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Einstein on Israel and Zionism: His Provocative Ideas About the Middle East Hardcover – May 26, 2009

3.8 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for Einstein on Israel and Zionism:

Einstein on Israel and Zionism is a welcome and necessary contribution to the discussions about the Middle East crisis. You do not have to be a genius in order to understand the gravity of the situation, but it is essential to listen to one, especially if his name was Einstein. His thoughts make for fascinating reading, allow us new insights into the mind of one of the 20th century’s greatest thinkers and remind us that it is never too late."

-- Avraham Burg, author of The Holocaust is Over; We Must Rise From Its Ashes

“Reading the newly revealed correspondence in Fred Jerome’s book makes it clear that Einstein was a social commentator and humanitarian with a world view worthy of his scientific genius. It’s a pity that the Zionist movement as embodied in the State of Israel took a direction so divergent from the path advocated by the Jewish people’s greatest intellect.”
--Michael Palumbo, author of The Palestinian Catastrophe and Imperial Israel

 “Fred Jerome’s Einstein on Israel and Zionism is a valuable and timely contribution. Einstein’s views of Zionism were prescient. His actions regarding the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine and his passionate beliefs regarding what that homeland should represent call for reconsideration by all Israelis and Palestinians and by all Jews and Muslims.” --Silvan. S. Schweber, author of Einstein and Oppenheimer and In the Shadow of the Bomb

"Einstein on Israel makes a great contribution to the history of Jewish engagement with Israel. Reading Einstein's letters makes it clear that there has never been a Jewish consensus on the critical questions of Zionism and a Jewish state. While sadly it seems Einstein's fear that Israel would become a "captive of narrow nationalism" has been realized, his humanism and call for equal rights and equal power between Jews and Palestinians in Israel/Palestine remains an inspiration, and model, today."--Adam Horowitz, coeditor, Mondoweiss.net

"Albert Einstein is all-too often depicted as a naif about politics; he was anything but that. He followed international and national politics assiduously, corresponded with leaders and ordinary people, and brought a passionate moral stance to the whole--fighting anti-semitism, racism, fascism, and nationalism. In this volume, Fred Jerome has assembled a myriad of documents bearing on Einstein's views of Zionism. Telegrams, letters, magazine articles, interviews--all contribute to a dense and heartfelt analysis of what it would mean to avoid the pitfalls of dogmatic nationalism, and to create a Jewish homeland utterly respectful of Palestinian rights and equality. Of course Einstein's physics speaks to us still; astonishingly, we can still learn from his moral-political reflections." -- Peter Galison, author of Einstein's Clocks, Poincare's Maps and Image and Logic



About the Author

Fred Jerome is senior consultant to the Gene Media Forum, Newhouse School of Communications, Syracuse University. His articles and op-ed pieces have appeared in many publications including Newsweek and the New York Times. As a reporter in the South during the early 1960s, he covered the exploding Civil Rights movement, and has taught journalism at Columbia and New York University.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (May 26, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312362285
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312362287
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.3 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,216,631 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Samer Atiani on July 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I thanked my friend a hundred times after he gave me this book. As a physicist, I hold Einstein dearly but I have always wondered about his stance on the State of Israel and its displacement of an indigenous population. I was pleasantly surprised by all the ideas and the foresightedness of Einstein, and saddened at how his compatriots at the time labeled him as naive and inexperienced, especially since his ideas couldn't appear to be more correct in light of the current situation in Israel/Palestine.

A big plus is that this book provides translations from German of letters that Einstein has written, so it lets Einstein express his own views for himself. Therefore, I disagree with some of the reviewers who term this book as "propaganda", unless they are implying that Einstein's personal intent was propaganda.
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The conflict between Jews and Arabs in Palestine, which in Einstein's own lifetime was bitter and which has only grown sharper since, was not inevitable. So thought Albert Einstein at least. In "Einstein on Israel and Zionism", Fred Jerome has compiled a selection of Einstein's writings and speeches concerning the enterprise to create a Jewish state in Palestine. Zionism was controversial from the start, since it was clear that Palestine already had a number of inhabitants -- non-Jewish -- who could not reasonably be expected to welcome any effort naturally designed to dispossess them. Therefore, in their outward show the early Zionists very quickly ceased speaking of building a *state*, and instead spoke of creating a *homeland* for the Jews.

From his earliest contact with Zionism in 1914 at the age of thirty-five, Einstein was supportive of the Jewish homeland concept. He did so for two major reasons. First, he felt that a Jewish homeland in Palestine would raise the self-esteem of Jews in the diaspora; and, second, he believed firmly that because of anti-Semitism Jews needed a place of refuge as a last resort against persecution. His primary concern is with Jews in the diaspora; at no time does he suppose that life in the diaspora is invalid or impossible. In 1927 he stated: "For me the importance of the Zionist work lies precisely in the effect it will have on those Jews who will not themselves live in Palestine" (p. 60) But what about the Arabs who were already living in Palestine, what effect will Zionism have on them?
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We tend only to think about Einstein as defining energy and the atomic bomb. This book reveals much of the true character of this wonderful person.
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This book is very interesting and led me to re-think many preconceptions I held concerning the Middle East. I had always believed, like most people that Jews and Arabs hated each other for "thousands of years". Albert Einstein made me see that was just not the case. The one fact that kept resounding through my head as I read Einstein's letters was, if Einstein, being the genius he was, could see this situation so simply and oppose a "forced" Israeli state, why would lesser men think they knew better ? Einstein knew and predicted that a forced Israeli state would cause and continue to cause major problems for years to come. Has this not been the case? And if the lesser men understood this, Why would they impose it? When it comes to history I only try and read 'primary resource documents' (documents actually written by those there at the time) I try and stay away from books written about history by those who weren't there and inject their own opinion. Fred Jerome does a fantastic job of chronicling actual letters between Einstein and others concerning the Israeli-Palestine issue. He injects no opinion. Einstein's letters go from 1919-1955 and tell a story of not just a genius concerned about logical conclusions from "forcing a nation" on people, but a human being with a genuine concern for all parties and all mankind in general. The real force of this book for me was, Einstein was a Jew himself. He could of easily been self interested and fully supported a forced Israel...but he took a higher path!
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Format: Hardcover
We keep learning that the supposed morality of our fathers ('''' '''' or Pirkei Avot)' does not describe their actual history. Jerome has given us another welcome piece of the untold real story of Zionism. The Einstein of my childhood (the forties and early 50s) was the Dalai Lama of his day, a great humanitarian, humble being but also revolutionary scientist. He was not only thought of as a supporter of Israel but of other liberal causes. In the writings of revisionist historians, Israel, Zionism and the history of the Jews begins to look a lot different than what I was brought up on and what the Israeli propaganda machine wants the world, or at least, the US populace to believe.

Jerome brings us many of Einstein's own writings and speeches on Zionism and Israel. While some of what Jerome offers is well known, the additional source material fleshes out Einstein's views. And though Jerome wants Einstein to speak for himself, Jerome's comments and placement of Einstein's utterance in context is what gives the book life beyond simply a resource for scholars. For myself I wish Jerome had put more of himself in the book.

Einstein, of course, is an interesting character, but as he was wrong about Quantum Mechanics, and wrong for maybe 30 years, so too he was naïve about certain history, even the anti-Semitism through which he lived in the 1920s.

While Einstein, the transnationalist, had doubts about Zionism's nationalism and even accused both Irgun and the Stern gang of being like the Nazi's, he somehow never seemed to unabashedly attack Jewish nationalism that treated the Arabs in ways akin to which the Jews had been. Yes, he uttered harsh words---calling Menachim Begin a Nazi---but his accusations never seemed to stick.
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