THE CRISIS OF ZIONISM

An American journalist offers an elegant, deeply honest look at the failure of Jewish liberalism in forging Israel as a democratic state.

Founded in the spirit of Jewish liberalism, Israel promised in its declaration of independence to ensure “complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.” Yet successive wars stripped not only rights but basic humanity from much of its population, namely the Palestinians, creating a terrible irony for Zionists, especially in America. Daily Beast senior political writer Beinart (Journalism and Political Science/City Univ. of New York; The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris, 2010, etc.) represents a liberal, non-Orthodox tradition among fairly young Jews for whom Judaism and social justice go hand in hand, and who no longer buy the line of Jewish “victimhood” that helped cohere their parents’ generation of postwar Holocaust survivors. Unlike their parents, who saw anti-Semitism lurking everywhere, younger liberal Jews recognize Jewish power and the need for ethical responsibility in exercising that power. Violence, occupation and racism have eroded the good Zionist soul, Beinart writes, yet the powerful Jewish organizations in America often deny these ills. For example, AIPAC, today’s most powerful Jewish lobby, did not find its financial legs until the elections of Menachem Begin and Ronald Reagan, using Israel’s entrenched sense of being a “victim-state” as its fundraising card. As these organizations moved away from their roots in civil liberties and turned toward a solipsistic tribalism, political pressure in Washington moved the same way, as evinced by the retreat by President Obama—whom Beinart considers a leader in the true Jewish liberal tradition—on West Bank settlements and Palestinian statehood. Is the occupation Israel’s fault, and should American Jews criticize Israel? Beinart delves into the hypocritical waffling and rhetorical absurdities. Straight talk by a clear-thinking intellectual with his heart in the right place.

 

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9412-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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