From Publishers Weekly
This survey of Jewish history highlights the political aspect of Jewish experience, beginning with the observation that in the Hebrew Bible, Jewish power came through military heroics. By the time of the Roman conquest in A.D. 70, the Talmudic rabbis changed the narrative, blaming defeat on internal dissension, thus elevating the need for political discipline above military power. A Harvard professor of Yiddish and comparative literature, Wisse is keen to study how the politics of Jews occasions the politics of what she terms anti-Jews. For instance, she asserts that Allied leaders entered WWII not to save Europe's Jews but in order to defeat the Nazis, who were also anti-Jews. Similarly, the author says, President Bush was provoked to fight anti-Jewish terrorists by 9/11. Yet in both cases, isolationists accused the administration of caving in to Jewish demands that damaged American interests. Even the founding of Israel, she implies, has not normalized Jews' political position in the world. Palestinians, she says, have forged a national identity in obsessive opposition to Israel, and other nations have exploited Israel for their own political ends. Although her prose is sometimes opaque, Wisse is in fine form with well-reasoned, self-assured arguments bound to provoke heated debate among interested intellectuals. (Aug. 28)
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Wisse believes that Jews figure more prominently in the study of religion than they do in the study of government or political theory. To address this deficiency, she writes, this book highlights the political aspect of Jewish experience. In particular, Wisse says, she wants to "see how the politics of Jews occasions the politics of anti-Jews. The tendency of Jews to seek fault in themselves is part of the harmful pattern I hope to expose." This is a difficult thesis to examine, but Wisse gets her points across in a clear and convincing way. This is the eighth volume in the Jewish Encounters series, and 18 more titles are forthcoming. Wisse, the author of The Sehlemiel As Modern Hero (1984), The Well, and The Shtetl and Other Modern Yiddish Novellas (1986), is a professor of comparative literature at Harvard University. Cohen, George
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