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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Americans Should Learn What This Book Has To Teach Us, January 26, 2009
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This review is from: Plowshares into Swords: From Zionism to Israel (Hardcover)
Arno Mayer's "Plowshares into Swords" makes a thorough case against the Zionist movement, from the 1890s to the present day. It should be required reading for all Americans, whose money, after all, continues to finance Israel's bombing of Gaza and Lebanon, as well as its continued settlement of the West Bank.

Like a prosecutor, Mayer lays out his case in detail, incident by incident, quote by quote. The reader comes away enlightened and convinced that Zionism's founders never intended to deal fairly with the Arabs of Palestine. They intended to displace them. Thus they never bothered to learn anything about them, let alone to try to engage them. Their idea was to implant a Western style nation-state in the Middle East, where such things were unknown.

But there was always an alternative. There were those in the Zionist movement who wanted to create in Palestine a spiritual-cultural center which would spark a renaissance of Judaism both there and in the diaspora, which would not threaten the Arabs. Mayer's heart is clearly with these "critical Zionists": philosopher Martin Buber, rabbi Judah Magnes, editor Ahad Haam, and others, who spent decades calling for a binational state built on mutual aid and understanding between Arab and Jew. These voices, ignored for decades, speak eloquently through his book. Perhaps because they took the Middle East seriously, their ideas were more appropriate to its history and environment, where linguistic and religious communities lived side-by-side without borders.

In the event, they were suppressed by David Ben-Gurion and the militant nationalists in the Zionist movement, and the State of Israel was built on bayonets rather than on understanding. The Arabs of Palestine are still paying for this. So are we all, to a much lesser extent. For example, consider the warning by Judah Magnes in the 1920s: to establish a Jewish state "against the will of the Arabs - within and outside Palestine - could not be achieved except by armed conflict, and to maintain a state thus engendered would require endless violence and warfare...to prevail, the Jews would have to prostrate themselves before the idols of economic imperialism and militarism." Sound familiar?

The history is detailed and competent, as one would expect from the author of "The Furies" and "Why Did the Heavens Not Darken?". In my opinion, Mayer does an outstanding job of combining diplomatic, social and military history.

Mayer provides an extensive bibliography but no footnotes. He explains at the beginning of the book that he left them out on purpose because the citations would be superfluous for experts and overwhelming to lay readers. I suggest he reconsider. It is quite frustrating read an inspiring quote from some sharp thinker almost lost to memory, and to have no idea where to find it.

As an American whose taxes go to fund the mayhem in the Middle East whether I like it or not, I think it is my responsibility to try to understand the history and the actors. If you are an American, it is your responsibility too. Mayer's book is an outstanding place to start.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 13, 2012 6:56:06 AM PDT
Goldstein says:
Irrelevant, pretentious, boring.
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