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Defending Identity: Its Indispensable Role in Protecting Democracy Hardcover – 12 Jun 2008

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; First Printing edition (12 Jun. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158648513X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586485139
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 15.1 x 2.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,251,520 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Washington Times," July, 25, 2008"The Democratic Party's hopeful savior, Barack Obama, has made it clear that he will draw a sharp distinction between himself and John McCain through his approach to foreign policy and his emphasis on diplomacy and multi-nationalism. His commitment to restoring America's image and withdrawing from Iraq makes him the preferred candidate for much of Western Europe, and much of the world for that matter. However, Barack Obama's lead in world public opinion polls is something John McCain should highlight and embrace, rather than resist.If Mr. McCain finds this strategy flawed, he should read Natan Sharansky's latest book, "Defending Identity," which discusses the crucial distinctions between the United States and much of the world, including the European bloc. Mr. Sharansky, a Jewish former Soviet dissident who spent years in the gulags for trying to hold the Soviet Union accountable to its international human-rights commitments, explains as his central thesis that identity without democracy is totalitarianism, but democracy without identification to the larger community is weak and doomed to fail."

About the Author

Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet dissident, political prisoner and human rights icon, has spent his life championing democracy and freedom. In 1977 he was arrested by the KGB for his activism and his support for Soviet Jews' demands to emigrate to Israel and imprisoned for nine years. The author of the international bestselling The Case for Democracy, Sharansky has served as a senior minister in the Israeli government, and now heads a foundation.

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By ARD on 22 Sept. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found that this book gave a unique insight into the subject of identity, why it is an important concept, and how it assists those who are in personal crisis. I thoroughly recommend this book to all - students and those interested in Sharansky's life.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 20 reviews
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
The Importance of the Nation-State 25 Jun. 2008
By Allen Roth - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Natan Sharansky's latest book, Defending Identity, is a compelling defense of the national and cultural characteristics of people everywhere. At a time when the Nation-State is giving way to international, regional institutions (like the United Nations and The European Union), and the concept of globalization, Sharansky argues that the cultural and religious identities of people are of paramount importance for a civil world.

Some will dismiss his thesis for being out of step with the march of history, but the recent vote of the Irish to reject the proposed Constitution of the European Union argues that there is still quite a bit of life in the "old" idea of people forming groups around entities for reasons other than political ones. It is no secret that the current British Government has refused to put the "constitution" to a vote of a British people because it would lose to maintaining national sovereignty.

Sharansky's previous book The Case For Democracy had a great influence on American foreign policy this book will hopefully also impact the world. Elites tend to underestimate the influence of national, ethnic, and religious differences. Sharansky, based in part on his experiences as a dissident, explains why the elites are wrong, one more time.

The book is informative and provocative. Its worth buying, reading, and discussing.
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Required reading for leaders everywhere. 30 Jun. 2008
By Maurie Rosenberg - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Sharansky has offered us the benefit of his unique life experience and ability to debunk one of life's great sophistries. Like matches are somehow the cause of arson, or poverty is the cause of terrorism, we make the simplistic mistake of linking identity or even nationalism with negativity and try to blur the bright colors of ethnic and cultural diversity into some homogenous fog. He shows us with compelling clarity that within the context of a democratic rule of law that identity is not only valuable and desirable but crucial for the defense of the only form of government that is capable of accommodating diverse interests against the true imperialism and missionary imperative of those who want to destroy it.
We should have gratitude for his insights and encourage its reading to those who are interested in a better understanding of these dynamics and it should be required reading those in leadership positions everywhere.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Convincing position and well thought out! 31 July 2008
By L. King - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The first half of the book covers the period while he was a prisoner of conscience in the Soviet Union. he State sought to control the people by suppressing diversity. The pressure inside the prisons to give in to the interogators was, in his view, only countered by a strong sense of identity. Sharanksy came to the point of view that the essence of the dissident movement was in a common desire to respect and encourage distinct identities rather than be sublimated by the State. He describes forging alliances between different groups such as Pentecostals, Latvian Nationalist and Zionists based on respect for each other's identities. He also has kind words for the firmness and support of the cause of freedom by President Ronald Reagan.

Of note, Sharansky relates that when he was released the guards told him that he had to leave immediately and in his prison clothes. He refused saying he would only leave in a dignified fashion in normal street clothes - a move copied by the terrorist Samir Kuntar when he was released from an Israeli prison.

The second half of the book covers the period in Israel when Sharansky was in government and twice resigned from a ministerial position. Here too the importance of identity is covered where he sees that Arafat and the Palestinians actively sought to attack Israel's Jewish identity by not only demanding the temple mount but by denying (against all historical evidence) that the 1st and 2nd Temple were in Jerusalem.

I cannot help but feel that this book was heavily influenced by the essay by Ze'ev Maghen, "Imagine: On Love and Lennon" in the book New Essays on Zionism published last year in which Sharansky was also published. Like Maghen, Sharansky picks on the seductive words of Lennon's "Imagine" and its picturing of a world without identity, but also without anything to live for as well. (Love the song, but Lennon's dystopia is now somewhat unnerving.)

Originally I was going to give the book a 5 star rating - but I was so impressed that I ran out and read his previous book The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror - which was even better.

On the political side Sharansky is definitely a man to watch and listen to, especially given the leadership contest that has begun in Israel. It is possibly that he has permanently moved on from politician to pundit, but it is also possibly that he may be pulled in once more into a ministerial role, with an outside possibility of something higher.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
If the bad guys fight for their identity, shouldn't we fight for ours? 13 Sept. 2008
By - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Identity without democracy can become fundamentalist and totalitarian. Democracy without identiyt can become superficial and meaningless." Spain is one of those countries that has lost both. We're practically inviting our islamist north-african neibors to come take over. A balcanized peninsula in the making.

But this essay by a former political prisoner of the Soviet gulag, and reborn Jewish Israeli is an eye opener to all the world who has not lost its senses yet, in common-sense, plain language.

A good advice on how to break the cycle of relativism and cultural decadence in the West: the fear of God. Sharansky describes this fear in a way I had never been able to describe myself, and beautifully. You don't have to be a believer to understand it at all. He explains how he became aware of this fear (which, as you should know from the bible, is the beginning of knowledge).

Countries with strong identities (supposing they are also strong democracies) are good "not because of their particular identities but because of their strrong identities, because they each had things that were more important to them than their physical existence." Just as a Christian man can find in another Christian from across the world a brother.

The author's experience in political prison camps in Russia taught him that "those with the strongest identities were the least likely to succumb to tyranny, those who retained a sense of the value of history, of tradition, of community, those who saw a purpose in life beyond life itself proved the ultimate bulwark against Soviet evil." Then comes a description of what Lenin himself called those "useful idiots" in the West, like H.G.Wells or G.B.Shaw, who played into the hands of totalitarian comunism. The story I didn't know and that really terrified me was that of American singer Paul Robeson, whom I don't expect to see in Heaven.

Why isn't multiculturalism both ways? "Multiculturalists call on European societies to weaken their own national uniqueness ... in the name of peace, equality and justice; groups without democratic experience or traditions have flooded into Europe. And these groups do not have the slightest qualms about the supremacy of their identities."

Sharansky's book is not only a description of the decayed state of European societies, to the point of social suicide, it also brings in hope, a spirit of challenge and encouragement: we are still in time to change the tide.

"The hypocrisy of double standards of the international human rights organizations ... its refusal to distinguish democratic from nondemocratic regimes ... becomes a tool of undemocratic powers."

"In such a world the enemies of democracy have a great advantage. They are prepared to fight and die for their twisted beliefs. Identity is the only force that will give us the strength to resist and ultimately to defeat them." This book tells you basically why Israel and the USA -as long as it stands up for Israel- are to be strongly supported by freedom loving democratic countries all over the globe.

After all, Israel still is God's apple of His eye. God save America, and the US Forces.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
This should be required reading for every American 28 Aug. 2008
By neurons - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Sharansky opens the book talking about his time in The Gulag and the type of character it takes to survive the brutality and torcher despensed at the hands of the KGB. He talks about the current utopian world vision that seeks to undermine the West and what it will take to defeat it. He wrote this book to America to inspire American's to live up to the ideals that beat back and defeated Communism and Natzism. Today we face the new ideology of Post Nationalism, an old idea dressed up in new clothing, couched in new retoric, but whose mission reamins the same.
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