Will appeal primarily to specialists or to general readers with an abiding interest in Israel’s future.

THE INVENTION OF THE LAND OF ISRAEL

FROM HOLY LAND TO HOMELAND

A Jewish scholar harshly criticizes the founding narrative of the State of Israel.

The concept of “homeland” is a relatively new historical construct, “one of the more surprising, and perhaps the most destructive creations, of the modern era,” writes Sand (Contemporary History/Univ. of Tel Aviv; The Words and the Land: Israeli Intellectuals and the Nationalist Myth, 2011, etc.). From this general perspective and from the argument made in his highly controversial book, The Invention of the Jewish People (2010), which disputed the idea that Jews “belong to an ancient race-based people,” the author doubles down with an attack on the whole notion of an ancestral home for the world’s Jews. The idea of a Jewish homeland, he insists, is a turn-of-the-century Zionist invention (given urgency by the Holocaust), a political construct designed to lend moral legitimacy to the seizing of territory to which the Jews have no historical right. He accuses Zionists of getting not only the history wrong, but the religion too. Properly understood, he writes, the Holy Land is an allegorical, intangible expression of the faithful. Well aware of the incendiary implications of his argument and knowing that it will likely be willfully misunderstood both by anti-Semites and zealous nationalists, Sand maintains that his deconstruction of the mythology at the heart of Israel’s founding is a necessary prerequisite to a “pragmatic and realistic” resolution of the current conflict with Palestinians. The author attempts, but does not fully succeed, in lightening the relentlessly professorial prose with a few personal anecdotes—his placid complicity in the murder of a Palestinian, a great-grandfather buried on the Mount of Olives, the uncommemorated Arab village that once occupied the site of the Israeli university where he teaches. However, these demonstrate that, unlike many of his prominent Zionist critics, he has some skin in the game.

Will appeal primarily to specialists or to general readers with an abiding interest in Israel’s future.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-84467-946-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Verso

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2012

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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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