The State of the Jews: A Critical Appraisal (REVIEW)
by Asaf Romirowsky
The State of the Jews
A Critical Appraisal
by Edward Alexander
Transaction Publishers, 2012. $35 pp. 264
As anti-Zionism/anti-Semitism have become more acceptable as “genuine” criticism within academic circles Edward Alexander’s latest book The State of the Jews: A Critical Appraisal could not be more relevant and timely. It was Hitler’s professors who were the first to make anti-Semitism both academically respectable and complicit in murder. In his previous book The Jewish Divide over Israel Accusers and Defenders Alexander’s describes this problem acutely saying,
“Jews who assign responsibility for anti-Jewish aggression to Jewish misbehavior not only save themselves from the unpleasant and often dangerous task of coming to the defense of Jews under attack but also retain the charms of good conscience….”
Now in the in the State of the Jews the author has put forth a collection of forceful essays and reviews spanning over a decade centered on the Jewish role in the war of ideas against the Jews.
Alexander’s most scornful analysis focuses on academic anti-Semitism and the collaboration of Jewish liberals in the demonization of Israel which has been strictly reserved for Nazi Germany. This phenomenon in practical terms is what has become known as the Auschwitz syndrome that is the belief that Zionism is in-fact the New Nazism.
By evoking Auschwitz one can see how the inherent double standard is used as the ammunition against Israel and its supporters on a growing basis. Thus, detracting from the territorial dispute and marking the actions of the Israeli government as the heirs of Nazism.
The collective memory of the Holocaust has been used and abused by anti-Israel circles which include Jewish individuals and pro-Palestinian sympathizers. All breaking Cynthia Ozick’s cardinal rule that, “Jews are not metaphors – not for poets, not for novelists, not for theologians, not for murderers, and never for anti-Semites…”
Consequently, there has been a clear denigration of the Holocaust by labeling those who bring it up as “Holocaust-consumed.” As such, if one draws comparisons to the 1930’s, in other words looking at history, one is met with what Peter Beinart believes to be “hoarding the Holocaust.” The “Holocaust-consumed” label has become, de facto, the new Holocaust denial. This does not mean denying the Holocaust it just denies it should have any historical relevance today.
Alexander has been able to compile and show how many Jews have adopted pro-Palestinian, anti Zionist views to garner self-promotion and self-importance by being hostile thus showing their “globalism” or “enlightenment” that is proving that they care more about the world than their Jewish identity.
Like Hitler’s professors there is no other place where Alexander’s points come to play as they do in academe where politicized writing and teaching have displaced scholarship, and academic freedom has been redefined as the liberty to dispense with academic standards. As such, we have seeing the pervasiveness of hiring token Israeli Jews who share their views eliminates debate while providing the illusion of balance. Moreover, these Israeli academics have built their reputation on scholarship that is harshly critical not only of Israeli policy, but of Israel’s very existence. As a result, these anti-Israel scholars who hail from Israel have been embraced and nurtured by so many pro-Palestinian groups.
Finally, as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is gaining more and more popularity Alexander’s book is indeed critical given how many in the Jewish community in their naïveté are willing to engage in the debates that question Israel and Jewish legitimacy under the cloak of academic freedom, which gives them the impression of legitimate criticism rather than racism. The State of the Jews: A Critical Appraisal only reinforces the complex battlefield associated with war of ideas revolving Jewish survival and why a cogent understanding of history is critical. All and all, it is a must-read from a seasoned scholar who has grappled with these issues during the course of his entire career.