If I Am Not for Myself: The Liberal Betrayal of the Jews

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For over a century, Jews have been identified with liberalism. Not only have they been a driving force behind the spread of liberal politics; they have also been steadfastly loyal to a doctrine that promised them both safety and political acceptance. Recent evidence suggests that their commitment has not waned. But while Jews continue to stand up for other groups and "vote their conscience," contends Ruth Wisse, the liberal commitment to the Jews is not nearly so strong. Whenever Jews have been attacked - from ...
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Overview

For over a century, Jews have been identified with liberalism. Not only have they been a driving force behind the spread of liberal politics; they have also been steadfastly loyal to a doctrine that promised them both safety and political acceptance. Recent evidence suggests that their commitment has not waned. But while Jews continue to stand up for other groups and "vote their conscience," contends Ruth Wisse, the liberal commitment to the Jews is not nearly so strong. Whenever Jews have been attacked - from the trial of Captain Dreyfus to the sustained military and political war against Israel - liberals have been slow to defend Jewish rights and have preferred instead to hold the Jews responsible for the persistence of their enemies. The explanation for this liberal default, Wisse argues, is the survival and success of anti-Semitism. This irrational idea continues to flourish throughout the world, despite the destruction of the fascist and communist regimes that were its deadliest twentieth-century allies. Wisse points out that anti-Semitism's astonishing resilience has put liberals - including liberal Jews - in an impossible position. The only reasonable response to such a doctrine, Wisse insists, is not appeasement or avoidance, but steadfast confrontation and rejection. Yet such opposition is alien to liberal ideas of open-mindedness and strikes many as intolerant. Unwilling to suspend their optimistic view of man as a benevolent and rational being in order to combat a mortal enemy, most liberals - including many Jews - conclude that Jews themselves must be responsible for the continuing wars against them - thus implicitly condoning their sacrifice. Wisse's book, inspired by a friend's emigration to Israel, traces the Jewish romance with liberalism from its discovery by Jewish integrationists and Zionists to the acceptance today by many Jews of a moral equivalence between Zionism and the war against it. She also explores, among the many contradictions of
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Although it has since been retracted, in 1975 Arab leaders introduced the ``Zionism equals racism'' equation to the United Nations. Wisse views this move as part of an Arab propaganda campaign against Israel, which she believes the predominantly Arab states seek to annihilate. This ongoing campaign, Wisse writes, has caused Americans on the political left and right alike to reflexively blame Israel for Middle East problems. As a result, American liberals' support for Israeli rights has weakened, and Jews in the Diaspora can no longer seek refuge behind the banner of liberalism, she cautions. A professor of Yiddish and English literature at McGill University in Montreal, Wisse has produced an impassioned, hard-line polemic. Calling anti-Semitism ``the most durable ideology of the twentieth century,'' she judges liberals' perennial hope that Arabs will turn friendly and tolerant of Israel to be misguided. She chides modern Israeli writers who, ambivalent about Zionism, ``deliver up the image of the ugly Israeli.'' Her contentious essay is framed by a personal letter to an ex-lover who emigrated to Israel. (Oct.)
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Documents that while Jews continue to stand up for liberal causes, the liberal commitment to the Jews is on the wane. Documents this trend, from the trial of Captain Dreyfus to the sustained military & political war against Israel.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780029354346
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • Publication date: 10/12/1992
  • Pages: 225

Table of Contents

Preface
Prologue: Letter to a New Israeli 1
1 Liberalism For and Against the Jews 21
2 The Twentieth Century's Most Durable Ideology 43
3 A Light unto the Nations? 71
4 Tensions in the Family 93
5 The Demonization of Israel 117
6 The Ugly Israeli 143
7 The Ultimate Test of Liberalism 173
Epilogue: Reflections on Love and Loyalty 193
Notes 221
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