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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Eminent neoconservative Podhoretz (World War IV) surveys the centuries of atrocities that, he says, have pushed most Jews to the Left, notably the persecutions by medieval Christendom, from blood libels to expulsion to ghettoization, and in modern times the Dreyfus affair and Nazism. Immigrant American Jews were attracted to the Democratic Party, says Podhoretz, because it was the closest counterpart to the European leftists who had favored Jewish emancipation. Phenomena like conservative opposition to fighting Hitler and Truman's recognition of Israel in 1948 kept Jews faithful to the 'Torah' of liberalism. But Podhoretz calls on Jews to shift their allegiance, maintaining that Democratic attitudes toward Israel range from unsympathetic to passionately hostile while the Republicans, with some exceptions, have been solidly to fervently supportive since the end of the 1967 Six-Day War. Podhoretz writes scathingly about what he views as the Nation magazine's naked anti-Semitism, taking particular aim at a 1986 piece by Gore Vidal, but, refreshingly, also excoriates conservatives like Pat Buchanan and right-wing publications like Chronicles magazine for their anti-Semitism. Although preaching to the converted and at times rambling, Podhoretz is an astute and joyously provocative and partisan observer of the political landscape. (Sept. 8)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“A fine and bracing examination of a question that has vexed Podhoretz for decades. He displays, along the way, the skill for supple reasoning and pugnacious argument that was the hallmark of his long editorship of Commentary magazine.”
Wall Street Journal

“Thought-provoking. . . . Sheds new light on an intriguing enigma.”
The Boston Globe
“[Podhoretz writes] ably, learnedly, charmingly, with his characteristic lucidity and incisiveness. . . . You’ll find revelations in every chapter.”
—David Klinghoffer, National Review
“Podhoretz takes on a provocative subject, rejects conventional wisdom, and delivers a book that is important, original, and thought-provoking.”
—Henry A. Kissinger

“Why are Jews liberals? God only knows. But Norman Podhoretz offers as lively and convincing an explanation as we’re likely to get from a merely human source. I particularly liked his comparison of today’s Jewish liberals to the Church Father Tertullian—one likely to offend both liberals and Tertullianites!”
—William Kristol, editor of Weekly Standard
“Norman Podhoretz has written a characteristically vigorous and well-informed book about one of the most interesting and persistent questions in American politics. He gets right to the heart of the matter, and provides a convincing explanation of why American Jews tend to vote against their own interests, and those of Israel.”
—Paul Johnson, author of A History of the Jews and Modern Times
“This is another uncompromising, hard-hitting, brilliant, and richly provocative Norman Podhoretz book. Nearly every chapter offers a compelling answer to questions you always wanted to ask . . . and then hesitated. Podhoretz’s fresh angle for looking at history, especially modernity, brings intellectual excitement of a very high order.”
—Michael Novak, winner of the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion
“Norman Podhoretz tackles one of the most intractable questions of modern politics: Why do Jews act against their enlightened self-interest in conditions of political freedom? Part of the answer comes in his survey of the historical connection between the Jews and liberalism, the rest in his up-to-date analysis of how liberalism became a proxy for Judaism. Want to know why Jews in overwhelming numbers voted for Barack Obama? Read this wise and insightful book.”
—Ruth Wisse, Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature, Harvard University


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition (October 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307456250
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307456250
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #765,193 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

155 of 174 people found the following review helpful By NA Miles on October 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I was rather excited to read this book and was not disappointed. Has a fairer, more important, more anticipated book been written on religion, politics or history? Not in my 30+ years. This book lived up the "hype."

While balanced, Norman Podhoretz traces his journey -- one many of us have taken as we mature and think on our own -- from Democrat/liberal to Republican/neo-Conservative, and is quite honest on both sides. While the legendary Commentary editor examines the roots of anti-Semitism historically and currently, he blames the Right as well, even into the latter half of the 20th century.

{I did not realize that his personal switch occurred (forgetting Commentary was once a left-leaning rag ...before my time) when he continuously realized Israel's enemies not only resided on the Statist Left, but also that it was the pseudo-peaceniks who showed zero interest in Judaism or condemning anti-Semitism/anti-Zionism, and wrongly lent their time to the mundane, "feel good" topics of civil rights, integration, housing. They felt "Israel can take care of itself." I hear that from self-loathing, Democrat-voting "Jews" weekly.}

Essentially, Podhoretz looks at the reasons Jews adhered to liberalism beginning with the persecutions of Christianity, such as European disenfranchisement of Jews, dearth of civil liberties, freedoms, expulsions, the Inquisition, and the shtetls of the modern world to the horrific Dreyfus Affair in France, ending with rise of Nazism and the Holocaust.

He therefore factually recalls that when Jews came to America, they aligned themselves with the Democratic Party because of its close resemblance to the disingenuous left-leaning Europeans (their 'friends' still today), who favored the emancipation of the Jews. He looks at Harry S.
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126 of 154 people found the following review helpful By Hilobs on September 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Although in this fine book Norman Podhoretz comes close, I would have to say that the core of fundamental differences lies one layer deeper.

- Leftists are zealous adherents to a secular religion. While conservatives believe that only God is perfect (the Judeo-Christian ethos) and that each man can strive to be better in His image, instead the left believes that humanity can be perfected.
- Perfection starts with the purity of leftist intentions, most importantly that of equality in all results (the "unfairly" successful must be brought down, and the "oppressed" must be raised up).
- Leftist intentions are made manifest by the cognoscenti via a top-down system, because each individual person cannot be trusted to better themselves.
- A top-down approach can best be implemented by an all-encompassing government that is the keeper and sustainer of perfection.

All other things flow from the above dichotomy, including charity versus welfare, moral relativism, belief in self-correcting versus zero-sum systems, etc., etc. The essence of all this is a clash of religions. Those Jews who are liberal have therefore abandoned Judaism and made God subservient to the leftist religion.

BTW, don't believe the nonsense here from other reviewers about the "Christian Right" holding Jewish conspiracy theories. That is a deceitful liberal trope that is more correctly the obsession of foaming-at-the-mouth leftists whenever they talk about Israel and Zionism.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By J. D. SabellaMD on October 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Podhoretz's review of Jewish history is fascinating and explains much about why Jews came to distrust kings,emperors and such(the Right)who often inflicted confication, banishment and even murder upon them. However, in the decades leading up to the Communist take over of Russia, the Socialists and Communists (the Left)promised to eliminate all difference among people. This had great appeal to Jews who were singled out throughout history as "different," which served to justify their persecution. However, I am amazed that the great majority of American Jews in our country, where there is no persecution, and where they enjoy equal rights and protection under the law, persist in voting liberal. This brings to mind the lemmings. A fascinating book which I recommend highly. Joseph Sabella
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Nottingham on September 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book is both interesting and informative. However, it does not satisfactorily answer the question why Jews are liberals. The author gave a very abridged history of the Jews to illustrate why the deep mistrust Ashkenazic Jews had for the ruling powers of Europe and for the Christian Church - in short, the right. This, together with the traditional Judaic teaching, does reasonably explain why Jews tended to be on the left side of the political order. The author admits to be as perplexed as the next person as to why, given a vastly different political, economical and religious context - here in today's America - Jews are still overwhelmingly liberal (and a reliably Democratic voter). He posits various "theories" served up by many students of the subject, but none really quite up to the task (of rationally explaining the anomaly.) Thus, in exasperation, he gave up by serving up the "Jews are politically stupid" line, which is what most people are forced to light-heartedly conclude.

Podhoretz's book was written not to answer the question which entitled the book - as there is not a good answer - but to hopefully provoke the vast majority of American Jewry into searching thoughts on why they are, to their detriment, stuck in a dogma that was formed from circumstances of the past, admittedly a very long and bitter past, but that have now evolved to be so different.

The book is, again, interesting and informative. As a philo-semite (if there is such a thing), I have been perplexed by this question for a long time. This book provides invaluable insight on the subject because it is from the heart and mind of a Jew, a very intelligent, accomplished and influential one, who more or less tells his life story in his quest for an answer.
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