Israel's Place in the Middle East
A Pluralist Perspective
by Nissim Rejwan
Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1998. 216 pp. $49.95.
Reviewed by Daniel Pipes
Middle East Quarterly
The "pluralist perspective" of the subtitle refers to the author's belief that "Israel can—and to a certain extent already has—become an integral part of the [Middle East] region." Rejwan, an Israeli born in Baghdad and long resident in Jerusalem, argues for the existence of an historic Jewish-Muslim amity: "whenever the Crescent had hegemony, the lot of the Jews began to improve." Antisemitism he deems "an exclusively Christian phenomenon" that even today does not exist among Muslims. What differences do exist between Jews and Muslims are "strictly political, having nothing whatever to do with Judaism." He argues that Israel should be seen as a Middle Eastern country, not a misplaced part of Europe. And he looks forward to "a postnationalist Middle East" in which the petty passions of today give way to "the day when Jews prefer to live in an Arab society rather than in an Israeli society."
"What planet does the author live on?" readers might ask on reading this rosy-tinted portrayal of Jewish-Muslim relations and Israel's potential friendship with its neighbors. The author keeps alive the anti-Zionist disdain of Iraqi Jews who continue to think, despite all, that they would have been better off without Jewish nationalism, which they view as a European movement imposed on them. Rejwan hopes to return to something like the Baghdad of his youth, wherein Jew and Arab prospered side by side. While acknowledging this to be a "pipe dream" at the present time, he still cherishes his memories. Credit the author's literate and sophisticated argument with making this implausible argument as credibly as can be done.
Related Topics: Arab-Israel conflict & diplomacy | Daniel Pipes | March 1999 MEQ
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