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The Unmaking of Israel Hardcover – November 8, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1ST edition (November 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061985082
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061985089
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #249,311 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“At the core of the book lies a terrifying analogy: Israel as Pakistan, a country whose government has empowered a lawless, fanatical religious movement now subverting the very state that empowered it. Is the analogy apt today? No, but Gorenberg makes a frighteningly convincing case that it might be soon.” (Peter Beinart, Newsweek)

“Until I read The Unmaking of Israel, I didn’t think it could be possible to feel more despairing, and then more terribly hopeful, about Israel, a place that I began at last, under the spell of Gershom Gorenberg’s lucid and dispassionate yet intensely personal writing, to understand.” (Michael Chabon)

“In a more forward-looking country, one less devoted to hounding its critics out of existence, legislators would roam the halls of the Knesset carrying well-thumbed copies of Gershom Gorenberg’s The Unmaking of Israel.” (The National)

“A powerful and persuasive new book.  . . . A finely documented piece of reporting.” (Joshua Hammer, The Washington Monthly)

“Eloquent.  . . . An indispensable, closely argued, and conditionally apocalyptic book.  . . . Gorenberg outlines many reasonable steps Israel should take to disentangle religion from the state.” (Jeffrey Goldberg, The New York Times Book Review)

“Gorenberg provides a deft but penetrating and highly nuanced account of the recent history and current politics of Israel.  . . . He issues a heartfelt and heart-rending plea for the repair of the Jewish democracy.” (The Jewish Journal)

“An important book.  . . . Essential reading for those in the U.S. who view Israel in simple terms as ‘the only democracy’ in the Middle East. Gorenberg has provided a roadmap for a better future. One hopes that this deeply personal critique will receive the consideration it deserves.” (The Washington Independent Review of Books)

“Clear and well argued.” (The Palestine Chronicle)

“Gorenberg presents the definitive case for viewing the occupation as more of a threat to Israel than an asset. . . . Required reading for anyone about to embark on a trip to Israel.” (Haaretz)

“[Gorenberg’s] book is solidly researched and elegantly argued. It combines history and analysis, love and anger. Somehow, it avoids moralism. If you read one book on Irsael, this shoud be it. (Dissent)

From the Back Cover

In this penetrating and provocative look at the state of contemporary Israel, acclaimed Israeli historian and journalist Gershom Gorenberg reveals how the nation’s policies are undermining its democracy and existence as a Jewish state, and explains what must be done to bring it back from the brink. Refuting shrilldefenses of Israel and equally strident attacks, Gorenberg shows that the Jewish state is, in fact, unique among countries born in the postcolonial era: It began as a parliamentary democracy and has remained one. An activist judiciary has established civil rights. Despite discrimination against its Arab minority, Israel has given a political voice to everyone within its borders.

Yet shortsighted policies, unintended consequences, and the refusal to heed warnings now threaten thoseaccomplishments. By keeping the territories it occupied in the Six-Day War, Israel has crippled its democracy and the rule of law. The unholy ties between state, settlement, and synagogue have promoted a new brand of extremism, transforming Judaism from a humanistic to a militant faith. And the religious right is rapidly gaining power within the Israeli army, with possibly catastrophic consequences.

In order to save itself, Gorenberg argues, Israel must end the occupation, separate state from religion, and create a new civil Israeli identity that can be shared by Jews and Arabs. Based on groundbreaking historical research—including documents released through the author’s Israeli Supreme Court challenge to military secrecy—and on a quarter century of experience reporting in the region, The Unmaking of Israel is a brilliant, deeply personal critique by a progressive Israeli, and a plea for realizing the nation’s potential.


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Customer Reviews

It should be required reading for all Americans.
Patricia W. Zimmerman
I thought the latter was a decent book, but did not really care for the style of writing, twas a tid too Tom Segev for my style, considering the topic.
Christopher M. Whitman Jr.
I found this book to be a thoughtful and reasoned examination of Israel's struggles towards achieving true democracy and legitimate statehood.
Max Ellithorpe

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Samuel W. Fleischacker on December 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Gershom Gorenberg has long been the most thorough and honest reporter in English on the settlement movement and the religious right in Israel. In THE ACCIDENTAL EMPIRE, he also provided the best history yet written of the rise of the settlement movement, suing the Israeli government in the process to gain access to internal memos and other documents it had hitherto striven to hide. Here he shows a deep understanding also of political and legal theory - of, in particular, how and why "the rule of law" is so essential to democracy. With that as his framework, he gives us an account, in tragic detail, of how the settlement movement has corrupted Israeli democracy: corrupted its legal processes, its ability to control its army, its willingness to preserve any serious separation between synagogue and state, and the willingness of its Jewish citizens, especially (but not solely) when Orthodox, to see their state as protecting the rights of all who live there - rather than those of Jews alone. Throughout, he is fair-minded and calm, avoiding the polemics so common in discussions of these topics, and locating causes for many of the baleful phenomena he describes more in structural factors, or unintended consequences of what initially seemed minor compromises, than in anyone's deliberately oppressive agenda. And at the end he proposes a thoughtful and very plausible set of proposals to bring Israel back to the democratic aspirations it once proudly upheld (incidentally explaining better than anyone else I know why a "one-state solution" will not work). An impressive book, and one people on all sides of the conflict can gain by reading.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Ketchikan Alaska Book Review on December 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This educational book is the closest I have come to understanding the internal issues to Israel as a society and as a state. The Unmaking of Israel (2011) by Gershom Gorenberg examines the folly, or what Barbara Tuchman might refer to as the "wooden headedness", of the Israel government as it slowly weakens the structure of the state and society over time. Mr. Gorenberg reveals in detail the clandestine government funding of West Bank settlements, the un-checked rabbinate monopoly that is increasingly making itself irrelevant because it cannot meet the basic life-event needs of average citizens, the lack of a clear eastern border between Israel and the West Bank, the government-funded (and self-imposed) exclusion of ultra-orthodox from secular, military, and economic life, and the perpetuated idea of "settlement [as] a Zionist value." Some of the unexpected insights I found invaluable: the idea of Torah as the national constitution, military reservists acting as a check on censorship when they return to civilian status, and the idea of history moving in reverse towards a future Altalena incident. Mr. Gorenberg ends with some of his own thoughtful solutions about how to reverse the current situation to ensure Israel avoids political and societal implosion. Overall, I regard the book as a series of straight-forward readings about some serious, complex, and all-too-real issues that affect Israel today and in the near future.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By J. Shereshewsky on January 21, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am an American Jew with deep Zionist roots who has become increasingly disappointed with an Israeli government held hostage by fundamentalists whose smug conviction in their rectitude made no sense to me. This book was a real eye-opener providing real insights, facts and a strong warning. These loonies are living on the largess of both diaspora Jews and the US government. We are allowing them to destroy a state that could, indeed, be a light unto nations (read Start-up Nation). Instead we get a country that is increasingly unable to talk with their neighbors and which will eventually alienate most of their friends. Their willingness, even avidity, for Armegeddon is more than unnerving. This is a must read for anyone who is a friend of Israel without being foolishly blind to her faults.
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41 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Norman B. Bernstein on November 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Gershon Gorenberg's vivid description of the rather complex intermixing of religion and politics in Israel is an engaging read. In the book, Gorenberg describes the highly fractionalized politics of modern Israel, emphasizing the surprising (and distressing) hold on elements of the military by various ultra-Orthodox factions, especially those associated with illegal settlements in the West Bank. He discusses the efforts in the past few years to engage young haredi (very orthodox) in a program of military service; however, the alliegance and loyalty of these soldiers is undermined by the authority and influence of the orthodox rabbis whose political perspectives clash with the secular military leadership. This results in a questioning of the willingness of young officers from the ranks of the haredi to obey and remain loyal to the officer corps; such a situation could be extraordinarily dangerous, when a conflict erupts.

Along the way, Gorenberg provides additional insight into the illegal settlements in the West Bank, the tacit approval and support of the Israeli government, and the expropriation of land from Palestinians, as well as the effects of Israel's security fence to block Palestinians from freedom of movement, and even from tending their own crops.

The final chapter, however, strikes me as incongruous. After making a very persuasive argument that Israel's internal politics and religious schisms make it essentially impossible to ever result in any sort of reform, Gorenberg lays out his own vision of how these issues might be resolved. His recommendations, however appropriate, seemed to me to have been essentially excluded by the picture he paints in the earlier chapters.
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