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Defending Identity: Its Indispensable Role in Protecting Democracy Hardcover – Bargain Price, March 24, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
“Fortunately, one of the greatest Jewish heroes alive today has jumped into this battle, armed with his usual weapons - wit, iconoclasm, erudition and courage. Having survived Soviet prisons, having survived years in Israeli politics with his reputation for independence and integrity intact, Natan Sharansky is now ready to lead the charge against those who are deluding themselves by denuding themselves…This twist makes Sharansky's argument fresh, powerful, compelling, and yes, subversive. Rather than joining the Jewish woe-is-me crowd lamenting that particularist Judaism cannot survive America's universalizing embrace, Sharansky fears that America, Europe and the West cannot survive modernity's universalizing embrace. Sharansky endorses a strong Jewish identity, a vital American identity, a vigorous Israeli identity, a proud Western identity, to preserve democracy… Sharansky's book should make us appreciate how lucky we are as Jews to be a part of such an inspiring story.”
“The Democratic Party's hopeful savior, Barack Obama, has made it clear that he will draw a sharp distinction between himself and John McCain through his approach to foreign policy and his emphasis on diplomacy and multi-nationalism. His commitment to restoring America's image and withdrawing from Iraq makes him the preferred candidate for much of Western Europe, and much of the world for that matter. However, Barack Obama's lead in world public opinion polls is something John McCain should highlight and embrace, rather than resist.
If Mr. McCain finds this strategy flawed, he should read Natan Sharansky's latest book, "Defending Identity," which discusses the crucial distinctions between the United States and much of the world, including the European bloc. Mr. Sharansky, a Jewish former Soviet dissident who spent years in the gulags for trying to hold the Soviet Union accountable to its international human-rights commitments, explains as his central thesis that identity without democracy is totalitarianism, but democracy without identification to the larger community is weak and doomed to fail. “
Top Customer Reviews
Some will dismiss his thesis for being out of step with the march of history, but the recent vote of the Irish to reject the proposed Constitution of the European Union argues that there is still quite a bit of life in the "old" idea of people forming groups around entities for reasons other than political ones. It is no secret that the current British Government has refused to put the "constitution" to a vote of a British people because it would lose to maintaining national sovereignty.
Sharansky's previous book The Case For Democracy had a great influence on American foreign policy this book will hopefully also impact the world. Elites tend to underestimate the influence of national, ethnic, and religious differences. Sharansky, based in part on his experiences as a dissident, explains why the elites are wrong, one more time.
The book is informative and provocative. Its worth buying, reading, and discussing.
We should have gratitude for his insights and encourage its reading to those who are interested in a better understanding of these dynamics and it should be required reading those in leadership positions everywhere.
Of note, Sharansky relates that when he was released the guards told him that he had to leave immediately and in his prison clothes. He refused saying he would only leave in a dignified fashion in normal street clothes - a move copied by the terrorist Samir Kuntar when he was released from an Israeli prison.
The second half of the book covers the period in Israel when Sharansky was in government and twice resigned from a ministerial position. Here too the importance of identity is covered where he sees that Arafat and the Palestinians actively sought to attack Israel's Jewish identity by not only demanding the temple mount but by denying (against all historical evidence) that the 1st and 2nd Temple were in Jerusalem.
I cannot help but feel that this book was heavily influenced by the essay by Ze'ev Maghen, "Imagine: On Love and Lennon" in the book New Essays on Zionism published last year in which Sharansky was also published.Read more ›
But this essay by a former political prisoner of the Soviet gulag, and reborn Jewish Israeli is an eye opener to all the world who has not lost its senses yet, in common-sense, plain language.
A good advice on how to break the cycle of relativism and cultural decadence in the West: the fear of God. Sharansky describes this fear in a way I had never been able to describe myself, and beautifully. You don't have to be a believer to understand it at all. He explains how he became aware of this fear (which, as you should know from the bible, is the beginning of knowledge).
Countries with strong identities (supposing they are also strong democracies) are good "not because of their particular identities but because of their strrong identities, because they each had things that were more important to them than their physical existence." Just as a Christian man can find in another Christian from across the world a brother.
The author's experience in political prison camps in Russia taught him that "those with the strongest identities were the least likely to succumb to tyranny, those who retained a sense of the value of history, of tradition, of community, those who saw a purpose in life beyond life itself proved the ultimate bulwark against Soviet evil." Then comes a description of what Lenin himself called those "useful idiots" in the West, like H.G.Wells or G.B.Shaw, who played into the hands of totalitarian comunism.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Sharansky explains the risks Europe is in through the lens if identity, the driving force of the Muslim wave that is dominating Europe, where the trauma of past wars has... Read morePublished on October 11, 2013 by Ruben Misrahi
Definitely one of my personal top 100 books, and I think one of the most important books of the decade. Read morePublished on April 14, 2013 by charlene at Dosido Bookshelf
Many books of freedom and democracy rely on 200 year old metaphors that have been overused to the point of becoming aphorisms. Sharansky is a master of metaphor. Read morePublished on March 12, 2012 by Gderf
When men of Natan Sharansky's international stature speak, it behooves the world to take notice and listen; and this holds true whether you agree with him or not. Read morePublished on September 16, 2011 by Herbert L Calhoun
Natan Sharansky spent 9 years of his life in a Soviet gulag for his defense not only of freedom but his Jewish identity. Read morePublished on May 4, 2011 by Somhat Lanod
this forceful polemic makes a good argument for pluralism and allowing those with conflicting values to duke them out in a democratic context rather than pursuing yet another dream... Read morePublished on April 19, 2010 by James Jaffe
Natan Sharansky is a very clear thinker. His latest book, like all his others, reflects his wit, inteligence, and total understanding of his subject.Published on March 12, 2010 by Sue Mo
"People are different,they like to be different, they have a right to be different"-Agent BenCanaan, Exodus
It is common for people to say all men are their brothers. Read more
Looking back on the terrible conflicts perpetuated by nationalist reactionaries throughout history, it's easy to lay the blame for those conflicts on nationalism itself. Read morePublished on August 25, 2009 by J. Dooley