by David J. Goldberg - £14.99 Faber and Faber (2012)
hardback ISBN 13: 9780571271610 | ISBN 10: 0571271618
Few subjects invoke more controversy than the past history and current influence of Diaspora Jews in Western societies and the nature of their relationship with the state of Israel. David Goldberg discusses these issues with authority, wisdom and humour: the role of Israel in Jewish life, the question of Jewish identity in an increasingly multicultural world and the minimal hold of religious belief on what nowadays is an overwhelmingly secular people.
Goldberg argues that many of the shibboleths of the Jewish establishment, especially in the USA, are exaggerated or false. It is wrong automatically to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism: one can be a trenchant critic of Israeli policies without being hostile to all Jews: 'Zionism as an ideology should no more be protected from critical analysis than capitalism, socialism, colonialism or Islamism.' Israel is often treated too indulgently, he argues, by the Diaspora. It is becoming an alien place for secular or religiously liberal Jews who find its aggressive nationalism and assertive fundamentalism increasingly difficult to take. And the axiomatic identification of Israel with the Holocaust - always using the enormity of the latter to justify the actions of the former - has had baneful results for both.
His discussion of the perennial 'Who is a Jew?' question is equally trenchant. He rejects all previous rabbinic criteria for defining Jewish status, proposing that a Jew is simply anyone who insists that he or she is one, because ultimately what can be truer than self-definition?
Forthright, challenging and witty, this humane and provocative overview of a remarkable people whose contribution to world culture has been enormous will stimulate debate, criticism and approval in equal measure.
(Price & availability last checked: June 2019)