web analytics
April 2, 2015 / 13 Nisan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

The State Of The Jews

Hornik-092812

How well are Jews – and non-Jews – doing with regard to the Jewish state? If the question focuses on the highbrow world, and particularly its predominant persuasion of liberalism (or what is still called by that name), the answer that emerges from Edward Alexander’s new book is: not very well.

The State of the Jews: A Critical Appraisal is not a seamless polemic but rather a far-ranging collection of articles and book reviews that, as Alexander himself allows, are “in flight from unity, as perhaps all collections of essays…must be in some degree.”

That said, the book holds together sufficiently well, being consistently concerned with the theme of how a beleaguered people – and particularly its most articulate individuals – copes or fails to cope with hostility and defamation.

Alexander, professor emeritus of English at the University of Washington in Seattle and longtime pro-Israel and pro-Jewish polemicist, begins with a look at some roots of liberal anti-Semitism and philo-Semitism in 19th-century England. Representing the former is the educator and author Thomas Arnold, who disliked Jews and would have allowed them to become English citizens only by converting to Christianity. Representing the latter are his son, poet and critic Matthew Arnold, who liked Jews and favored their integration in English society as Jews; and the philosopher John Stuart Mill, who extolled Jews’ contribution to civilization while not being overly fond of present-day Jews.

England, though, is one of the principal villains of this book, and by today not only has liberal English philo-Semitism vanished but, says Alexander, England has “declared war upon Zionism and the Jewish state and its inhabitants” and “become the most anti-Zionist and perhaps most antisemitic country in Europe….” And within that larger reality, it is “[English] Jewish Israel-haters” who “play an enormously disproportionate role in the blackening of Israel’s image and the relentless campaign to expel her from the family of nations.”

Thus Alexander reviews the demented anti-Israel activities and statements of the likes of the academics Steven Rose, one of the initiators of English attempts to boycott Israeli universities, and Jacqueline Rose, who has turned her critical opprobrium on “those wishing to denigrate suicide bombers and their culture.”

British Jews of the Roses’ ilk are ably assisted by non-Jewish English Israel-haters like the poet (or “poetaster” as Alexander calls him) Tom Paulin, who among other infelicities told an Egyptian paper that Jews living in the West Bank “should be shot dead,” or Ted Honderich, a philosopher of “mind and logic” who persistently praises the virtuousness of Palestinian terrorism.

Across the pond, leading American Jewish writers like novelist Saul Bellow and the critics Lionel Trilling and Irving Howe racked up a miserable record of sins of omission during the Holocaust, failing to write about it or show any particular concern for what was unfolding. That, at least, eventually evoked contrition, with Bellow writing in a letter to the writer Cynthia Ozick that “I was too busy becoming a novelist to take note of what was happening in the Forties…. Growing slowly aware of this unspeakable evasion I didn’t even know how to begin to admit it into my inner life.”

That contrasts, Alexander points out, with present-day American Jewish Israel bashers like Tony Kushner, Noam Chomsky, Judith Butler, or the late Tony Judt, for whom alienation from Jewish national priorities is not cause for remorse but for self-celebration and strutting one’s superior morality.

In America and elsewhere, Alexander observes, such Jews invert the 19th-century notion of “a Jew at home, a man in the world”: generally devoid of Jewish culture in their personal lives, they start adducing their Jewishness when publicly excoriating Israel as a dark stain of evil on the face of earth.

There are, too, some good guys (and girls) in this book in addition to the younger Arnold and (equivocally) Mill. The 19th-century English novelist George Eliot, in Daniel Deronda, showed both prescience and deep sympathy toward the Jewish yearning to return to Zion. The late American Jewish author Marie Syrkin, while of socialist leanings herself, staunchly defended Israel when apathy or criticism were the going trends. Efraim Karsh, an Israeli emigrant in Britain, has with his book Palestine Betrayed definitively refuted claims of Israeli responsibility for the Palestinian refugee problem. The Israeli poet Abba Kovner was a heroic anti-Nazi fighter in Lithuania during the war and, after emigrating to Israel, a patriot and leading light of Hebrew literary revival.

Still, if more Jewish (and non-Jewish) highbrows were of the ilk of such individuals, there would have been no need for a book like Alexander’s. Instead, a besieged people shows signs of cracking under the pressure as many of its most talented sons and daughters join the attackers, flaunting their cowardice and betrayal in hues of moral grandeur. However appalling much of the subject matter, Edward Alexander’s wit, erudition, and insight make this a desirable and important book to read.

P. David Hornik is a freelance writer in Beersheba, Israel. He blogs at http://pdavidhornik.typepad.com.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The State Of The Jews”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ)
Biggest Democratic Foe of Obama on Iran Indicted
Latest Indepth Stories

Indeed, some caucus members based their decision to stay away from Mr. Netanyahu’s speech on their contention that the Israeli leader had disrespected America’s first black president.

These are fundamental issues for Israel’s security and yet Mr. Abbas refuses even to acknowledge them as grist for negotiations.

Those seeking accounting, finance, business, healthcare, technology, etc., will often enter a specialized graduate degree “track” created by Lakewood’s Professional Career Services, in conjunction with local institutions of higher education, for our alumni.

We are grateful to Hashem that we have been privileged to institute this program and that over the years we have experienced tremendous siyata d’shmaya, with the program spreading throughout the world and its membership rapidly rising.

Indifference to the pain of the many singles should require us to have our heart, not head, examined

The rededication of the Hurva caused international hysteria.Arabs called the action a “provocation”

{Originally posted to author’s website, FirstOne Through} TRUST Trust is the bedrock of a functional relationship. It enables one party to rely on the other. A trust that includes both intention and capability permits a sharing of responsibility and workload. The relationship between US President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu started off badly and further […]

Jabotinsky said “Go To Hell” was a good retort to opponents of the Jewish people; fitting for Obama.

Obama pulled off one of US history’s greatest cons,twice fooling a gullible electorate and most Jews

While in Auschwitz I felt a tangible intensity. I could sense that I was in a place of sheer evil.

Obama needs to wake up. The real enemy is not Netanyahu but Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad,IS

My beliefs & actions have led to numerous death threats against me; my excommunication by my church

In November 2014, Islamic Relief Worldwide was classified as a terrorist organization by the United Arab Emirates.

Too rarely appreciated for its symbolic weight; it can represent freedom and independence.

More Articles from P. David Hornik
Tel Aviv skyline

Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics has released its population data for 2012, the year that just ended. As usual, the trends are favorable. The total Israeli population rose to just under eight million, while the Jewish population for the first time rose to just over six million.

Hornik-110212

It turns out that soon after taking office, President Obama tried to make friends – totally – with the mullahs’ regime in Iran.

How well are Jews – and non-Jews – doing with regard to the Jewish state? If the question focuses on the highbrow world, and particularly its predominant persuasion of liberalism (or what is still called by that name), the answer that emerges from Edward Alexander’s new book is: not very well.

It’s been a bumpy road for the Palestinians lately.

Recent staged spectacles that were supposed to whip up sympathy for them and put Israel in a bad light again – the Nakba Day (May 15) and Naksa Day (June 4) marches on Israel’s borders, the flotilla, the flytilla – have been disappointments at best, if not outright flops. And the Palestinians’ long-hyped independent-statehood bid at the UN in September is meeting growing opposition from the West.

When Glenn Beck’s upcoming Jerusalem rally was first announced, he saidit would be called “Restore Courage” – modeled on his “Restoring Honor” rally last year in Washington that drew half a million. Or as Beck put it: “Last summer, we set out to restore honor in Washington, DC. This summer, it’s time to restore courage. It is time for us to courageously stand with Israel.”

In reaction to the Palestinian Authority-Hamas unity deal signed in Cairo, Israel decided to turn off the spigot. It halted the transfer to the PA of over $100 million in customs and tax revenues.

The day after last week’s announcement of a Fatah-Hamas rapprochement in Cairo, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas said he would keep pursuing peace talks with Israel. Almost concurrently, top Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar said Hamas would stick to its stance of neither recognizing nor negotiating with Israel, but “if Fatah wants to negotiate with Israel over trivialities, they can.”

“With the winds of change blowing through the Arab world, it’s more urgent than ever that we try to seize the opportunity to create a peaceful solution between the Palestinians and the Israelis,” President Obama saidlast week after meeting with Israeli president Shimon Peres.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-state-of-the-jews/2012/09/25/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: