Tak­ing sides in the blame game

The Jewish Chronicle - - ARTS&BOOKS - DANIELLA PELED

The Road Map to Nowhere: Is­rael/ Pales­tine since 2003 Tanya Rein­hart Verso, £8.99 The Jewish Di­vide over Is­rael: Ac­cusers and De­fend­ers Edited by Ed­ward Alexan­der and Paul Bog­danor Trans­ac­tion Pub­lish­ing, £30.50 The Pol­i­tics of Apoc­a­lypse: The His­tory and In­flu­ence of Chris­tian Zion­ism Dan Cohn-Sher­bok One World, £12.00

The en­dors­ment from Noam Chom­sky on the back of Tanya Rein­hart’s book tells the reader much about the book’s con­tents be­fore open­ing it. Rein­hart’s pre­dictably anti-Zion­ist line makes her ap­praisal of Is­rael/ Pales­tine since 2003 unin­spir­ing — a pity, be­cause her style is clear and em­i­nently read­able, and there are many valid crit­i­cisms to be made. How­ever, her one-sided approach se­verely lim­its any de­cent anal­y­sis.

Rein­hart im­plies that Is­raeli prime min­is­ters from Yitzhak Rabin to Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon were ded­i­cated to car­ry­ing out the same un­vary­ingly op­pres­sive pol­icy to­wards the Pales­tini­ans. This ten­dency to see the hand of con­spir­acy is weary­ing.

Rein­hart would cer­tainly get short shrift in The Jewish Di­vide over Is­rael: Ac­cusers and De­fend­ers. This book pur­ports to ex­pose how prom­i­nent Jews have con­trib­uted in turn­ing Is­rael into a pariah state. The usual sus­pects are rounded up; Mr Chom­sky him­self mer­it­ing two chap­ters and ref­er­enced in a third where his­to­rian Norman Finkel­stein is de­scribed as Chom­sky for Nazis, among oth­ers such as his­to­rian Tony Judt, an out­spo­ken ad­vo­cate of a one-state so­lu­tion, and post-Zion­ist his­to­rian Benny Mor­ris. “Cow­ardice is the word that springs to mind most of­ten as the suit­able ep­i­thet of Is­rael’s Jewish en­e­mies,” the au­thors as­sert.

They ap­pear to have a strange view of what makes a Jew an en­emy of Is­rael; harsh treat­ment is meted out to Thomas Fried­man, the re­spected New York Times colum­nist, and Sey­mour Hersh, the in­ves­tiga­tive re­porter. Sim­i­larly, Alexan­der rails against doveish Is­raeli au­thors Amos Oz and David Gross­man and in­sists that as For­eign Min­is­ter Shi­mon Peres “rou­tinely pro­moted the in­ter­ests not of a sov­er­eign Jewish state but of the (largely Arab) Mid­dle East”. Any crit­i­cism of Is­rael ap­pears to be un­ac­cept­able, mak­ing the book an es­sen­tially anti-in­tel­lec­tual ex­er­cise.

The Jewish Di­vide and The Road Map to Nowhere may have cho­sen dif­fer­ent sides to sup­port, but both are still pre­oc­cu­pied with the same point­less blame game. As much as they re­visit old ground, Dan CohnSher­bok fo­cuses on an im­por­tant re­li­gious move­ment ex­pand­ing at an enor­mous rate, and one with in­creas­ing power within Amer­i­can pol­i­tics.

This mil­lenar­ian the­ol­ogy posits that the re­turn of the Jewish peo­ple to the Holy Land ful­fils a bib­li­cal prophecy lead­ing to the Sec­ond Com­ing. Thus Chris­tian Zion­ists have been pow­er­ful friends of Is­rael both in terms of fi­nan­cial sup­port and po­lit­i­cal back­ing.

Yet their aims do not al­ways gel with those of the Is­raeli state — adamantly op­pos­ing a two-state so­lu­tion, for ex­am­ple — and para­dox­i­cally, the Ar­maged­don the­ory dic­tates that ul­ti­mately those Jews who do not con­vert at the Mes­siah’s com­ing will per­ish. Cohn-Sher­bok traces this the­ol­ogy from the Ref­or­ma­tion to mod­ern times, ex­plor­ing the de­vel­op­ment of Jewish and Chris­tian Zion­ism along the way.

Daniella Peled is for­eign ed­i­tor of the JC.

Pales­tinian chil­dren cheer as the Is­raeli flag burns

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