A sweeping reflection on the dangers posed to Israel by moral decline, and some possible solutions.
Political discussion about Israel tends to revolve around its dispute with Palestine, comparatively neglecting the nation’s domestic health. In his debut effort, Bernstein begins by offering an appraisal of Israel’s internal integrity, which he characterizes as being in dire straits. After the elimination of the gold standard, he says, corporate greed was untethered from any restraints, generating a predatory culture of consumption. He asserts that corporations gradually edged out government and civil society as the principal agents of influence, aggressively privatized historically public functions, and remade the media—and even national armies—into agents of their prosperity. Bernstein considers the conflict between a morally robust populace and corporate avarice to be the central issue of our time, and not just for Israel. In addition to issuing gloomy prognostications, he proposes a number of broadly articulated solutions; he contends that education, religion, and a preservation of culture could all function as counterpoints to crass consumerism. Originally written as a series of essays, this book also covers a number of other issues, including the nature of Zionism, the need for a newly constituted Israeli leadership, and a novel solution to the seemingly endless Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although this tour of Israeli issues can sometimes seem a bit scattershot, each essay is essentially self-sufficient and enlivened with provocation; Bernstein’s federalist solution to the conflict with Palestine alone makes the book a worthwhile read. The prose, though, can sometimes take turgid turns, and the author, despite his general moderation, is prone to occasional bouts of enthusiastic hyperbole (“The future of humanity depends on its ability to escape the tyranny of the greedy capitalistic elite who control the corporations”). Also, the brevity of the essays means that the arguments unfold more quickly than persuasively at some points, and without clear explanations of political and cultural references for nonexperts. However, the author is admirably straightforward about his political commitments and unafraid to furnish unconventional analyses.
A thoughtful, if not always entirely clear, account of the State of Israel.