which Israeli politics takes place. He makes special note of Israel’s geopolitical situation of sharing borders with, and being proximate to, several hostile Arab nations. The book explains the operation of political institutions and behavior in Israeli domestic politics, including the constitutional system and ideology, parliamentary government, the prime minister and the Knesset, political parties and interest groups, the electoral process and voting behavior, and the machinery of government. Mahler also considers Israel’s foreign policy setting and apparatus, the Palestinians and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the particularly sensitive questions of Jerusalem and the Israeli settlement movement, and the Middle East peace process overall. This clear and concise text provides an invaluable starting point for all readers needing a cogent introduction to Israel today.

Roby, “The Mizrahi Era of Rebellion”

In November, the Syracuse University Press releases “The Mizrahi Era of Rebellion: Israel’s Forgotten Civil Rights Struggle, 1948–1966,” by Bryan K. Roby (New York University). The publisher’s description follows:

During the postwar period of 1948–56, over 400,000 Jews from the Middle East and Asia immigrated to the newly established state ofIsrael. By the end of the 1950s, Mizrahim, also known as Oriental Jewry, represented the ethnic majority of the Israeli Jewish population. Despite their large numbers, Mizrahim were considered outsiders because of their non-European origins. Viewed as foreigners who came from culturally backward and distant lands, they suffered decades of socioeconomic, political, and educational injustices.

In this pioneering work, Roby traces the Mizrahi population’s struggle for equality and civil rights in Israel. Although the daily “bread and work” demonstrations are considered the first political expression of the Mizrahim, Roby demonstrates the myriad ways in which they agitated for change. Drawing upon a wealth of archival sources, many only recently declassified, Roby details the activities of the highly ideological and politicized young Israel. Police reports, court transcripts, and protester accounts document a diverse range of resistance tactics, including sit-ins, tent protests, and hunger strikes. Roby shows how the Mizrahi intellectuals and activists in the 1960s began to take note of the American civil rights movement, gaining inspiration from its development and drawing parallels between their experience and that of other marginalized ethnic groups. The Mizrahi Era of Rebellion shines a light on a largely forgotten part of Israeli social history, one that profoundly shaped the way Jews from African and Asian countries engaged with the newly founded state of Israel.

King, “The Pro-Israel Lobby in Europe: The Politics of Religion and Christian Zionism in the European Union”

In May, I.B.Tauris will release “The Pro-Israel Lobby in Europe: The Politics of Religion and Christian Zionism in the European Union: Volume 22” by Elvira King (The University of Leeds). The publisher’s description follows:

The activities of pro-Israel pressure groups and lobbyists in the US are well-known. But the pro-Israel lobby in Europe is less prominent in both academic and media accounts. In a unique account, Elvira King identifies the pro-Israeli groups which attempt to influence policy-makers and implementers in the EU, specifically examining Christian Zionist groups. Through a detailed study of the European Coalition for Israel (ECI), the only Christian Zionist lobby in Brussels, Elvira King analyses whether and how a religious group can (and can fail to) influence decision-makers in the EU. By exploring the context of European relations with Israel as well as the mechanisms through which pressure groups are able to influence EU-wide policies, King offers an analysis which demonstrates how the EU can be a site where religion and politics meet, rather than just being a secular institution. It therefore contains vital primary research for both those interested in the pro-Israel lobby as well as those examining the role of religion in politics more generally.


Novak, “Zionism and Judaism: A New Theory”

In February, Cambridge University Press will release “Zionism and Judaism: A New Theory” by David Novak (University of Toronto). The publisher’s description follows:

Why should anyone be a Zionist, a supporter of a Jewish state in the land of Israel? Why should there be a Jewish state in the land of Israel? This book seeks to provide a philosophical answer to these questions. Although a Zionist need not be Jewish, nonetheless this book argues that Zionism is only a coherent political stance when it is intelligently rooted in Judaism, especially in the classical Jewish doctrine of God’s election of the people of Israel and the commandment to them to settle the land of Israel. The religious Zionism advocated here is contrasted with secular versions of Zionism that take Zionism to be a replacement of Judaism. It is also contrasted with versions of religious Zionism that ascribe messianic significance to the State of Israel, or which see the main task of religious Zionism to be the establishment of an Israeli theocracy.

“Comprehending Christian Zionism” (Gunner & Smith eds.)

In October, Augsburg Fortress released “Comprehending Christian Zionism: augsburgPerspectives in Comparison,” edited by Göran Gunner (Uppsala University) and Robert O. Smith (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). The publisher’s description follows:

The issue of Christian Zionism is one that is fiercely debated within theology, the church, politics, and society. Comprehending Christian Zionism brings together an international consortium of scholars and researchers to reflect on the network of issues and topics surrounding this critical subject. The volume provides a lens on the history of Zionism within Christian theology and offers a constructive, multidimensional path for assessment and introspection around the meaning of Zionism to Christian faith and practice.

Wolfe, “At Home in Exile”

In October, Random House released “At Home in Exile: Why Diaspora is Good 9780807033135for the Jews,” by political scientist Alan Wolfe (Boston College). The publisher’s description follows:

An eloquent, controversial argument that says, for the first time in their long history, Jews are free to live in a Jewish state—or lead secure and productive lives outside it

Since the beginnings of Zionism in the twentieth century, many Jewish thinkers have considered it close to heresy to validate life in the Diaspora. Jews in Europe and America faced “a life of pointless struggle and futile suffering, of ambivalence, confusion, and eternal impotence,” as one early Zionist philosopher wrote, echoing a widespread and vehement disdain for Jews living outside Israel. This thinking, in a more understated but still pernicious form, continues to the present: the Holocaust tried to kill all of us, many Jews believe, and only statehood offers safety.

But what if the Diaspora is a blessing in disguise? In At Home in Exile, renowned scholar and public intellectual Alan Wolfe, writing for the first time about his Jewish heritage, makes an impassioned, eloquent, and controversial argument that Jews should take pride in their Diasporic tradition. It is true that Jews have experienced more than their fair share of discrimination and destruction in exile, and there can be no doubt that anti-Semitism persists throughout the world and often rears its ugly head. Yet for the first time in history, Wolfe shows, it is possible for Jews to lead vibrant, successful, and, above all else, secure lives in states in which they are a minority.

Drawing on centuries of Jewish thinking and writing, from Maimonides to Philip Roth, David Ben Gurion to Hannah Arendt, Wolfe makes a compelling case that life in the Diaspora can be good for the Jews no matter where they live, Israel very much included—as well as for the non-Jews with whom they live, Israel once again included. Not only can the Diaspora offer Jews the opportunity to reach a deep appreciation of pluralism and a commitment to fighting prejudice, but in an era of rising inequalities and global instability, the whole world can benefit from Jews’ passion for justice and human dignity.

Wolfe moves beyond the usual polemical arguments and celebrates a universalistic Judaism that is desperately needed if Israel is to survive. Turning our attention away from the Jewish state, where half of world Jewry lives, toward the pluralistic and vibrant places the other half have made their home, At Home in Exile is an inspiring call for a Judaism that isn’t defensive and insecure but is instead open and inquiring.

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