Customer Reviews: A State Beyond the Pale: Europe's Problem with Israel
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on November 28, 2009
In a State Beyond the Pale, Robin Shepherd has written a devastating critique of arguments and accusations levelled at Israel in the battleground of public opinion. This isn't so much a book about the 'usual issues' we hear, it's more a book about what critics of Israel say and think; the reaction to Israel, rather than solely being about Israel.

Sheppard is an immensely creative writer, never once needing to 'cry wolf' and settle for the label 'antisemite' as defence for Israel. He looks at a broad range of arguments from journalists, writers, politicians and people when discussing Israel, and builds his case very convincingly for what is fair, and unfair criticism of Israel. He even rejects Bat Ye'or's prolific Eurabia, which has become a source of inspiration to so many writers on this subject. This may ruffle a few feathers among the die-hard Israel lovers...

Quite interestingly, and probably quite indicative of the arguments relating to Israel, is the preface and introduction, both of which are 51 pages long (out of a 310 page book). But this by no means reading 51 pages before getting to the heart of the matter. From the first page Shepherd wastes no time in getting down to business saying 'Arguments relating to this subject very quickly become personal; arguments should be judged on their own merits, not on who's making them.' I had quite forgotten what part of the book I was reading before turning the page and seeing "Chapter 1". It's fair to say this is an engrossing read!

It would be easy to compare this to The Case for Israel by Alan Dershowitz, but this is something very different, and deals with this topic in a very unique way.

One of my favourite 'dissections' was in showing how anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. For without Zionism, Israel would not exist. And without Israel, as we saw from the Holocaust, the Jews would not exist for very much longer. In his comparison he takes the minority of Jews who are anti-Zionist and compares them to being much like the African village leaders who sold so many millions of their people into bondage.

Another argument I thought brilliant, was the defence of the organisation called MEMRI, which translates Palestinian and other Islamist writings and broadcasting in the Middle East showing how widespread antisemitism and incitement to jihad are etc. Many Israel-haters simply dismiss MEMRI by claiming it is full of former Israeli military personnel. Shepherd argues that it doesn't matter who works there, either the translations from Arabic sources are accurate, or they aren't.

This book has cost Shepherd dearly. Once having worked at Chatham House in the UK, he was summarily expelled from that institution because of his opinions which deviate from the politically correct discourse about Israel in much of Europe. Chatam House, ironically claiming to be a ' source of independent analysis, informed debate and influential ideas on how to build a prosperous and secure world for all.'

As a Brit myself, the sorry state of affairs is all too evident. In the stories continually appearing in the headlines, from MI6 (the UK's CIA) inadvertently using al-Qaida's top man in Europe for intelligence gathering. Or the Mayor of London, inviting a radical Islamist to give a talk on affairs relating to 'inter-community harmony' in London. It is quite clear, the British establishment doesn't even understand who its friends are, even a decade after 9/11, and after the London bombings of 7/7 2005.

I did want say it would be interesting to see how opponents of Shepherd answer his book, but as with The Case for Israel those same people chose not to answer; instead, simply attempting to deceive and dissuade people from reading it. In the realm of public discourse, Shepherd has raised the bar to a new level, and his work is simply in a category of its own. I'm sure it is destined to become the book by which all others on the subject are judged.

I would defy any open-minded person to read this and not come away with a much better and fairer understanding of what is legitimate - and illegitimate - discourse when discussing Israel.
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HALL OF FAMEon November 29, 2009
The war against the Jews has two fronts, one in the Middle East which is the scene of terrorism and the other in the media where a battle for minds takes place. Israel is well capable of defending itself physically but has not done so well in the other war as Stephanie Gutmann wrote some years ago. Openly antisemitic hostility towards Israel is common throughout the Arab world; spread through mosques, madrassas and the internet. This propaganda has infected the entire Islamic world, including Europe where Muslim numbers and influence are increasing. This demographic factor is expertly dissected by Rafael Israeli in his book on Elemental and Residual Anti-Semitism.

Here, Robin Shepherd examines the crucial battle of ideas between non-Muslim westerners that Israel is losing. He documents and analyses in meticulous detail the expanding scope and influence of the enmity towards Israel among European opinion-formers. During the past decades this animosity has spread from the far left to the mainstream liberal-left as Bernard Harrison reveals in The Resurgence of Anti-Semitism and Manfred Gerstenfeld in Behind The Humanitarian Mask with reference to Scandinavia. Major UK media like The Guardian, Independent and BBC are at the forefront while on the continent recent examples were provided by the Swedish paper Aftonbladet and the Spanish El Mundo.

Shepherd identifies the cause as Europe's civilizational exhaustion and its symptoms like the post-Holocaust guilt complex, embrace of pacifism, appeasement and relativism. The World Wars and the continent's murderous salvationist ideologies have made the intelligentsia reject all frameworks like nationalism or religion. As Chantal Delsol observes, a morality of complacency has deprived Europe of a system of ethics whilst promoting self-interest and subjectivity. The far left and to a lesser degree the liberal-left hate many things but don't have any rational vision.

Shepherd's examples of the crude demonization of Israel correspond exactly with the analyses of Delsol and Harrison. Emotion & indignation have become the preferred channels for a morality which is usually negatively defined. Artists and intellectuals in particular, express an odd form of piety in hysterical fits of morality of which the relativism, rage and selectivity betray it as fatuous posturing. It is demonstrably contradictory in the manner it clings to moral absolutes whilst affirming the universality of relativism. Delsol considers it an empty morality of despair and withdrawal.

Caroline Glick, Bruce Bawer & Claire Berlinski share the opinion that European elites have rejected the lessons of the Holocaust. The simplistic fallacies that nationalism is the ultimate evil and that war is never justified are distortions of reality. Nationalism is a neutral concept that must be judged by the way it is expressed. Pacifism permits evil to flourish; it is neither pious nor benevolent as it denies justice and holds it in contempt. The collapse of the USSR pushed the Left over the edge and was the main reason that it embraced postmodernism & multiculturalism.

These evil philosophies are behind Europe's refusal to defend the rule of law and other Western values. European elites deny the reality of Islamist terrorism whereas Israel has no choice but to confront it. The fad of Moral Relativism is not applied to both sides; it is used for justifying suicide/homicide bombings but never to the measures taken by Israel to defend itself. The far left's hatred of Israel and the USA has made it an ally of radical Islamism despite the ideological chasm between them. Jamie Glazov explains this alliance with great insight in his book United in Hate.

In the war of ideas, academia is the source & the mass media the disseminator of anti-Western pieties du jour of which the seeming benevolence masks a profound self-loathing. The double standards of "human rights" organizations and trade unions are breathtaking. Shepherd does not think that Western anti-Zionism is rooted in the old antisemitism but that the vitriolic hatred of Israel signify a new strain of the mental disease. In his taxonomy of antisemitism, he divides it into 'subjective' and 'objective' forms. Subjective antisemites hate Israel and everything Jewish whilst the objective types centre on the "object of attack" where perpetrators do not hate Jews but adopt the same insane ideas as genuine antisemites.

The last chapter, Contagion: Is America Next? investigates why the quality of Middle Eastern discourse in the USA has not deteriorated to the same low level as in Europe. He warns however, with reference to Wart and Smearsheimer, that it could happen. In this regard it's important to consider Andre Glucksmann's theory that a contagion of hatred must be taken literally as a mental disorder that invades minds, bodies and society. Immune to reason, such an outbreak inoculates itself against opposing thoughts.

Shepherd's valuable book ought to be read with Denis MacShane's Globalising Hatred that highlights the spread of the plague as a factor in international politics with important geostrategic implications. MacShane also points out how little attention is paid in the West to the Islamic sphere's open antisemitism which is promoted by state media and forms part of the charters of Hamas & Hezbollah. Authors like Nonie Darwish, Brigitte Gabriel and Phyllis Chesler have been trying to raise awareness of the phenomenon for years. Now it's becoming acceptable in parts of the West.

It is incumbent upon friends of Israel to counteract this descent into madness. Shepherd's is not the first warning; in the 1990s Alan Dershowitz, William F Buckley and William Nicholls amongst others, saw it coming, while more recently Oriana Fallaci, Bat Ye'or, David Horowitz, Melanie Phillips, Gabriel Schoenfeld, Abraham Foxman, Dennis Prager, Nick Cohen, Walter Laqueur and David Solway have sounded the alarm. This time the Jewish people must not be abandoned to fight the battle on their own. As for the how of it, the best book by far is The Dawn: Political Teachings of the Book of Esther by Yoram Hazony.
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on December 5, 2009
A State Beyond the Pale is a must read for anyone who cares about the State of Israel, is concerned about antisemitism and injustice and people who care about the role of the media in free societies.Unlike other books defending Israel, this insightful study by Robin Shepherd allows the facts to speak for themselves. He lets Israel's critics indict themselves by their words and actions. This method of analysis makes Shepherd's work one of the most compelling studies of how Israel has gone in Europe from ally to fiend in a short period of time.

Along with being rich in analysis, this book is beautifully written. Shepherd has an expert eye for the quote and the fact that is central to understanding the big picture. Shepherd clearly knows his subject matter inside and out. And he knows how to present his arguments and conclusions.

I highly recommend that anyone interested in the future of Israel read this book.
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on March 13, 2010
No doubt the best book on Israel I have read in a long time. This short but readable book by Robin Shepard, Director of International Affairs of the Henry Jackson Society in the UK, has cut through the misinformation, anti-israeli propaganda, and outright antisemitism, to pinpoint a real problem facing Western Europe concerning it's relationship with Israel. Alarmed by the rapid resurgence of both antisemitism and anti-Israel behavior on the part of the EU, and meant as an advanced warning to both the EU and the United States, the author examines the root causes of western Europe's quickly intensifying irrational prejudice against the state of Israel, the accompanying rise of antisemitism among Europeans, and the rising need to accommodate totalitarian governments in the Middle East. His conclusions make a lot of sense and has clarified my own confusion about what is causing this behavior that is a severe threat to liberal democracy in Europe and the US. Comments posted here by 'Adama' and 'Pieter' are accurate and worth reading. Do your political representatives a favor and buy theme a copy of this book.
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on March 12, 2010
As a person who cares deeply about ISrael and has read many, many books on the subject, I was astounded by this book. Shepperd slices through the duplicity associated with today's media and leftist discourse concerning ISrael like a skilled surgeon. He exposes the lies, double standards and slander for what they are; thinly veiled Jew hatred..and he backs it up with impeccable logic. The fact that he is a non-jew (not that that should matter) only adds to his credibility.
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on February 2, 2015
Edifying piece on a topic so thick in the air in Europe but hard to make sense of. Thank you Mr Shepherd.
This book just like Israel-bashing in Europe is more about Europe than it is about Israel.
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on May 7, 2010
The author puts forth the argument that while Israel's sworn enemies have attempted to destroy the Jewish State, European NGOs have made
common cause with those who would carry out that destruction. It should be familiar by now that the diatribe equating Israel with racism
has obtained the status of Coin of the Realm in much of the world. Should Europeans not understand that their moral status is hereby called into question, the practice of making common cause with terrorism will will further degrade European civilization.
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on October 31, 2012
Shepherd has written a must-read primer on the Middle east. In clear, concise sentences and paragraphs, he has outlined the issues, answered them and explained clearly the case for the legitimate state of Israel.
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on September 21, 2011
This is a very interesting book about why Europe is being so pro-Arab in the Middle-East conflict.
It has a strong historical background and is based on many facts.
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on February 28, 2010
The book is dedicated to modern European anti-Semitism. Authors gives names of organizations, such as BBC, and individuals, mostly BBC and other British media reporters, who are responsible for pathologically deceitful and anti-Semitic publications targeting Israel existence and lives of Israelis and Jews around the world. The author analyzes anti-Semitism of Europeans from various angles in attempt to find a logical explanation in muslims overpopulation in Europe, in other words, in European cowardice. However, if we look at this problem from historic perspective, the answer is simple: Frenchmen and British are genetic anti-Semites and coward, others are just coward and profoundly ignorant in ME history. I highly recommend everybody to read this book.
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