Jewish Against Themselves by Edward Alexander
The book’s thesis is that Jewish anti-Zionism and antisemitism have existed throughout the centuries in history, literature and academia. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose”. Contributing to such prejudice and discrimination has always included some Jews, who themselves either hate their identity, faith, nation state, or aspects of their “Jewishness”. This book’s promotional message describes it as “ powerful essays by Edward Alexander on the phenomenon of anti-Zionism on the part of the Jewish intelligentsia. It also analyzes the explosive growth of traditional antisemitism, especially in Europe, among intellectuals and Muslims. The author notes that anti-Zionism has established a presence even in Israel, where it frequently takes the form of intellectuals sympathizing with their country's enemies and perversely apologizing for their own existence.”
The author both portrays and diagnoses this global phenomenon. It is sadly nothing new; from ancient times to the Oslo Accords; from Roman times to the Middle Ages, to the 19th and 20th centuries, to today’s antiZionist BDS movement; from Maimonides to Pope Gregory IX, to Yasser Arafat and his disciple Mahmoud Abbas. But most importantly, to Jews such as Noam Chomsky and Max Blumenthal, and Jewish organizations such as Bet T’Selem and Independent Jewish Voices.
The situation is much worse today writes the author, as self-hating Jews have made large contributions to the ideology and politics of global antisemitism.
This book is a must read for all those Jews questioning their faith and the rise of antisemitism yet again in the 21st century, and for those seeking to understand its enduring cancer. Indeed as the Hon. Irwin Cotler, Canada’s Special Envoy for Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism, has recently stated, “Antisemitism is an assault on democracy itself”.
The book should be read, in particular, by the self-styled “progressive Jews” in movements such as Queers Against Israel Apartheid and Black Lives Matter, or organizations such as JStreet, JSpace, IfNotNow, Breaking the Silence and Bet T’Selem, as well as Jews in academia who support antiZionist resolutions on campuses like UCBerkeley and U of Toronto, where sadly Jewish students are harassed and intimidated for their personal beliefs and ethnicity. The list, sadly, can go on ad infinitum.
I am reminded of the expressed views of Rabbi Ammiel Hirsh from New York, who has criticized the Reform Jewish institutions, and I paraphrase, “You must not under the guise of the words, ‘human rights and social justice’ align with people who wish your people harm.” This is exactly what this book “tolls its bells to teach”.