THE FOUNDING MYTHS OF ISRAEL

NATIONALISM, SOCIALISM, AND THE MAKING OF THE JEWISH STATE

For decades, Israel's social-democratic Labor Party was the country's predominant political force, consistently holding a plurality of power against the right-wing ``revisionist'' and religious parties. Yet contemporary Israeli society has more social inequity than almost any other developed nation. Asks political scientist Sternhell (Hebrew Univ.): How can this be? Easy, he answers. From at least the 1920s and possibly earlier, the ruling elites of the Jewish settlement in Palestine were far more interested in increasing the Jewish population (about 75 percent of the total population was still Arab in 1947, the year of the UN's partition resolution) and in other forms of state- building than in redistributive socioeconomic policies. Sternhell exhaustively documents his thesis by quoting extensively from the writings and speeches of Labor Zionism's long-time political and ideological leaders, David Ben-Gurion and Berl Katznelson. As the latter put it in 1925, ``It is not the interests of class warfare that must determine the needs and strategy of the movement, but those of building up the land.'' Thus, the national workers' federation, the Histadrut, took on a strongly centrist orientation, in which a certain degree of antidemocratic tactics, as well as some financial corruption, were tolerated. The government was thus also uncompromising in staking Jewish claims to the land against those of Arabs. In general, this account is so focused on political ideology that it doesn't quite provide enough of a demographic, geopolitical, and historical context when it comes to issues of equity in Jewish-Arab relations or another matter he broaches, Zionism's commitment to rescue, rather than to internal issues, during the Holocaust. Still, for those fascinated by Zionist ideology and Israel's early history, this is one of the most provocative of the recent rash of ``post-Zionist'' studies that debunk earlier works on Israel's founding fathers and mothers.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-691-01694-1

Page Count: 407

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1997

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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 PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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