From Publishers Weekly
In this broadside against conventional American Jewish political thinking, Schwartz (The Two Faces of Islam
) repeatedly poses the question "is it good for the Jews?"—concluding that neoconservativism would be, but the Democratic Party isn't. Schwartz (a convert from Judaism to Islam) argues that the community's leadership, including pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC, has let down its constituency by failing to embrace neoconservativism's "universal, humanistic and liberal values" and inadequately responding to the "tidal wave of Jew-baiting" he believes preceded the Iraq war. Yet he backs his claims with speculative statements, while dismissing others' positions as "mak[ing] no sense" or insulting the messengers (e.g., "incompetent Western journalists and bought-off policy experts" are behind the dubious notion of an al-Qaeda/Saddam Hussein connection). The last sentence declares AIPAC to be "on the edge of its demise," but Schwartz provides no data to support such a prediction. He offers only an account of the spy scandal in which AIPAC has been embroiled since 2004, which led to tension with the administration, but which, Schwartz admits, also led to "an exceptional upsurge in donations" to the organization. Though the book has little to recommend it, it's likely to make waves regardless. (Sept.)
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The so-called Israel lobby has recently become a favorite whipping boy of both the extreme Right and the extreme Left (and occasionally the less-extreme Left) in American political discourse. Schwartz is a former staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle
and has been an editor of the Jewish periodical Forward
. He offers an analysis of the lobby and its critics and considers both the current effectiveness and utility of the lobby. Schwartz is quite strident in his criticisms of Jewish organizations for their passivity during the Holocaust. He is equally severe, and perhaps unfair, in his attacks on those who today criticize the influence of Jewish groups on American policy in the Middle East. Schwartz correctly emphasizes the distinction between influencing government policy and controlling it. But when he constantly labels those who question the influence of the Israel lobby as anti-Semitic and calls their criticism "filth," he precludes serious discussion of the issue. Still, in describing the history and process of Jewish efforts to influence American foreign policy, Schwartz sheds light on a topic that has been subject to distortion and misunderstanding. Jay FreemanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved