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Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilizing Logic of Zionism Hardcover – November 10, 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; First Edition edition (November 10, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230614841
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230614840
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,154,572 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Alam writes with keen purpose and with an ethical point of view, one opposed to the injustices inscribed in Zionist logic, and one that is unfortunately still marginalized in North America."--Foreign Policy Journal

“Israeli Exceptionalism is not only a must read, it is a must-think-about book. To add intellectual spice, every chapter starts with a few quotes of prominent individuals related to the topic at hand. Reading these quotes alone speak volumes of the human tragedy that Zionism evokes.”--Sam Bahour, Arab News

"Israeli Exceptionalism is nearly the best introduction to Zionism there is"--Holy Land Studies

“This is a critically important book.  It enhances and expands on the groundbreaking message of Shlomo Sand’s work.  If Sand shows that Jews were not ‘a people’ until Zionism created them as such, Alam shows this also and goes well beyond to show how Zionism and its manufactured ‘nation’ went about dispossessing and replacing the Palestinians and winning all-important Western support for Israel and its now 60-year-old ‘exclusionary colonialism.’”--Counterpunch

"There is no doubt that many will consider [this] book to be controversial, and most will consider it provocative.  Nobody will think it is un-interesting or irrelevant.  It is novel in insights, keen in analysis, and sharp in language. The dominant discourse in the West, certainly in the US, about the Arab-Israeli conflict is usually simplistic, often cowardly, and almost always tendentious. Alam’s counter-narrative, in spite of its indignant tone and grim prognosis, is a brave and bracing antidote to much mainstream blather on the subject."--Informed Comment, review by Ahrar Ahmad

“M. Shahid Alam's book is a splendid read--lively, engaging, and thought provoking. It competently penetrates, as will as demystifies, one of the most well packaged ideological myths of our times--Israel as a benevolent, civilized, moral national project and shows clearly its darker side, especially as it pertains to Palestinians who have been the major victims of this myth. Alam offers us a passionate plea for a much needed provincializing of Israeli discourse, one that in the United States monopolizes the public sphere. This book is truly a sobering analysis for all those who believe in this myth.”--Khaldoun Samman, Associate Professor of Sociology and Program Director of the Middle East Studies and Islamic Civilization program at Macalester College and author of Clash of Modernities: The Islamist Challenge and the Making and Unmaking of the "New" Jew, Arab, and Turk

“This book should be read because it describes, with remarkable historical insight, why the current crusade of the West and the Zionists beckons dangers that we all need to understand, urgently.”--John Pilger, Journalist, writer and documentary filmmaker

“M. Shahid Alam is a marvelous writer dealing with some of the most pressing problems facing both the United States and the Moslem world. In this book, exploring the tragedy inherent in the history of Zionism, Alam reveals to us how anti-Semitism and Zionism have evolved into an unholy alliance that now constitutes a major threat to world peace. For those seeking insight into this threat, Alam's book is a ‘must read.’”--Lawrence Davidson, Professor of History, West Chester University

About the Author

M. Shahid Alam is an economist, historian, and poet. In his wide-ranging work, he has demonstrated a capacity to cut across disciplinary boundaries, engage the real world, and look at issues spatially, historically and globally. As a social scientist, he believes that his primary task is to stand outside the dominant structures of thought and examine how they falsify reality in the service of power.


Alam has published three previous books, Governments and Markets in Economic Development Strategies (1979), Poverty from the Wealth of Nations (1990), and Challenging the New Orientalism (2006). His articles have appeared in American Economic Review, Kyklos, Cambridge Journal of Economics, Science and Society, and Review of Radical Political Economics. His translations of Ghalib have appeared in Chicago Review, Beloit Poetry Journal and Marlboro Review. His political essays have appeared in Dawn, The Daily Star, Al-Ahram Weekly, CounterPunch, Outlook India and Tehelka.


Currently, Alam is a professor of economics at Northeastern University in Boston.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

86 of 93 people found the following review helpful By Hugh Sansom on February 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Contrary to the knee-jerk rejection by one reviewer here (review entitled "a tenditious [sic] polemic", this is an excellent work. M. Shahid Alam has his own point of view, as any student of history must (something that is not permitted in the US when one's view directly denies the "received wisdom"). Alam is decisively -- and laudably -- outside the brutally narrow, even tyrannical, mainstream of Israeli, American and European scholarship on this subject. This is the kind of book that untenured professors dare not write because it will bring down the wrath of bigots and racists like Alan Dershowitz. An important read.

With respect specifically to the comments of Mr. Guberman:

How on earth can a work written in 1902 be taken to refute an ideology of 30 and 40 years later? David Ben-Gurion was 16 when Altneuland was published, and as _many_ have noted (across the spectrum of scholarship on the founding of Israel), Zionism has taken _many_ forms, just as most (even all) nationalist movements have. There is simply no denying that Ben-Gurion did indeed reject the notion that Palestinians had any rights collectively, as a people (and thus any rights to their own nation). Thus, while insisting on Jewish nationalist rights, Ben-Gurion rejected comparable rights for Palestinians. He also spoke explicitly of common cause with the Christian minority of Lebanon in undermining and even destroying the Palestinians.

Ben-Gurion: "Israel is the bastion of the West in the Middle East." Sounds like classic Western imperialist thinking to me.

Ben-Gurion again: "[A] Christian state should be established, with its southern border on the Litani River (i.e., in Lebanon). We will make an alliance with it.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By BostonSox on February 26, 2012
Format: Paperback
This is one of the few books that traces the origins and evolution of Zionism. While most of of what happened with Israel - Palestinian issue post - 1948 is more common knowledge, the book does a good job of conveying the long-term nature of the movement: Once it gathered mass and convinced the Western Govts of the need for a Jewish state, the work to get the Jews from around the world to move to Palestine and subsequent removal of the population that lived there to make room.

The region will continue to be a conflagration point for the next 50 years and the book gives readers an understanding of the complexities and dynamics in the region vs. the buzz words in the press ('Arabs vs. our allies' or 'extremists vs. a democratic nation'.

Its good to see some open research on this topic and I am happy to see the critical view of Israel's policies from 1948 till now be written up.

Even arabs would benefit from a read to see what sort of racism Jews had been subject to for hundreds of years that give rise to the movement.
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50 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Shakeel Syed on January 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The author offers his extraordinary research few dared to undertake exposing the destructive dogma of Zionism. A must read for everyone interested to work for justice in the Middle East and peace in the world. A book of solid scholarship.
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2 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Steven Plaut on March 19, 2013
Format: Paperback
An anti-Semitic jihadist produces a collection of smears and lies, all written by a pseudo-academic whose agenda resembles that of the Nazi Party.
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12 of 112 people found the following review helpful By David A. Guberman on February 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover
that recycles exploded canards, for example, that, in the 1930s David Ben Gurion, later the first Prime Minister of Israel, advocated a "transfer," in modern parland, an ethnic cleansing, of the Arabs of Palestine.

For a refutation of the false claim that Zionism's early leaders sought to establish an "exclusionary colonialism," one need only read the 1902 Zionist utopian novel Altneuland: The Old-New-Land (the old-new land) by Theodor Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, available on-line here: [...]

Alam also associates Zionism with the idea of Jews as a chosen people. But political Zionism incorporated no such doctrine. Moreover, the Socialist Zionist builders of the Zionist enterprise in Israel (formerly Mandatory Palestine) were largely agnostics or athiests. Indeed, many Orthodox Jews, especially those whom today sometimes are called "ultra-Orthodox," opposed political Zionism on the grounds that a return to the land of Israel was to be accomplished only by God, not by mere humans.

Alam also adopts a conspiracy theory view of the success of Zionists in attracting the support of labor and civil rights leaders, of (many) members of Congress, and of various Presidents.

In short, although written by a professor (of economics), the book fails even minimal academic standards.
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