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 Now, according to Carlstrom, secular Zionism has been replaced by religious nationalism, a right-wing ideology that defines Israeli identity as explicitly Jewish.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thousands of Jews protested their nation’s occupation of southern Lebanon is long gone, Carlstrom says; instead, it has been replaced by a nation wherein anti-war protesters are chased down and beaten by ultranationalists.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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