A newspaperman’s sharp focus and beveled prose lend emotional power to this debate.

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CAN ISRAEL SURVIVE?

A great admirer of Israel’s self-realization sees inherent contradiction and impending disaster.

Washington Post columnist Cohen walks readers through Israel’s history of enormous accomplishment and unlikely creation and concludes that its survival is tenuous. Emerging as “the product of history’s most murderous century,” Israel was an “honest mistake,” Cohen wrote in a 2006 column—by which he meant that its creation was not a fault but a naïve dream to think that it would be accepted nestled among hostile neighbors resentful of its success and bent on its destruction. Cohen looks at some of the essential facts propelling Israel’s creation: The “crushing affliction” of being a Jew that founder Theodor Herzl wrote about in 1880s Vienna would not go away by converting; instead, it culminated in relentless anti-Semitism and pogroms and underscored his dictum that the greater the concentration of Jews, the more anti-Semitism. While the Holocaust provided the powerful impetus for the creation of Israel, Cohen reminds us of the anti-Jewish fever that occurred before and after—e.g., in America, where his own ancestors migrated from Poland in the early 1920s. Ironically, considering the forces against Israel, even militant Jewish leaders like Ze’ev Jabotinsky, father of what became the right-wing Likud party, did not advocate for “ethnic cleansing” of the Palestinians; instead, a defensive strategy Jabotinsky called an “iron wall” was erected, all hinging, presciently, on “the Arabs’ relationship to Zionism.” Moreover, considering its hostile ethnic minority, displacement of the imperiled Mizrahi community (Jews in Arab lands), growing numbers of ultraorthodox and global indifference (in the United States, “more than half of all Jews marry a non-Jew”), Israel “has run out of purpose.”

A newspaperman’s sharp focus and beveled prose lend emotional power to this debate.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1416575689

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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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