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The Tragedy of Zionism: How Its Revolutionary Past Haunts Israeli Democracy

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1581152586
ISBN-10: 1581152582
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Editorial Reviews


A rare book builds the future. This is one. -- James Carroll, author, Constantine's Sword

Bernard Avishai ventures where few so far have had the courage of the insight to go. -- Amos Elon, author, Herzl and The Israelis: Founders and Sons, columnist, Haaretz

He has always been a sympathetic yet highly critical observer of the Israeli scene. -- Hillel Halkin, author, Letters to an American Jewish Friend, and contributor, Hadassah magazine

[A] call to reconsider classic questions. -- The New York Times Book Review

From the Publisher

Less than a decade after the signing of the Oslo Accords, the world has watched in horror as citizens of Jerusalem have become virtual hostages of Palestinian suicide bombers and the Israeli army has moved to destroy what it calls the "terrorist infrastructure." Because violence and instability in this region are felt globally, more people than ever are asking how Israeli-Palestinian relations reached this bleak point and if peace is still possible. Bernard Avishai, veteran analyst of Israeli affairs, provides illuminating insight into the obstacles behind the headlines. Publisher's Weekly called The Tragedy of Zionism "an explosive book" and Philip Roth hailed it as "a vivid analysis of what, besides terror, democratic Israelis are up against."

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Allworth Press (September 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1581152582
  • ISBN-13: 978-1581152586
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,772,753 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Scott Grau on May 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
The future of Israel will depend to a large extent on how Israelis deal with the tensions and contradictions between the revolutionary ideals and traditions of Zionism and the aspiration to build a democratic and just society, author Bernard Avishai argues in his book, "The Tragedy of Zionism." Avishai defends the achievements of Labor Zionism and rightly insists that in the context of the period in which Labor Zionism emerged and flourished, it was both necessary, justified and successful, with its greatest triumph evident in the establishment of the state of Israel in May 1948. Following the emergence of Zionism in the late 19th century, Avishai traces its evolution, growth, and transformation from a political and ideological movement into the foundation of a state, and from fragile early statehood into local military power.
Avishai offers what has been described as a "post-Zionist" perspective on Israeli society and politics, and fears that the institutions and values of traditional Labor Zionism have become anachronistic and in some ways an obstacle to effective and democratic solutions to the problems facing Israel today. At the same time, he is critical of the "New Zionism" which is championed by Ariel Sharon and his Likudnik supporters, but notes the extent to which the rise of this movement has its roots not only in Vladimir Jabotinsky's "Revisionism" of the 1930s, but in the national security statism which emerged in the 1960s, associated with prominent figures like Moshe Dayan.
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Format: Paperback
Political Zionism's revolutionary past continues to haunt and effect Israeli democracy and struggles with its neighbors today. Chapters provide a history of Zionism, conflicts, and the underlying concepts which fostered its growth in the 1930s and threaten its continued existence today. The Tragedy Of Zionism, offers a thoughtful and thought-provoking coverage of a sensitive but timely issue bermane to Judaic and American support for the beleaguered Israeli people.
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Avishai has written an important work on the history of Zionism and its implications for the State of Israel as a democratic nation. His essential thesis is that Zionism was a revolutionary movement designed to create a state, but not to govern a state. Revolutionary Zionism should have ended following the founding of the State of Israel. Permanent features of a democratic government, like a written constitution, a bill of rights, separation of religion and state, should have been fixed. But Zionism continued after the founding of the Jewish state, much to the detriment of Israel's vision of itself and its view in the world. This is a good thesis, but Avishai does not repeat it enough, or work out its implications in a general sense. The conclusion spends too much time examining events from 1985, and the afterword, from 2001, does the same. Avishai should have written more generally about the topic near the end, making this work stronger and clearer for the reader.
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This a reprint with a new introduction of the 1985 book with its eloquent and penetrating discussion of Zionism and a democratic Israel, as topical now as it was when printed. Tracing the source of the current collisions, especially with respect to 1967, the account attempts to define a democratic context in relation to the extraordinary circumstance of Israel, and to point to the limitations of the Zionist revolutionary idea in this regard. Such a controversial subject is--your move. Nothing changes, and nothing seems to improve, and we see in one generation the poison well of a great tradition, the American government paralyzed, and critics classified as anti-semites. A tragedy includes its endgame, or finale. That has not happened yet. In fact, the tragic hero, wringing his hands in aesthetic torment, stands to reap a windfall, a most profitable comedy.
Exeunt omnes.
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