Issue Date: November 25, 2005
Quakers, Jews and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
In 2002, a 14-member delegation traveled to Israel and Palestine to study the situation there. Eleven members of the delegation were Quaker; the others were a Jew, a Muslim and a Mennonite. The result is this careful, thoughtful book that tries to take a fair, noninflammatory approach to one of the worlds most explosive and bitter conflicts. The authors are at pains to present the narratives of both parties to the conflict. Their scrupulosity and concern for accuracy manifest themselves throughout the book, yet they never slip into equivocations that treat all claims as the same. In this, the authors live up to the words of William Penn quoted in the preface: It is but too common for some to say both are to blame, which is a base neutrality. Others will cry, they are both alike; thereby involving the injured with the guilty.
A timeline, maps, bibliography, study guide and numerous indices with relevant U.N. resolutions, lists of resources and suggested readings make this book especially helpful and comprehensive. In addition to delineating the core components of the conflict and the obstacles to resolution (refugees, borders, the status of Jerusalem), the authors lay out their own principles for a just solution to the conflict based on the principles and experience of the American Friends Service Committee in peacemaking.
This book consists of a series of interviews with Jewish critics of Israel. The editor, Seth Farber, is a practicing Jew. Those interviewed span the gamut of religious faith and practice and include activists, academics and an Orthodox rabbi. In some cases, Judaism is central to their identity and their criticisms of Israel (Noam Chomsky; Marc Ellis, director of the Center for American and Jewish Studies at Baylor University; Daniel Boyarin, professor of Talmudic culture at the University of California-Berkeley, among others). Others interviewed, including Adam Shapiro of the International Solidarity Movement and political science professor Norman Finkelstein, are secular Jews who say their opposition to Israeli policies originates in a concern for justice and human rights rather than any particular attachment to Judaism. The wide-ranging conversations cover Zionist politics and history before and after the establishment of Israel, Israels evolving importance to American Jewry, the role of the prophetic tradition in Judaism and much more.
Radicals is a fascinating book both for those who want to learn more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and for those interested in learning more about Judaism. Almost none of the 10 people Dr. Farber interviews is a supporter of Zionism; still, even within that narrow spectrum of opinion those interviewed bring multiple perspectives to their discussions of Zionism, Jewish history and faith, and American-Israeli-Palestinian relations. Among the most provocative assertions is the contention that Zionism is an assimilation to the values of Christendom. A tribute by Daniel Berrigan introduces the book.
-- Margot Patterson
National Catholic Reporter, November 25, 2005
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