PULSE writer M. Shahid Alam‘s superb book, Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilizing Logic of Zionism is finally available in paperback. For those interested in the real history of Zionism, the circumstances of its birth, the sociological and historical factors that contributed to it, the rise of the Jewish lobby, its alliance with Christian Zionism, the determinants of US-Israel relations, and consequences of this alliance: there could hardly be a better place to start. Shahid is erudite, engaging and rigorous. This book is a must read. My detailed review will appear here shortly. For now I leave you with Kathleen Christison‘s impressions. — MIA
The essential point of M. Shahid Alam’s book, Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilizing Logic of Zionism, comes clear upon opening the book to the inscription in the frontispiece. From the Persian poet and philosopher Rumi, the quote reads, “You have the light, but you have no humanity. Seek humanity, for that is the goal.” Alam, professor of economics at Northeastern University in Boston and a CounterPunch contributor, follows this with an explicit statement of his aims in the first paragraph of the preface. Asking and answering the obvious question, “Why is an economist writing a book on the geopolitics of Zionism?” he says that he “could have written a book about the economics of Zionism, the Israeli economy, or the economy of the West Bank and Gaza, but how would any of that have helped me to understand the cold logic and the deep passions that have driven Zionism?”
Until recent years, the notion that Zionism was a benign, indeed a humanitarian, political movement designed for the noble purpose of creating a homeland and refuge for the world’s stateless, persecuted Jews was a virtually universal assumption. In the last few years, particularly since the start of the al-Aqsa intifada in 2000, as Israel’s harsh oppression of the Palestinians has become more widely known, a great many Israelis and friends of Israel have begun to distance themselves from and criticize Israel’s occupation policies, but they remain strong Zionists and have been at pains to propound the view that Zionism began well and has only lately been corrupted by the occupation. Alam demonstrates clearly, through voluminous evidence and a carefully argued analysis, that Zionism was never benign, never good—that from the very beginning, it operated according to a “cold logic” and, per Rumi, had “no humanity.” Except perhaps for Jews, which is where Israel’s and Zionism’s exceptionalism comes in.