How Long Will Is­rael Sur­vive? The Threat from Within

Gregg Carl­strom

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Nonfiction - BEN­JAMIN WELTON

Ox­ford Univer­sity Press (DE­CEM­BER) Hard­cover $24.95 (256pp) 978-0-19-084344-1

At its cen­ter is a dirge for the Is­rael of sec­u­lar La­bor and ide­al­ism.

How Long Will Is­rael Sur­vive? pro­vides an in-depth look at a so­ci­ety that is said to be rot­ting from the inside out. Gregg Carl­strom ar­gues that the State of Is­rael will not fall be­cause of out­side vi­o­lence, but rather be­cause of re­li­gious na­tion­al­ism, in­tol­er­ance, and its de­ci­sive move away from lib­er­al­ism.

The Is­rael that Carl­strom de­scribes is miles away from the Is­rael that was founded in 1948. Back then, sec­u­lar Zion­ism found a home in the coun­try’s La­bor Party, the left-wing party of choice for the coun­try’s found­ing stock of well-ed­u­cated Jews from Europe. Now, ac­cord­ing to Carl­strom, sec­u­lar Zion­ism has been re­placed by re­li­gious na­tion­al­ism, a right-wing ide­ol­ogy that de­fines Is­raeli iden­tity as ex­plic­itly Jewish.

One of the ma­jor play­ers in the book is Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu, the Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter and the face of the na­tion’s Likud Party. The ever-cagey Ne­tanyahu may be one of the more lib­eral—or at least mod­er­ate—mem­bers of Likud, but he is shown to be not above ap­peal­ing di­rectly to the racial fears of his vot­ers.

The Is­rael where thou­sands of Jews protested their na­tion’s oc­cu­pa­tion of south­ern Le­banon is long gone, Carl­strom says; in­stead, it has been re­placed by a na­tion wherein anti-war pro­test­ers

are chased down and beaten by ul­tra­na­tion­al­ists. The Is­raeli po­lice, Carl­strom writes, not only let this vi­o­lence hap­pen, but the new Is­raeli state ac­tively aids the whims of the coun­try’s far right.

By his own ad­mis­sion, Carl­strom is not an im­par­tial ob­server. He ad­mits that his pol­i­tics are well to the left of cen­ter. The book may ac­tu­ally most be a dirge for the old Is­rael—the Is­rael of sec­u­lar La­bor and ide­al­ism. What the book fails to fully ad­dress is the re­al­ity that vi­o­lence, or at least the threat of vi­o­lence, tends to make pop­u­la­tions more jin­go­is­tic and more in­tol­er­ant.

How Long Will Is­rael Sur­vive? is a great ex­am­i­na­tion of modern Is­rael’s pol­i­tics, if it is clearly a polemic from the left. This does not de­mean Carl­strom’s ex­cel­lent re­search; it merely de­cries what oth­ers may see as ei­ther a nat­u­ral or prefer­able so­ciopo­lit­i­cal change.

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