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Throughout the seventies, the idea of being “pro-Israel” was traditionally equated with support for the Israeli government and was central to an understanding of American Jewish identity. It was so central, argues Marla Brettschneider, that even committed activists who took issue with such a monolithic stance were silenced by mainstream Jewish organizations. But during the 1980s, a change took place. An explosion of new Jewish groups intent on challenging the dominant definition of the pro-Israel attitude transformed an increasingly closed Jewish community into one more democratic and inclusive.
In Cornerstones of Peace, Marla Brettschneider skillfully combines a lucid review of contemporary Liberal political theory and its understanding of the role of groups in the political process, a sophisticated analysis of Hobbesian philosophy, and a rich history of “alternative” Jewish activist groups like Breira and Americans for Peace Now (APN) to ask: What can we learn about identity and democratic theory from the changes that have taken place in the Jewish community? Through an insightful exploration of how small, activist groups have reclaimed pro-Israel identity politics as a collective multilayered process, Brettschneider adds her voice to the growing number of political theorists envisioning a pro-diversity alternative to Liberal political thought. She theorizes about a new democratic theory, showing theorists and activists how to envision and enact more vibrant, inclusive democratic politics.