Power and Powerlessness in Jewish History

Overview

WINNER OF THE 1987 JWB NATIONAL JEWISH BOOK AWARD FOR HISTORY

In this radical reinterpretation of Jewish history, David Biale tackles the myth of Jewish political passivity between the fall of an independent Jewish Commonwealth in 70 C.E. and the rebirth of the state of Israel in 1948. He argues that Jews throughout history demonstrated a savvy understanding of political life; they were neither as powerless as the memory of the Holocaust years would suggest nor as powerful as ...

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Power & Powerlessness in Jewish History

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Overview

WINNER OF THE 1987 JWB NATIONAL JEWISH BOOK AWARD FOR HISTORY

In this radical reinterpretation of Jewish history, David Biale tackles the myth of Jewish political passivity between the fall of an independent Jewish Commonwealth in 70 C.E. and the rebirth of the state of Israel in 1948. He argues that Jews throughout history demonstrated a savvy understanding of political life; they were neither as powerless as the memory of the Holocaust years would suggest nor as powerful as the as the contemporary state of Israel would imply.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“The most important point of David Biale’s valuable study is that Jewish political history extends across the centuries of the Diaspora; it is a continuous history, not one cut off at the fall of the Second Jewish Commonwealth. Biale is especially good at evoking the internal life of those autonomous or semi-autonomous communities within which the political sensibility of contemporary Jews first took shape.”
—Michael Walzer
 
“A relevant and studious book that should interest readers of Jewish history or anyone interested in Israel’s place in today’s world.
Booklist
 
“His succinct, thoroughly researched, insightful arguments . . . are sure to spark controversy.”
Publisher’s Weekly
 
Biale’s work demonstrates the best of contemporary Jewish scholarship. Historically informed and critically based, it is a brave work attacking a metahistory of the Jewish people and unmasking propagandists and those who would mystify rather than write truth.”
Jewish Exponent
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
To shed light on the tensions he observed between Jewish perceptions of power versus political realitieswhich ``are often the cause of misguided political decisions,'' like Israel's Lebanese WarBiale analyzes Jewish history from the point of view of politics and power. The author of Gershom Scholem: Kabbalah and Counter-History here challenges the conventions of what he terms the Jewish ``mythical past'': the anachronistic interpretation that the Diaspora, which occurred between the fall of an independent Jewish commonwealth in A.D. 70 and the rebirth of the State of Israel in 1948, was politically impotent, and, conversely, that the First and Second Temple periods were eras of full Jewish national sovereignty. His succinct, thoroughly researched, insightful argumentssuch as his thesis that the Hasmonean Revolt was neither a primarily religious nor a nationalistic resistance to the Greeks but an internal Jewish struggle for control of the high priesthoodare sure to spark controversy. December
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805208412
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/28/1986
  • Pages: 260
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

David Biale is the Koret Associate Professor of Jewish History and Director of the Center for Judaic Studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He won the JWB National Jewish Book Award in 1980 for his previous book, Gershom Scholem: Kabbalah and Counter-History.
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Table of Contents

Preface ix
Introduction: The Crisis of Jewish Ideology 3
I. Sovereignty and Imperialism in Antiquity 10
II. The Political Theory of the Diaspora 34
III. Corporate Power in the Middle Ages 58
IV. Absolutism and Enlightenment 87
V. Between Haskalah and Holocaust 118
VI. Israel and the Meaning of Modern Sovereignty 145
VII. American Jews and Contemporary Diaspora Power 177
Epilogue: The Political Legacy of Jewish History 206
Notes 211
Index 238
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