Review of: Prophets Outcast: A Century of Dissident Jewish Writing about Zionism and Israel edited by Adam Shatz
Nation Books, New York, 2004
Pages: 408. $12.89
Reviewed by Edward C. Corrigan, 29 November 2005
In: Political Review Net (Middle East Policy)
Adam Shatz, the literary editor for The Nation magazine, in Prophets Outcast has assembled an excellent anthology of writings by eminent members of the Jewish community. The book includes essays or excerpts from 24 leading Jewish intellectuals critically commenting on Zionism before Israel was created, and prominent Israelis and Diaspora Jews writings after the creation of the "Jewish State" in 1948.
The term "prophets outcast" is borrowed from historian Isaac Deutscher, "himself a great Jewish dissident," to "underscore the terrible price these remarkably prescient men and women have paid for speaking out" against Zionism and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. These Jewish dissenters have been attacked for giving ammunition to Israel’s enemies or as "self-hating Jews." However, as Tom Segev, author of The Seventh Million, states in an endorsement on the publication’s cover, "This book is a timely and important reminder … that it is anything but un-Jewish to criticize the State of Israel".
The editor covers the critique of Zionism primarily by Jewish leftists, Marxists and humanists. Isaac Deutscher, the inspiration behind the book, has two essays included in the volume, "The Non-Jewish Jew" and "The Israeli-Arab War, June 1967," both from The Non-Jewish Jew and Other Essays (1968). Shatz calls Deutscher "the soul and inspiration of Prophets Outcast." Also included in the book are excerpts from Leon Trotsky’s writings On the Jewish Problem (1934) and Abraham Leon’s "Zionism," from The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation (1940).
Left out of the collection are religious criticisms from anti-Zionist Orthodox Jews in the Neturei Karta and Satmar sects. Also omitted is the anti-Zionist American Council for Judaism, founded by 92 Reform rabbis in 1943, and criticisms from other Reform Jews, such as Norton Mezvinsky and the late Rabbi Elmer Berger. Marc Ellis’s "The Palestinian Uprising and the Future of the Jewish People" from his Towards a Jewish Theology of Liberation: The Uprising and the Future (1988) is, however, included. Also here is an excellent article by Brian Klug, "A Time to Speak Out: Rethinking Jewish Identity and Solidarity with Israel," from The Jewish Quarterly, which encompasses Jewish religious themes. Right-wing Jewish criticism of Zionism from individuals such as Alfred Lilienthal, Mark Bruzonsky and Allan C. Brownfeld are absent.
Contrary to what some supporters of Israel argue, there are many Jewish critics of Zionism and Israeli policies. Before the full impact of the Holocaust was known, most Jews were noncommittal or openly hostile to the political ideology of Zionism and the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. Prominent leftist Jewish critics of Zionism who, in my opinion, merit inclusion are Isaac Asimov, Lenni Brenner, Uri Davis, Richard Falk, Norman Finkelstein, Ilan Halevi (a Jewish Palestinian), Jeff Halper, Amira Hass, Eric J. Hobsbawm, Gideon Levy, Judah Magnes, Baruch Kimmerling, Ilan Papp