Power and Conscience in Modern Israel
by Yaron Ezrachi
New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 308 pp. $25.00.
Reviewed by Sarah N. Stern
Middle East Quarterly
Like the symbolism of its title, Ezrachi's Rubber Bullets, a sociological analysis of Israeli society, masks a potent force beneath its eloquent and disarming prose. Ezrachi's interesting and charming vignettes about life in Israel do not protect us from his potentially lethal blow to the Jewish state masked behind these anecdotes. Ezrachi, a professor of political science at Hebrew University, chooses to see this decision to use rubber bullets against civilians during the infitada as a symbolic turning point in how the Israelis framed the conflict. It serves as a metaphor for the dilemma between the internal struggle for morality and the external struggle against real threats to the Jewish state.
The author goes on to assail much of what has been positive in Israeli history while underscoring much of the negative. Indeed, the book is in large part a polemic against the sense of collective consciousness he experienced as an Israeli child born in 1940 and as such reflects powerful currents in today's Israeli intellectual scene. His ideas support the intellectual strains formulated by "post-Zionist new historians" who debunk most of the heroes and myths of Zionist history. He implicitly assumes that wishing away the Jewish lifestyle (for example, celebrating commemoratives of important events in Zionist history) will make the problems of the Jewish state simply disappear and dissolve the roots of the Arab-Israeli conflict. In this, he seems to forget that the Arab world would have been no more willing to accept the original U.N. Partition Plan whether Israel were a state populated by Labor Zionists or Hasidim.
Related Topics: Israel | March 1998 MEQ
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